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Columns : The Pet Pages - Kim Aranha Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

A Tribute to a Prince amongst Dogs
By Kim Aranha
Sep 8, 2008 - 2:16:03 PM

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Leisure time in my den!

He came to us o n October 19th, 1995, a mere pup, black, furry and about the size of a teacup. His impeccable white paws earned him the name “Spats”.  He was a little apprehensive on that first day in our house, everything looked so big to him, even 2-year-old Scott and just turned six (the day before) year old Paul looked like giants.  The house was a little quiet that day because eight-year-old Merlyn, a beautiful Bullmastiff, had lost her fight against lymphoma (cancer) the day before. We didn’t want another puppy right away, but Dr. Poad had found this little person wandering alone on the, then new, Sandy Port Bridge. We went to meet him at Dr. Poad’s home and as soon as I picked him up he snuggled into my neck, of course he came home with us. The boys were excited, he was exhausted and slept and slept for the first few days, then he realized that he was home, perked up and never looked back.

He was a naughty puppy and chewed everything in sight……He had to be on a leash at night in the boy’s bedroom because he would have eaten every toy in sight. Almost, without exception, every stuffed animal left lying around lost their hard little noses that year. I became an expert on sewing realistic teddy bear, dog, cat, ect. noses!

He grew, and grew, and grew !!!!!! Dr. Gary Cash (our vet. In those days) thought that he must have Irish wolfhound in him. And our little black dog changed colour! He became a beautiful blond dog !!! With a long wiry coat, he weighed close to 90 pounds, and had the most comical, inquisitive face you could have hoped for. I called him our “Disney Dog”. I am sure that he could have become an animal superstar with that expression he wore so willingly on his face.  Hollywood would have absolutely loved Spats, just like we did!!!

It was not only the toys that were at risk in his younger days, but the shoes, the plants, the carpets…. I would often find him in the main hall lying on the carpet surrounded with his “treasures”, not one of them an appropriate dog’s toy, I bought every dog toy I could find, but Spats always wanted “people stuff”.

Somewhere under all that fur is SPATS!
He was a fierce champion of his young playmates, and would tirelessly trot around behind them, performing all sorts of tasks requested of him by them.  He loved them dearly and was happiest when lying on the cool tiles with one of them hugging him. Tummy rubs were high on the Spats list of “fun things to do” and we all happily complied when he rolled over on his back with his big furry tail thumping on the tiles and a comical grin on his canine face. The whole world lit up around Spats when he smiled, you could not help but smile back, even people who did not really like dogs found it hard to resist smiling at Spats when he was happy.

We would go down to my family’s island, Bird Cay, in the Berry Islands, for the weekend. Spats loved the boat trip and the sea wind in his face. Sometimes, he would be very daring and even swim! Thought his idea of swimming was up to his “ankles”! He loved running around on the sand banks and digging for crabs in the sand, don’t worry he never caught any! Though once when sniffing in the bush on the way up from the dock to the main house, he let out a huge yelp and jumped backwards, indignation on his face, tail between his legs, a crab had pinched him on the nose, and even drew a little blood, Poor Spats, that was a day of great doggy humility! We tried so not to laugh!

Bird Cay had lots of wild, feral, cats….Spats hated cats with a passion. We would have to bolt the doors closed in the house so he could not push them open and take off in hot pursuit if he saw, heard, or even smelt a cat. One memorable occasion he went straight through the screen door when a cat walked by. He got away a few times on the cay. There were no cars to worry about, or strangers for that matter, but there was lots of bush and swamp, so we would worry.  My son, Paul, would take off running, sometimes barefooted,  to try and get him back before he went too far into the bush after the cat. I guess he would have come back, but we worried, also we did not want any cats or kittens hurt.  Paul would return scratched all over from “haul back” (otherwise know as “tear me jacket”), and Spats would be trotting along besides him, his tail wagging high in the air like a banner, declaring triumph!!!

Spats was a ratter and proud of it. There was a period when there was a lot of building around our area, and with building, inevitably comes trash, with trash, come rats! If there was a rat in our yard and Spats was outside he would catch it, shake his head and toss to away, dead. One evening we came home to several dead rats in our yard. Spats didn’t mess with them once he had killed them.  Cats were also on his public enemy hit list and caused me grave concern when they would walk through our yard. There were many feline near misses in Spats’ youth.

Spats loved gong in the car, but had habits that made driving with him chaos. If we passed or were passed by, people, other dogs, motorbikes, trucks, or golf carts Spats went nuts and started barking and lunging at the window. If the offending target didn’t move away soon enough, Spats would quite simply bite the car seats in frustration, as he couldn’t get to the object of his fury. Car rides with Spats were limited to absolute necessity. He did mellow in his later years, but there were still moments where the upholstery was at risk.

As the years went by, so he calmed down. He never stopped being a fantastic guard dog. up and alert at the slightest noise: boats in the canal, planes who flew over too close, birds swooping down too low, people going to work, Spats was on the ball, barking fiercely at every one.

He brought up many puppies for us, showing them the ropes, teaching them how to handle us. He was tolerant and patient up a point with them, but knew how to put them in their place with a quick snap and growl. When Abigail came to us in the July after Spats’ arrival. Spats, was not welcoming, and for the first few days Abba was relegated to sit under chairs and hide behind us until Spats decided that she could indeed join the family. They looked so alike and had both been foundlings. They had much in common and became fast friends.

When our two Bouvier Bernois (Swiss Bernese Mountain dogs) came to live with us in the summer of 2000, Spats was the charming host, helping these two wooly black beauties settle down in the Bahamian canine life style. He would stand at the side of the pool and watch Star do her “laps” with an astonished look on his face. Star had a habit of talking to her humans, which is a trait of the Bouvier Bernois. She would run along the hallway directly barking at me when she wanted something. Spats took this one step further and whenever we had steak or ribs (but it had to be beef) he would come and lie beside the table and bark, one woof at a time, directly AT us until we gave him some, this same method was used when asking for chew sticks. As he got older, he would lie across the room and woof at us to BRING him his chew sticks, which we happily did for our elderly friend.

It was on last Thursday morning that the angels came for Spats.

We knew that at 13 years old he was getting on. He had been battling arthritis and took a remarkable cocktail of different homeopathic medications to make walking easier. He had diabetes insipidos, and a thyroid problem, both conditions that we were managing with medications under the ever-watchful eye of Dr. Val Grant. I could see that his light was shinning a little less brightly, but thought he would be with us a while longer. Spats went out for his morning walk in the garden and didn’t come back, after much searching my husband found him under the bougainvillea hedge, he did not want to come out.  Finally Paul got him out and took him to Dr. Grant. He perked up a bit when he saw his leash and the car.  When Paul left him at the vet’s office, we did not realize that he was already on his way out; he just went to sleep there in the examination room. There was nothing to be done, no way to bring him back.

The suddenness of his death brought a myriad of emotions, shock and disbelief. My youngest son cannot remember life without Spats in the house and my eldest barely can. It also brings relief that he went fast and peacefully without suffering, relief too that he went to sleep and did not make us make that difficult decision to put him to sleep, or force his good friend Dr. Grant to put an end to his life. Sadness and emptiness, I keep looking around for him, counting out too many vitamin pills, holding the door open a bit longer fro him to come through the door, and a hundred other little things we did together. The orthopedic bed I bought him in the States has yet to arrive, I am sure that Abba, who will be 13 in February and has arthritis, will put it to good use in his memory.

I am blessed to have Abba, Chief and Buddy, they keep me going and make me laugh, they lick my face and climb up on me when I am watching T.V. They help me realize that the pain of loss is worth it when you think back and remember the many wonderful years of companionship and love you share with your pet. There is a price for everything in life and you pay for all the wonderful moments and devotion with sadness when they get called to a better place and leave you behind. You miss them, and can never REPLACE them, but you can open up your heart and let another pet move in and share your life with you.

Spats is no doubt racing across fields and streams, chasing rabbits, sea crabs and lizards in that utopic place in heaven reserved for pets and animals who have loved and served well here on earth. I like to think that when we die all our pets will be lined up waiting for us. They will all be young and healthy, banner tails wagging, getting along well together and will greet us with licks and wags to last us for all eternity.

The Aranha household is a little quieter today, like the day Spats came to join us, but richer for having had the privilege of sharing our lives with a beautiful, big, comical gentle giant, named, Spats.

About the author:     Kim Aranha grew up in the     Berry     Islands  with her first dog, a beloved potcake named “Friendly” (who was anything but!).  First educated at home, and then in boarding school in Switzerland, Kim moved to Rome, Italy in 1974 to pursue a career in the dramatic arts and ended up working as an interpreter.  She moved back to The Bahamas in 1980, and now lives in     Nassau  with her husband Paul, and their two teenaged sons.  Kim has 4 dogs, 5 fish (1 Beta, 4 Goldfish), 10 turtles (6 babies, 4 adolescents), 1 Asian box turtle and 4 Budgerigars. Her idea of relaxing is being home to take care of all her pets. Kim is President of the board of the Bahamas Humane Society. Kim can be contacted at kimvba@coralwave.com

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