Last week on 8 September, we in the United Kingdom and all the Commonwealth countries lost our queen. She was a renowned dog lover. Indeed, whenever a corgi is spotted most people immediately think of the queen. She also had Labradors which I’m sure she loved just as much. Anyone who has owned a Labrador can tell you they are quite impossible not to love!
The month before, on 8 August, my family and I lost our cherished family dog Monty (aka The Lord as named by his beloved dog walker). The devastation this caused especially at such a tender age – just three years old – feels irreparable. But I know that one day the pain will ease.
The month before that, on 8 July, I lost one of my closest friends, Judy (Judge Judy I sometimes jokingly called her). She was my confidante, book geek, dog-obsessor. She, more than anyone, would have understood my pain of losing Monty.
It would be easy for all this to overwhelm me and for a while it did. I’m still crying lots. But in between the tears there are cherished memories.
The death of Her Majesty the Queen, has been devastating for the whole country. It is unsettling and like others, I feel a deep sadness. However, Her Majesty lead a privileged and long life. Of course there were troubles and difficulties but overall, I think it’s a fair judgement that the queen’s life was a life well lived.
For me it was harder to deal with the personal loss of my fabulous friend Judy. Although older than me, she hadn’t finished living her life. Not even close. She found her beloved husband late in life and her two Westies were still young and are missing her. She was a wonderful person, although the most useless driver I ever met. She was fun and whacky and we needed at least another 20 years of putting the world to rights. But the positives I take is that she did meet her beloved John. She did have lots of dogs. She did experience being an adored grandma. She did read a million or so books. She was so loved.
And then there is the loss of Monty. We loved him so very much and were determined to make sure he was the healthiest dog in the world so that he would live a long, healthy happy life. He died at three years old. It wasn’t our fault and it wasn’t his fault. A tragic accident (he apparently ate rat poison or an animal recently deceased from rat poison). Initially I struggled to draw any positives. Three years is so short. But I can draw positives. Monty never knew cruelty. He never knew loneliness or neglect. He never knew fear. All he knew was love, fun and joy. From us and from his doting dog-walker.
Fittingly, he was with me as I wrote my book “The Boy Who Dared” designed to teach the readers how cruel and dangerous puppy mills are. My research was harrowing. I learnt about dogs who lived their whole lives never seeing the light of day. Giving birth to litter after litter of puppies in dark dirty pens, only hearing aggressive shouts and the only touch, a hard fist. The puppies born in these dingy conditions were often born with genetic defects causing long-term health issues and early death bringing deep sorrow to their new owners.
As my initial grief over losing Monty began to settle down, I compared his life to these poor unfortunate dogs. I realised that quality is more important than quantity. He only had three years, but those years were top quality. He lived like a royal. He was happy and loved every single second of his life. I have nothing to regret about the way we raised him. It has made me more determined than ever to spread the word, in Monty’s name: please, for the love of dogs, never, ever buy a puppy from a puppy mill. They are in it for profit only, so if they can’t sell the dogs they will close their business. There are plenty of ethical dog breeders (see interview here) (and interview with a second ethical dog breeder here) and of course there are lots of wonderful rescues. Please in Monty’s name, learn how to recognise a puppy mill breeder. There is information here from the RSPCA. Make sure you see the lactating mum with the puppy and make sure you see the puppy in their home – not in a pub or car park. Click here for RSPCA information on how to find a good breeder.
In Monty’s memory, in my dog-doting friend Judy’s memory and in our dog-loving queen’s memory – let’s all make sure that we never support a cruel puppy farm.