Passing of a woman’s best friend leaves a void

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Just before Christmas we had to say goodbye to a member of our family. Piglet, my parents elderly but resilient terrier was 17-years-old when she finally succumb to old age last week.

The black Patterdale Lakeland cross had experienced the rollercoaster emotions of life with us all over the years, many excited cuddles and quiet tears falling on her coat.

In April 1998 I bought the little black bundle as a gift for my mother. The puppy had been bred by farmer Roger Smith in Winterburn. She was tiny, a bushy ball of black fur. When I presented my parents with the grumbling pup it waddled around snuffling the kitchen floor with a wet black snout and floppy ears like a pig searching for truffles, and Piglet had earned her name.

A few years later she had a litter of puppies proving herself to be a good mother. Cute as they were, none were quite like their mother. She was always first in the jeep when my father fed his cattle, loving the outings round the land where she could see the rabbits and jump out of the window to chase them unsuccessfully.

Piglet survived her fair share of incidents. At 15 she was accidentally run over by the farm jeep, suffering a broken pelvis and miraculously survived. She attended Askwith Show in June and her resilience so impressed the judges that they gave her a special prize. It’s pinned above the Aga in my parents’ kitchen, her favourite spot.

She was an unbelievably greedy terrier. The thought of another dog beating her to food numbed her taste buds, she even ate a grapefruit on one occasion when my brother and I decided to test her ‘appetite’.

I got my Jack Russell, Pingu, eight years ago. After a near fatal incident with my landlord’s prize Sussex hen it was decided Pingu should move to live with Piglet at the farm. Like siblings they were best friends one minute, then bickered and squabbled for attention the next.

One day both dogs disappeared to go rabbiting in the hayfield. By dusk Piglet arrived back. By nightfall there was still no sign of my Jack Russell so I was called for help with the search. After a few hours it was pitch black and so the search was abandoned until morning. I hoped she might make her own way home during the night.

Next morning there was still no sign of my bitch. After riding out we jumped in the jeep to search again. This time Piglet was with us. Bumping along the farm track she leapt out of the vehicle and ran into a nearby field. We pulled over and followed her. She led us to a secluded warren near the stream and seemed to be intently looking down one of the smallest holes. Following her lead I looked in. There below us at the bottom of the narrow hole we could just make out the white tip of Pingu’s undocked tail some three feet lower down. It took two of us an hour to eventually dig her out. She was filthy, exhausted but jubilantly happy. We couldn’t believe it. Pingu would have never been found had it not been for Piglet’s intervention.

Her demise has left a big void in the family. She was buried quietly at the bottom of the garden. Mum has vowed never to get another dog. Even Pingu’s energetic eagerness has been reduced to moping around with a quiet sullenness. She has lost her lifelong companion and, like Mum, her best friend.