Posts Tagged ‘Astley Green’

Back in the early 90s I lived in a knackered old mansion house in Liverpool. It overlooked Sefton Park and had long since been given over by the landlord, Mr Hyland, to the ravages of student life. It had no central heating and was so filthy that my mum refused to sit down when she visited. Mr Hyland did stipulate no pets but enforced the rule so feebly that we didn’t hide the two dogs, two cats and several snakes who happily co-habited alongside the 12 human tenants. Our hippy dippy, techno-loving lifestyle was evident in the pets’ names: my dog was called Gaia, while Claire’s cats were Ozric and Marley.

Gaia was a terror. Rescued from the streets of Liverpool, his first act upon becoming ‘my’ dog was to wee on my leg. Followed swiftly by doing likewise all through the house. He also chewed through anything plastic, once ate a kilo tub of Flora and would regularly go through the bins as he scavenged for food. He was and remained bloody-minded, disobedient and entirely his own canine. I taught him to swim by chucking him in the lake at Sefton Park after he’d rolled in something, um, ‘unpleasant’ for the fifth time in a week. I came home from work once to discover that he’d rolled in the oily remnants of a burnt-out car (as I said, this was Liverpool in the early 90s, and the remains of joyriding were frequently etched into the scorched grass of Sefton Park). Steve had given up trying to wash out the oil and had begun shaving a now quivering and deeply sorry Gaia. He was rescued by a quick call to the vet, who recommended we try scrubbing him head to tail in Swarfega. Luckily for Gaia it worked, though the fur on his back legs never quite recovered.

The first time I took him to the beach – at Formby – he barked at the sea. After ascertaining that the sea wasn’t some giant grey monster, he went for a swim. He barked at some seaweed, before deciding that it, too, posed no threat. He then barked at a smooth grey rock protruding from the sand. He decided that this could well be an evil dog in disguise, so he scuttled off, growling and throwing nervous looks over his shoulder.

Gaia spent the autumn of his life in the People’s Republic of Chorlton. Our back ‘stoop’ was a prime spot for addling himself in the sun; the Mersey was perfect for swimming; he wrapped Simon round each of his four paws; and when I started working from home he had the kind of 24/7 company that every dog dreams of. It was good for me, too: if a client gave me grief, I’d get off the phone and search out G, bury my face in his smelly, silky fur and think, ah, things ain’t so bad.

Last Sunday, Gaia was reunited with his full pack. Mum, dad, me, Simon, Milo and Milly went for a walk around Astley Green, a former colliery and now a place of canals, soggy wetland walks, sticks and mud. The sun shone for the first time in an age. Gaia leapt into the pond after a stick, shook mud all over everyone and trotted contentedly about in a way we hadn’t seen in weeks. It turned out to be his last big hurrah – three days later he died, of cancer.

Gaia saw me through university, my first job, marriage and then a divorce, world travels, three degrees, house buying, starting a new life, a career change, self-employment and a baby. Whatever you think about dogs, this one was as much a part of my life as friends and family. I’m not terribly sentimental. I always thought I’d be entirely pragmatic about his demise: he was only a dog, after all. But here I am, crying my eyes out, missing him terribly.

He was an old sod – belligerent, smelly and naughty to the last. Without him my life will no doubt be easier. My house will be tidier. I won’t have to wipe the mud off the walls, or sweep up the great fur balls that gathered in every corner like canine tumbleweed. We won’t have to walk him twice a day, every day, even when we’re tired or busy or it’s tipping it down with rain. But life without mud and trouble; I don’t know, it just looks a little less like fun.


Read Full Post »