Buckingham was our first "joint" dog, although we had both had dogs before we were married.
It is hard, in a few words, to encapsulate Buckingham. He came to us in July 1984, ten years into a childless marriage and a month after my father died. Why did we go down this route? The arguments for keeping pets are well rehearsed and I won’t repeat them. Suffice it to say that, for me, Buckingham, was a diversion and the pinnacle of unconditional love.
Officially Buckingham was Charmian’s dog and Thomas was mine. In practice it was often the other way round – I would have Buckingham on the lead and Charmian, Thomas.
Buckingham was of a strong, independent character and a fighter to the end (15+ years when the norm for the breed is 8 to 10 years). I managed to say my goodbyes to Buckingham, Charmian unfortunately did not.
It was a glorious June evening. I had returned home from a Newbury Society Committee Meeting about 9:45 pm and sat with Buckingham on a seat in the garden. On the table was Alan’s candle and a gin and tonic. I just sat with Buckingham on my lap and talked to him. We were anxious about putting him into kennels whilst away in Canada and had taken him to the Vet for the OK. Peter was matter of fact honest saying he would either survive or not, and to go and enjoy our holiday to Canada.
We were having a drink in a bar in Jasper on Tuesday, 29th June. The advert of the glass read "Dead Dog", presumably the name of a local brew. It was not until Friday, 2nd July at 11 am, on Goose Mountain in Vancouver when we ‘phoned Bettine that we knew of her ordeal and had Buckingham’s departure from this world confirmed. She had had to bottle-up the sad news since the previous Monday, we being unable to ‘phone her since the previous Saturday midnight when all was well, due to the traveling and the time difference.
It is comforting that Buckingham spent his last moments in the arms of Bett and that she was brave enough to make the decision we would have made.
How does one tell the others that Buckingham is not there? Henry who had been Buckingham’s "star" pupil looked for him for weeks afterwards. Murray, the relative new-comer, sought solace in a different way – he had lost the one he cuddled up to when Henry became too boisterous in play. Henry is slowly adapting to the mantle of being "No. 1 boy", although he has his work cut-out when all the dogs in the extended family descend on 34.
Looking back Charmian and I spent much time training Buckingham – as I said at the start, he was the first. He learnt about "pee-time", "guard the house", "’van, ‘van", not chewing books and cables, etc. and readily past his knowledge on, first to Tommy, then to Henry and latterly onto Murray. The only time I got really cross with Buckingham was when he chewed through the cable of a joy-stick. How I chastised and disciplined him at the same time thanking God it was only a joy-stick cable and not a mains lead! Quite how Buckingham taught the others I don’t know, but none of them have even being tempted to do similar.
Did we keep Buckingham going too long? Henry and Murray certainly kept him amused to the last.