Sunday, July 24, 2011

Farewell to an old friend

On Friday night, our dog Merlin passed away.

He was nearly 17 (in human years), so he'd had a pretty good run. Still, it was a sad occasion, made bearable (and manageable) by some wonderful people.

The first of many...
I was 7 months pregnant with Samuel when we got Merlin. Anthony and I had been living together for a couple of months in our rented place, and we decided we'd like a dog.
We went out to the RSPCA on Boxing Day 1995, as we knew there would probably be some dogs out there. As soon as we saw Merlin, we knew he was the one. He was called Schooner then, but despite being told that dogs didn't take to name changes, he soon became Merlin (he got that name mainly because we were into wizards and dragons at the time. I guess we still are).

Merlin settled in well. Despite the fact that he was a large dog (he was a Labrador-retriever cross), he always thought that he was just 'a head' (as Anthony used to say) and could never understand why he couldn't fit on anyone's lap, or why only part of him made it inside.

He was very good with Samuel - very gentle and calm; taking all the ear and tail pulling that Samuel could dish out. Not once did he give us any reason to doubt his loyalty of Samuel's safety.

Merlin and Cheese
Not long after we moved in to our house here (March 1998), we got Cheese (Samuel named her - it was his favourite word at the time!). She has been Merlin's constant companion ever since (and just between you and me, she's a little sad at the moment).

Merlin and Cheese were not really inside dogs. They came in occasionally, but because they were usually filthy (I think I've mentioned before, our yard has a fairly large percentage of dirt/mud), they were mostly 'outside' dogs. But that was OK, because they had their own lounge suite. They tended to push the limits, but rarely stepped over them...

The Dangerous Dog
In about 2000, we were entertaining some friends. Their young son, who was 'entertaining' Merlin, got a scratch on his face when Merlin got a bit too excited. It was a bad scratch (with blood etc), and they decided to put in a complaint against him.

The Dog Control people confiscated him, and at first they were going to have him put down, but after having him at the pound (jail) for a while, they decided he wasn't really dangerous (just between you and me, they thought he was a bit of a pussycat. They knew straight away that he wasn't actually dangerous, but had to follow some kind of procedure), but that because of the incident, would have to be labeled 'dangerous' (the first Dangerous Dog in Canberra actually). We had to make some changes to protect the 'public' So we built higher fences and put a sign on our gate and then he came home.

Of course he wasn't dangerous. We had many other people (including kids) visit that didn't get 'attacked' by him, and kept a wide range of pets, such as chickens, rabbits, geese, ducks, rats, a cat and parrots, all of which were decidedly unharrassed by Merlin.
Actually, our house has always been a bit funny that way, our pets have always gotten along well, despite their natural predator/prey tendencies!

Merlin was technically Samuel's dog, and Samuel was usually the one who fed him, walked him and played with him, but Merlin's loyalty was firmly with Anthony. He followed him everywhere and did exactly as he was told by Anthony.

Getting Old
In the last couple of years, Merlin had slowly lost many of his faculties: his hearing went a while ago, then his sight, and finally all his muscle tone. He was so skinny you could put your hands together around his middle (this was despite his ENORMOUS appetite!)

After Sam died, Merlin definitely felt it, and was very low for a couple of months. We actually thought we might lose him quite early on. But he seemed to sense that it wasn't the right time; that it would be too much for Anthony to take, so he held on. Almost every night, while we sat eating dinner, he would stand at the back door and bark. At nothing in particular. I said that he was showing signs of dementia, but Anthony always said it was because Sam was there. That he was saying hello.

Time to Go
Just after we'd gotten back from Melbourne, Anthony felt that it was finally time for him to go. Merlin had gotten very listless, he wasn't eating or doing much at all. Anthony called our sister-in-law Rachel, who is a vet, who came over to have a look, and to help him on his way.
We were very glad that she could do this for us, and that Merlin could go peacefully, at home, surrounded by people that loved him.
All of Anthony's brothers came over, and his mum even drove all the way back from Sydney (she'd only just got there) to be with Merlin. She had a special relationship with him, as he lived with her for the 18 months that we lived in the granny flat at my parent's place.

So while we were all there with him, Rachel gave him the needle, and he let go. It didn't take much. He was definitely ready. I won't mention the prank he played on us all - let's just say the house stunk for a was a very Merlin-like prank!

And how are we?
The worst part about having pets is when they die, usually because they go long before anyone else on the family. It's a hard lesson to learn, but an important one. Harder for Oliver, because he's experienced too much death in his short lifetime. He mentioned this (that many people/pets that he knows have died) a couple of times, and I really felt for him, poor kid. Still, I'm glad he was there with Merlin in his final moments, and that he understands that Merlin lived a full and happy life, and was put to sleep because it was the best for him. Let's just hope that's it for a while though.

Oh, and a final note - Cheese is now firmly entrenched as an 'inside dog'. We were conscious of  her close relationship with Merlin, and worried about her pining for him, so we invited her inside. Lorraine (Anthony's mum) came over yesterday and gave her a bath, and she has definitely taken to her role. She doesn't need to be asked twice to come in, and has a permanent place on a blanket in front of the heater. Ah well, she's old (she's nearly 14 now), and she's nice to have around.


  1. I really enjoyed reading that, Mel. Beautifully written. Glad you got so many good years from Merlin. xx

  2. Pets bring us so much unconditional love and they are members of the family. The marker looks amazing and it brings me some comfort that Samuel has his buddy up there to play with. RIP Merlin, loyal to the end, he could not have gotten a more perfect family to share his life with and vice versa.



  3. I'm so sorry about Merlin, Mel. Hope you, Anthony and Oliver are okay. It's never easy to make the decision that it's time to let a pet go, but it sounds like you managed to make Merlin's last moments full of love. He was a lucky dog to have you guys as his family (especially with you all standing by him through all that "Dangerous Dog" nonsense).



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