This is a true story, a story of love, determination, courage and inventiveness. It concerns a beautiful, fun-loving and mischievous Dalmatian who, at the age of ten, was found to be suffering from disc disease.
But Daisy was a unique and special dog who did not want to give up on life.
Her owners found that they could not give up on her, either.
Between the pages of this book lies a truly compelling story, a story every animal lover will be touched by.
Interwoven with Daisy’s determined fight for recovery are tales from her life and the lives of those who cared so deeply about her.
Enhanced by photographs, ‘For the Love of Daisy’ is a tribute to a great-hearted dog as well as those who spend their lives in the service of animals and their owners.
Heart-warming and inspiring, this book is a must-have for any animal lover.
Chapter 1.Ducks and Dragons.
It all started on the twenty-ninth of May 2004, although at that point it had nothing to do with Daisy. We didn’t know it then but her story had actually begun in April, with an innocuous visit to the vet to investigate a slight and intermittent limp. This limp had been manifesting itself over quite a few years but it only ever lasted a very short time. I had always put it down to a strain, or something sharp pricking Daisy’s foot, but lately I had found a hard lump on the side of her right front paw. Considering she was nearly ten years old, I thought she probably had arthritis. Following an initial consultation, Sarah, our vet at the time, thought this was quite likely so we made an appointment for an x-ray to confirm the diagnosis. We thought no more of the consequences other than probable pain relief for the rest of Daisy’s life. None of us had any inkling at that time what the future held.
So, on this particular weekend in May my husband Dave and I, along with Daisy, a Dalmatian, and Pepper, a blue roan Cocker Spaniel, were having a quiet break on board our narrowboat, ‘Dragon’. She was a fairly new vessel, just a year old, although she was not our first. We were very pleased with her; a well-known boat builder had built the steel shell to our specifications and this had been professionally fitted-out, also to our design. Fed-up with years spent doubled-over in cramped, cold and hard-to-reach spaces carrying out engine maintenance in both sailing craft and narrowboats, Dave and I had decided that ‘Dragon’ would have a proper engine-room, where brass could be polished and paintwork kept clean, and where essential winter oil-changes could be carried out in the warmth and comfort our rapidly maturing bones craved. The previous year – long before ‘Dragon’ was anything more than a concept – we had acquired a wonderful vintage engine, a Russell Newbery. Once installed, it thumped happily along in pride of place in the engine-room, the heartbeat of our boat.
‘Dragon’ was beautiful; the culmination of holidays on board other boats, both sailing and canal craft, and four years with our previous narrowboat, ‘Madrigal’. We had decided that at forty-five feet long, ‘Madrigal’ was just a little too small for comfort so we conceived the sixty-foot ‘Dragon’. Perfect for those longer holidays which would be possible once my self-employed husband cut down his working hours.
Oh well, anyone can dream.
On this particular occasion we arrived at the marina where ‘Dragon’ had her mooring on the Friday night. Those who needed to know knew where we would be and apart from checking for messages in the evenings, we intended to be largely undisturbed. We tried to keep the boat a phone-free zone as much as possible, although the nature of Dave’s international consulting business made a certain amount of accessibility unavoidable. However, ‘Dragon’ was our bolt-hole, our escape from the pressures of business life, and there really is nothing like the slow pace of a canal boat and the characteristic measured beat of a Russell Newbery to ease away modern-day stress.
Narrowboats go at walking pace, perfect for watching wildlife and strolling with the dogs; and our two treated the boat as a second home as well as a convenient platform for duck-hunting. They viewed our different mooring sites each night as an extension of their own back garden and we were all looking forward to a peaceful weekend.
Saturday started out well enough; the weather was warm but not too hot, perfect for the jobs that needed doing. Although ‘Dragon’ had been professionally fitted-out – neither of us possessed the skills, or indeed the time, necessary to do the work ourselves – we nevertheless wanted to make our mark. Dave had already tried his hand at traditional narrowboat painting with some success; ‘Madrigal’ had sported decorative panels on cratch and hatches which he had designed and painted himself, and she’d carried Buckby cans on her roof which also showed off his talent.
He had received many admiring comments on these from passers-by as we cruised the canals, and ‘Madrigal’s new owners had kept the panels for they complemented her overall look. So it was natural to want to decorate ‘Dragon’ in the same way, and as I had designed and made a stained-glass roundel depicting a dragon head which gazed proudly out from her prow, Dave was keen to add his touch to her panelled side-hatches and doors.
The marina was a good place for painting. There was a firm pontoon running down one side of the boat, sturdy mooring ropes to keep her steady, and relatively still water so as not to rock the boat. When passing moored boats canal etiquette states that you slow down to tick-over speed so as not to make wash, which could be very dangerous to those in the moored craft, especially if they happened to be cooking. A speeding boat can also rip out mooring stakes, setting craft adrift, apart from being downright inconsiderate to those hoping for a peaceful afternoon. As in all walks of life though there are those who flout the rules and to whom courtesy is an alien concept. The marina was a convenient spot for us to stay and paint in peace.
We were in the newer part of the marina, which had been extended over the previous winter, and it was quiet. The dogs could amuse themselves, either lazing about on the boat or laying on the sun-warmed pontoon watching the hopeful ducks that plied the marina. This was Pepper’s favourite pastime and she could lay statue-still for hours at a time, just watching the ducks float by; but woe betide the bird that was confident enough to haul itself out of the water for a siesta! Then my soft and doe-eyed Spaniel would transmute instantly into a rabid killing-machine and would charge the offending duck, sending it squawking for its fellows in a flurry of wings and webbed feet. Fortunately, she never caught one.
However, you could say that a duck once caught Pepper, much to her indignant disgust. Back in 1997, when ‘Madrigal’ was new, we were asked to show her at a popular boat show which used to be held on the canal every May. We moved ‘Madrigal’ to a different mooring to allow the public access, and this site was too close to the towpath for the dogs to be left free to roam. So Daisy was confined to the stern of the boat and Pepper was on a long lead in the bows. It was a hot afternoon, all the crowds had gone, and the show was winding down. Pepper was lying on the pontoon next to the cockpit, which her lead allowed her to reach, watching the returning ducks. One of them, not noticing Pepper, decided to haul out on the neighbouring pontoon to preen and this, of course, was too much for my Spaniel, three years old as she was at the time. With a mighty leap, she went flying for the impertinent duck, which shot back into the water. Unfortunately for Pepper, her lead wasn’t quite long enough to reach the other pontoon, and she was snapped out of the air at the height of her leap and dumped ignominiously into the water, where she flailed and spluttered until rescued.
She stood dripping and shivering while raucous quacking laughter resounded round the marina. She never made that mistake again.
Having finished our painting for the day, we retired to ‘Dragon’s’ cockpit and sipped a well-earned glass of wine while we made up our minds whether to walk the ten minutes to the pub by the lock, or make our own supper on board. Dave reluctantly turned on the phone, not expecting to hear the message-tone. When he did, and accessed his voice-mail, I could tell immediately that something was wrong. I could vaguely hear the voice, but not enough to identify the speaker or understand the content of the message. I waited until it was finished, and then he told me the news. It seemed that his father, who was eighty years old, had suffered a collapse that morning and had been rushed into hospital. His mother had frantically been trying to reach us, as she was understandably distressed, and had left more than one message on his phone, as well as ringing my mother. That meant there were also messages on my phone, which I checked while Dave rang his Mum.
We learned that his Dad was comfortable in the local hospital and that he had suspected pneumonia. My mother-in-law, who was not in the best of health herself and who also suffered with depression, had calmed down by this time and our anticipated rush home that evening was put off. We told her we’d be home the following day, but although our minds had been put at rest as to their immediate welfare, we could think of little else that night.
We made our solemn way home the next day, worried for both of Dave’s parents as his Mum wouldn’t cope well on her own. It proved to be an apocryphal day, that sunny Saturday in May. Our peaceful weekend was well and truly over, as was an era in our lives.