Two weeks ago I returned home from Dakar to a very poorly boy. My beautiful baby Arthur had taken ill just a few weeks before and was doing a good job of puzzling veterinary experts. He was referred to a leading veterinary hospital and placed under the care of an incredible vet, a European specialist in internal medicine. Despite her eminent skill, not even she was prepared for the diagnosis; a form of Leukaemia so rare, their teams have only seen it in text books. Just a handful of dogs globally are known to have suffered from this disease – and my precious Arthur was one of them.
On Sunday evening he passed away peacefully in my arms at home with his family around him. He was only seven years old.
I could write pages and pages of how overwhelmed I am by sadness. That there’s a vacuous void where my heart should be. But that would be a selfish disservice to this best friend of mine.
Instead I will dedicate this post to Arthur’s life. How much I loved him. And how loved he was by all that met him.
4th February 2010 – 9th July 2017
Arthur the Cocker Spaniel was born in Tavistock to pedigree parents, and his Great Grandfather was a winner at Crufts. I drove 6 hours south to collect him and arrived at a fairytale farmhouse with views across West Devon. I was greeted by the sight of the two remaining puppies chasing each other around the tiles. Arthur was one of 6 black and gold babes and was the only golden boy. The breeder assured me I had chosen a very special puppy. Named Aquene Magical Prince, he was the most affectionate and loving dog to be born under their roof. However, the thought of shouting ‘Aquene Magical Prince’ across a park seemed a little laborious, so I named him King Arthur for short.
For the next 7 years he would become my golden boy and the absolute light of my life.
Arthur came to live with me in London and quickly settled into the rhythms of city dwelling. Jumping on and off the underground, double decker buses, chasing horses in Richmond park, impulse shopping, street-side cocktails and brunch on Sundays.
At the tender age of 12 weeks, he joined me at work to become Jigsaw’s most promising intern. And like any intern in training, he occasionally made mistakes. When left out of the Regional Managers presentations, he howled like a werewolf until talks were so disrupted we had no choice but to bring him in. A secret wee in the Managing Director’s office ended up not-so-secret. And an upset tummy under the customer service desks resulted in complaints on our side of the phone lines. Although he never apologised for these events, I knew he was deeply embarrassed. Thankfully Arthur had a unique ability to diffuse office tension with the wag of his tail and a set of paws on your shoulders. He was adored by the entire team and his young life became a whirlwind of photo shoots, model castings, agency meetings and buy appointments. And he took all of it in his stride.
6 months later I was headhunted by another fashion company. The bosses spotted ‘King Arthur’ listed as an interest on my CV, and broke the news that they did not have a puppy internship programme. When negotiating my new salary with the Managing Director, I made it clear that if Arthur could not join the workplace, then they would have to extend my package to accommodate the finest daycare London could offer. Significant adjustments were made. He later went on to become the Harvey Nichols marketing team mascot for five years, and received a rapturous welcome whenever he visited the office.
Arthur took to school life with aplomb. And although he occasionally voiced his missing out syndrome when I left for work in the morning, I received daily updates on his whereabouts and activities. Before long he was bum-sniffing with the best of them and had even acquired some celebrity friends. One day his school report stated that Arthur had met Hollywood actress Carey Mulligan in the park, with her black Cocker, Rambo. A doggy friendship formed instantly and a few days later Rambo Mulligan joined their daycare gang.
After a couple of years of ‘just us two’ I started dipping my toes in the dating pool and joined an online match site. As much as I loved my ‘Number 1 Boy’, I missed human company and felt Arthur would benefit from a more masculine influence; we were quickly turning into the real life version of ‘Will & Grace’.
After a disastrous first date, a tall and handsome Irishman contacted me and asked to take me out. We reviewed his profile in detail and re-read his emails. I’ll be honest, we were both dubious. We decided the best tactic would be for Arthur to come along, and should the date disappoint, Arthur could make excuses for us to leave. However, our drinks turned into dinner and we talked until midnight while Arthur watched from under the table. I had no idea then that we would marry just a few years later.
My husband had never had a dog before, and now all together under the same roof, the road from tolerance to love was a long one.
One of the biggest fireworks displays in our relationship came when he found me feeding Arthur an entire packet of line caught Atlantic king prawns. The very best crustaceans one can buy from Waitrose. The truth is, I would have fed him king prawns for every day of his life if I’d known then that it would end so prematurely. But thankfully the boys eventually bonded and life settled into a blissfully easy pace. Our daily walks along the Thames come rain or shine will remain among my happiest memories.
Arthur saved me in so many ways. He had an incredible gift for lifting my spirits when I thought they could not be raised. He was my safe place. A guiding light. And my loyalist ally. He was so special, he made me feel special just because I could call him my dog.
But he wasn’t just mine. Arthur was so adored by all, he even inspired three friends to find their own golden Cockers. My family adopted him as their own. When I was overseas, he would take up residence at my parents home, gaining him the name ‘the back and forth dog’, as he gracefully bounced between his London and Cheshire lives. He is the only dog I know who had his very own private chauffeur, cruising between his city pad and country retreat in total luxury.
My nephew wanted to be him. He demanded to dress like Arthur so they could play together properly. And he told his teachers that he had a dog named Arthur, but he lived in London with his aunty Jo. They were firm friends and the best of playmates.
And when the twins arrived in August leaving me a little busy, he became my father’s wagging-tailed shadow; the ultimate retiree companion. We assumed Arthur would be with us until he too had qualified for a free London bus pass. As my grandmother used to say, he would be ‘old and cold, and full of wee beasties’ before his time came. To lose him in his prime is senselessly sad.
Arthur will always be remembered as a pure and beautiful soul, with a heart every bit as golden as his velveteen fur.
Thank you all for the love you have given him over the years. I know many of you were so very fond of this special boy.
Arthur, we will never stop missing you. You were a magical prince who made my heart burst with happiness. And I was so lucky to call you mine.