"The first real friend I ever lost was when I was eight years old. His name was 'Ruff', or at least that was the name I gave him because of his shaggy appearance. He was a cross between a terrier and a collie. In fact, 'Ruff' was never my dog, but I played with him daily and took him for walks on a piece of string across the fields behind our house. His owner was a widow who lived near by on Roundwell Road and she had been left with the dog after her husband had died. She was an old lady and just before she died, so did 'Ruff.' I must have cried for over a week and silently swore that I'd never lose another friend; because I wouldn't have one.
The years went by and I was forty years old and on my second marriage and second brood of children before I finally relented and gave in to the demands of my wife and children for a Labrador pup. It was one of the best decisions I had ever made and while it fell to me to train it, feed it and walk it after the initial 'love in period' had transpired, it was nice to have a creature welcome me home, do my bidding unquestionably and be at my side whatever my mood happened to be at the end of a hard day's work.
As my children William and Rebecca grew, we were to have three Labradors in succession. One was called 'Blackie'; named after my wife's first dog as a child. The second was a black Labrador called Abbey, as I was reading the first of Jane Austen's novels (Northanger Abbey) at the time, and the last was a black Labrador called Ettie, who was named in memory of my 'Adopted Mum' (Henrietta Denton), who took me under her wing when my real mother died.
As each of these three loving creatures lived and died, my children grew and the heartache educated them. And while it was a fearful thing to allow oneself to love again what death can touch, it pleased me immensely for William and Rebecca to have been a part of their lives and deaths. As long as Blackie, Abbey and Ettie lives on in our memories, they can never be truly
When I first met my wife Sheila she had two Rough Collies, 'Prince' and 'Lady.' I am so pleased that she had me to comfort and share her loss when Prince sadly died. Today, 'Lady' has become as much my dog as Sheila's. She is the nicest and most gentle of creatures I have known and though Sheila be the mistress of both dog and house, both gracefully acknowledge me as being the 'leader of the pack' and rub noses with me whenever they require my attention.
People who think dogs have no intelligence and don't understand their surroundings, know not dogs. I tell you most truly that after I discovered that I had a terminal illness, not only did Lady sense my change in temperament during my nine months of chemo treatment, but I swear she could smell the cancer in me. I know in my heart that she would lick it out and take it unto herself were the choice hers to make. If there is one thought that grieves me, given both our ages (lady is almost 12 years old now), it is that Sheila will have a double loss to deal with in the future when she loses me and Lady.
I hope when that time comes, Sheila, that you get another dog from the Refuge Kennels and call him 'Billy' in my memory and the memory of those precious years when I was blessed to dwell with the two finest Ladies who ever graced my life." William Forde: February 27th, 2015.