This post should have been written 10 months ago, but I have not had the courage to write it.
In the early 90s, we had a Yorkie and a Westie, and after they had completed their role in our lives, the time came to think about getting more dogs. These would be terriers, of course, as they are handy sized, and fun and companionship often seems to be in inverse proportion to dogs' sizes. Lexie came to us just after Easter in 2003, and we started looking for a Yorkie. Lexie would be "my" dog, and Peggy most definitely Helen's. Someone told us about a litter in Duns (we were living in the Borders at that time) and the breeder was most emphatic about meeting us before allowing us a puppy. The meeting set the style for Peggy's life - loving her boss, and being happy to get fun out of her other-boss, in this case by chewing his finger until he yelped.
And so Puppy Peggy came home. Here she is, a little fearful, but meeting her sister for the first time.
As all puppies are, she was a delight
Soon they would love each other dearly
Of course, we came home to The Last Homely House in Assynt as often as we could. And we planted "Peggy's Tree" in one corner. It's now not possible to get near the vantage point from which this picture was taken, and the tree has grown as tall as all the others.
Peggy's puppyhood was a mixed bag. She amused herself by latching on to Lexie's tail and bring dragged around, but her housetraining went badly. Very badly. We thought she'd never learn, but of course, we had been spoilt by the fact that Lexie just knew about doing her business outside, and in fact only had one accident, which was outr fault for not heeding her request to go out, and she thoughtfully did a little poo in the bathroom rather than just anywhere. as was Peggy's idea. There was also an occasion when wasps were around. Lexie was once stung on the snout, and all she did was push her ears forward in puzzlement that something might hurt her like that. When Peggy was stung one day, she went into full drama queen mode, howling to such an extent that Helen phoned me at work, asking me to come home quickly to try to get her to the vet. By the time I got home she had calmed down a little.
We took the dogs to training classes. We felt this was important, especially teaching a Westie some basic expectations (we can't say obedience) and Peggy really enjoyed the training. One task was done with a little plastic gate in the hall. The dog was supposed to wait and sit at the gate, allowing the owner through, and then be called though herself. Years later, up in the hills, we came across a galvanised iron gate, although the fence on either side was long gone. Peggy, whose normal place on a walk was running ahead, spotted the gate. ran up to it and obediently sat waiting, when there was nothing to stop her simply running round or even walking through. She enjoyed training so much, someone suggested she might like agility classes. She was quite a star. She quickly gained a reputation for being willing to take on any task, including ones which made the bigger dogs terrified, like the high balance, and "Little Peggy" as she was always known, loved it. This fierce determination stayed with her her whole life. Here she is with her boss and the trainer.
Helen gave up agility training, for reasons I can't remember at the moment. But some years later, we happened to be going towards Dryburgh Abbey, where the agility classes met, and Peggy suddenly started crying in anticipation, as she recognised where we were, and remembered the happy times.
Talking of her memory and geographic awareness, when we drove north to come to Assynt, she would realise where we were around Ullapool, and start crying. Assynt always meant happiness for her, and the freedom or whatever dogs get when they are here was delightful to see. Here she is, fearless as ever, determined to leap the burn for the first time....
Made it! She never knew any limitations. Throughout her life she hated having to accept help if we thought she was too tiny to jump a rock, or needed other help.
When we moved here permanently, when Peggy was 5, we had to find a new vet, and so her Aunty Lucy came into her life. One expects, at the vets, to see animals cowering fearfully as they wonder what will happen next. Not Peggy. She would barge in and run around the back of the desk to say hello to Mandy or Anna, the receptionists, sometimes leaving a little trail of happy widdle in her wake, much to her boss's embarrassment. She would sit and tug at her lead, unable to contain herself in her delight at seeing Lucy the vet again. And Lucy would remind us, "If only we could bottle Peggy's zest for life, we'd make a fortune!" Even after Lucy had to remove some of her teeth, she was never fearful, though on the examination table she would finally realised she was at the vet, and finally showed some nerves.
When we were still in the Borders, she took it into her head that the local farmer's four-wheeler was a Yorkie-enemy, and would bark at it whenever she heard it, She then started associating that noise with motorbikes, and when she saw them from the car would bark, but a very specific bark, which sounded like "habba! habba!". When she was younger, her excited bark could be written as "waddle-lah". But her carbark was so Pavlovian that we could see a motorbike and say, conversationally, "habba" and she would be up like a shot to join in: "Habba!"
When she was younger, she loved travelling on the parcel shelf of Helen's little car (afterwards she came to dislike travelling). Helen has a memory of waiting at a traffic light, a big lorry behind her. Thump thump thump went Peggy's tail as she saw the driver and elicited a response from him, and sure enough, when he noticed, he grinned with pleasure. That was typical of Peggy. She was always cheerful. or at least, unless something was going on that was especially bad for her. We started saying on her behalf "It'll turn out fine, you'll see", and it usually did. This was the great lesson if her life - it will all turn out fine, you'll see.
She loved the hills, and loved walking in the hills. She would insist on running ahead, and cried when we stopped to rest, or to enjoy the view. While Lexie would take every opportunity to look out, Peggy was more interested in what might be around the next corner.
She would then be able to come home to sleep the sleep of the just. Yes, on her back, she had the habit of not closing her eyes, which were rolled back to their whites, sending shivers down her boss's spine.
We have so many blurred photographs of a mere black shape in the hills, as she didn't like standing still for long, and to be honest, didn't like her photo being taken. Thankfully Peggy's lifetime coincided with the rise of digital photography or she would have cost us a fortune in film.
She was understanding when we got hens, but once, a few weeks after we got the first set of hens, we found Peggy trying to much at a hen's wing, feathers and all. She got into trouble for that, and afterwards we had nothing to fear from her regarding the hens. Actually by that time she had started losing her teeth, a typical Yorkie issue, so there was limited damage she could do. However, in her younger days, when we were in the Borders, she would hunt rabbits. For a dog who was usually turned up to 11, her whole demeanour changed when she was on the hunt. She knew where the rabbit runs were, and would curl up and simply wait patiently. Eventually, and we saw this on more than one occasion. she would pounce on an unsuspecting rabbit, then work her way up the rabbit's back to a critical place, one bit and the rabbit would simply be switched off. As far as we could tell she didn't even draw blood. Something in her nature (Yorkies were bred to hunt rats in factories) told her exactly what to do, and the clinical despatching of the rabbits was quite astonishing.
Both dogs loved fresh vegetables, especially carrots
And so she grew old. In 2017, after a couple of years of decreasing health, Lexie succumbed to Canine Cognitive Disorder, doggie dementia. We were devastated, but Peggy helped us through. She even started taking on little traits that we previously knew Lexie had done. It seemed she knew better than we did just how ill Lexie really was. About the only time she let on that she missed Lexie was that, when she wanted to jump onto a chair or the couch, she would stand up and check that her sister wasn't there first, to ensure she didn't get a fright. And so she became an only-dog.
Her boss went away in late October 2018, to visit her mother in Australia. For a couple of weeks after she went, the daily routine of dog walks and happy times continued. Then one day Peggy seemed rather dull and listless, and her appetite waned. I took her to see her Aunty Lucy who ran tests. I heard but did not fully take in the terrible news, her kidneys were not functioning properly. We tried various things, but we had already lost one dog to kidney failure and I ave always regretted what now seems like making the dog suffer longer than was necessary, with a dreadful disease, because I needed the dog when her life was drawing to a close. The frustration of not being able to help when the dog can't keep anything down, and grows thinner by the day, was awful. And so, just five days after she was diagnosed, and about ten days since all last seemed normal, Peggy's health finally gave out. This was all the more difficult for Helen, so far away, and also having to attend to family matters on her first trip to see her mother after the death of her father.
The gap she has left has been enormous; the fact that only now, 10 months later, I am able to write this obituary is testament to that. She was a dog who touched many lives, who universally brought joy in her wake, and who breezed through life in such a positive way, accepting the randomness life throws up with gratitude and a determination to find the best from it. She taught us so much. And so she rests with the remains of our other terriers, on a spot in the garden they all loved.
Here is the card we got from the vets after Peggy's death.
And so we remember
It'll all turn out fine, you'll see.