Mom was on furlough from the home – Azalea Gardens. Sheila fetched her and Barbara, Linda, Tholo and the two terrors Mary-Kate and Dawie and I joined them at 16 Ivy Road in Lincoln Meade, Pietermaritzburg.
What a lovely day – a great lunch, fun with the kids and ending with a surprise: ancient movies from our youth taken in the sixties with Dad’s 8mm movie camera. Sheila had arranged and paid for hours of old footage to be put on a memory stick! Dad says he had a small Canon movie camera first; I only remember his Eumig camera.
As we were leaving Tholo spotted a birds nest right above the car door with two little chicks begging, and showed Mary-Kate.
After everyone left I waited till I could spot the mother: a Cape White Eye.
Lemme confess that the first emotion when Sambucca the black labrador finally breathed her last was relief. The sadness and the memories came later. See, she grew a brain tumour and it grew and grew until it was about as big as her head.
When the bump first started we knew it was the end and I told the kids I would just support the old dear and only consider ending things if she was no longer comfortable, not eating, not happy and not interested in a ear rub or tummy tickle. I said I don’t want you shooting me just cos I’m inconvenient and so I’m not shooting Sambucca for our convenience. And anyway, she’s only 87yrs-old in human terms. Born in August 2012.
Well, she hung in and kept eating while getting thinner – which is a terminal sign in a labrador. I was vrot with worry and angst as she started getting smelly and the parasites attacked her – fleas, flies and ticks. A daily bath and shampoo helped but she’d disappear for hours and come back covered again, her hidden spots in our jungly garden obviously infested with the lil bastids. Yet she still kept getting up and walking towards me tail wagging as I got home each day, asking for a scratch. Then Friday she got weaker and Saturday and Sunday she didn’t eat. I added gravy and fat and she refused it. Refused a meal! I knew it was soon. Sunday night she suddenly yowled a bit and then went quiet, considerately choosing Aitch’s birthday as her last day so we can remember it more easily.
I started digging her grave early Monday morning and three inches down I came to an astonishing and unexpected realisation: I am not cut out for physical labour! Can you believe it!? I sub-contracted the task and Tom and his mate Jose dug a goodly hole – after negotiating a financial reward – and Sambucca now joins her predecessor Bella and a gerbil under the soil in our garden. Also Aitch and her Mom and Dad’s ashes.
Rest in peace ole Sambucca, you made twelve years and five months and were the best watchdog ever: you watched the monkeys stroll across the yard, you watched the hadedas glean the lawn, you watched our neighbourhood kids stream in and out of the gates whenever. You only barked when I got home to say Hey Welcome Back! About Time! Look What A Good Watchdog I Am! and by the way, When’s Supper?!
And that’s when you showed you had 12% greyhound blood, as you tore off round the trailer, gleefully thinking “He’s Home! He’s Home!”. Two laps when you were younger, one lap the last couple years.
Jess was going to call you Sweetie when you arrived, so we hastily canvassed friends for a less saccharine moniker. Terry Brauer from the Gramadoelas of Pretoria came up with Black Sambucca. Just right.
When you’re twenty two months old you can venture off north into neighbouring African countries in a kombi as long as you’re prepared and have the right companions. Like Stripey. He’s unflappable and always smiling.
And your Mom. She’s the best for food, clothes, warmth, that sort of stuff.
and your sis and your Dad can come along too . . He’s quite handy as transport and a vantage point.
Just watch out if you go to Lake Malawi . .
and catch the ferry to Mombo Island . .
. . that you don’t drop your companion Stripey overboard! ‘Cos then the ferry driver will have to slow down, turn around and go back so that your Dad can hang over the side and rescue Stripey. To avert a disaster!
THANK YOU Mr Friendly Ferryman! signed: TomTom and Stripey