We are off to the Doggie Diner today. It’s Hazel’s birthday treat (Her birthday is tomorrow) but it’s also Bonnie’s first visit to one of our favourite places. For locals, it’s on the pier at Gorleston and is a simple café where dogs come before humans. So for today’s reminiscence I thought I would turn my attentions to dogs I have loved.

I am aided by my Writing Assistance Dog. Well, if lying sound asleep on the cushion next to my feet is assisting that is! Bonnie is never critical of my words or my frequent typos caused by rattling these blogs out at a hundred miles an hour. And over the years other dogs have given me their undying love and attention at different and difficult times in my life.

We were never without them growing up. Cats too but it was the dogs that meant the most to me. The first two were Flossie and Fly. I am going to try and find photos of them all so I’ll keep my descriptions brief but I remember Flossie as probably having some Dalmatian in her whilst Fly was black and shaggy. Sadly my enduring memory of Fly is when Mr King came up from Waltham Abbey to send her on her way to the Rainbow Bridge (I don’t normally do euphemisms but this can be hard). My memory is that I held her paw whilst she was put to sleep but my sister assures me that we watched through the kitchen window as he treated her in the lean-to. Roll forward 50 years to November last year and I was holding Charlie’s paw when he left us. And now I have to stop for a few minutes as I can’t see what I am writing. Bugger!


My memory of Floss however is also painful though physically, not emotionally. I was out with Uncle Jim walking her (I think with Fly as well). I had the lead or leads wrapped around my wrist. I was maybe 6 or 7? We went passed the Arkell’s house and their Alsatian charged out to see us at which point Floss (and Fly) fled for home. I was pulled over and dragged along the ground for several feet before they realised they weren’t huskies and gave my uncle a chance to catch up.

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Around 1970, things had improved for us financially, and mum was granted her wish to have a pedigree Cocker Spaniel. All our dogs up to then had been mongrels (Not X-Breeds or whatever else they call them today but mongrels, Heinz 57s) so this was quite a thing. We all went over to view the pups and mum chose the one she wanted. It was me who named her Honey because that is exactly what she smelt like to me. My mum had wanted to call her Lady (After Lady and the Tramp) but my dad said there was no way he was going to stand at the front gate at night shouting “Here lady, come here lady”.

The other dog in our life at that time has been mentioned before. Gaye belonged to my Great Aunt Flo and accompanied her everywhere, yes everywhere. Many a time we would sneak into a tourist attraction near Yarmouth with a Mexican Chihuahua stuffed into a shopping bag.

When Gaye died, auntie Flo replaced her with a Schnauzer (Miniature variety). And when auntie Flo died, we got Heidi. She was a bit of a strange one. I guess she never really got over losing her owner but she really made it hard to love her one day. Some disgusting human had left a packet of fish leftovers on the ground over the playing fields. Mackerel or something and it was all the bones and skin and head etc. Heidi found it and rolled in it. I cannot tell you how badly she smelt and how much coal tar shampoo we got through in the next few days!

When Honey died (I have a fragment of a lyric I wrote but I think I’ll keep it to myself for now) mum’s next desire was for an English Setter and thus in 1982 Fennel entered our lives

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She was the most gorgeous dog with such a good temperament (Even Honey had snapped at people a couple of times). She was also with me through my darkest days (Drinking) and never once judged me. The times she lay with me on my bed as I poured cider down my neck. It was important. I didn’t much love myself in those days so having Fennel loving me unconditionally mattered. Of course, it might have been ‘cupboard love’. She knew about the Indian Takeaways I was buying unnecessarily and was up for it. I have never known a dog so fond of chicken tikka and naan bread.

She was also the dog we had when I finally moved out of home and that was hard. When she visited my first flat she immediately marked my bedroom. I’m not sure if it was a ‘Fuck you for moving out” spray, or a “This means a part of me will always be with you” spray. She died soon after that. A rather amazing 17 years old. Not bad for a pedigree.

There was then a gap when I was dogless. It wouldn’t last forever. I met and became one with my gorgeous Hazel and discovered she was a dog lover too. The family had long kept (and showed) Wire haired dachshunds and still had one kicking around at home when I first met her parents.


However, Hazel coming down with M.E. not only stopped us fostering Special Needs children, but it made dogs unlikely too. But then, settled in Norfolk, we reached a compromise by looking after friends’ dogs then short-term fostering for Hillside Animal Sanctuary. Eventually, I agreed that we could long-term foster. Hazel sorted it all out and we became volunteers for the Cinnamon Trust. Pretty soon Petra and Charlie were with us. Their owner had died and they both need rehoming. As older dogs (10 & 11 when we got them I think) there were few takers but we had already decided that would be our speciality.

We only had Petra a little over a year when cancer took her from us. Inevitably, if you foster older dogs you are going to have to get used to not having them with you for too long. Well Charlie was only with us for three years in all but bugger, he wrapped himself around my heart. Its four months since a second stroke led to us having him put to sleep and my heart is still bleeding. Whilst Fennel was very special to me, Charlie affected me like no other. Tears are streaming down my face again as I write this.

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When he died we said we would wait three months before doing anything. Then the Cinnamon Trust told us about Bonnie, an 11 year old poodle whose owner had just gone into end of life care. At the beginning of December she came to us. Visually impaired through cataracts and chewing like a puppy, she has made her way into our hearts. Today, we shall take her to the Doggy Diner and then on to Gorleston beach where, I shall explain to her, I spent so much of my childhood holidays!

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