The day I lost my true Friend
Ziggy-the seemingly impossible Gundog
Over the coming weeks I was to be told by many people including the Vets that I was mad to take on such a dog. They said he would break me…..
The day I lost my true friend was the day I realised how lucky I was to have had such a friend as Ziggy. The pain has never left my heart and his story will always live on in my memories of him.
Sixteen years ago I received a telephone call telling me about this young dog needing a home, his owners had put an advert in the local vets saying “Ziggy free to a good home”.
Reluctant at first as I already had an older dog I called and spoke with the owners and then made an appointment to see him. A few days later they phoned me and said they had decided to keep him, so I thought nothing of it and let it go.
Within a week I received another phone call this time from the owner of Ziggy saying they were being forced by their landlord to re-home him and was I still interested. Instantly I said yes and went to see him, I took one look at this wild, off the wall Cocker Spaniel x Staffordshire Bull Terrier and said yes I will take him.
Although he had never been socialised he instantly bonded with my Whippet Kenny and they became the best of friends.
Over the coming weeks I was told by many people including the Vets that I was mad to take on such a dog. They said he would break me as he was so hyper and unbalanced. The first visit to the Vets went well until he decided to push his nose through the kennel bars then twist his head, resulting in him getting his nose and mouth stuck between the bars.
I realised then that he and I had crossed paths for a reason and it wasn’t just to get him out of that home. The instant we met I felt I needed to help him and I knew he was going to help me. This is the primal bond between human and dog. I felt it so strong and more than any dog I had ever worked with before.
I made a conscious decision over the following weeks to focus this little brown mongrel Ziggy by training him as a working Gundog.
So that is what I did, working him every night in the garden, the park and the fields. He was not easy as he had a very high prey drive and a strong mind of his own. Everyone that I associated with through the Gundog community told me it would never work, since the terrier instinct in him continously overrode the Spaniel. But I could not give up on this little boy as he needed me as much as I needed him, so head down we continued to focus and re-direct his energy and within 6 months he was on his first shoot.
Ziggy was still learning during this time but we were working about 24 days during the Winter so by the time his first season was over we had achieved that bond. We worked the beating line together for 9yrs working upto 36 dates a year and in the off season we were always together.
He was my constant companion, my pack mediator and my true friend. Over the years, my peers changed their opinion of Ziggy and we were receiving more and more compliments about his working ability and his overall way of being when around people, dogs and the shoots.
We were being invited to attend more and more shoots, however I personally think it was Ziggy they were inviting more than me.
The day Ziggy died was the hardest day of my life, we had just finished another great working season and I was looking forward to spending a long Summer with him. Getting up that morning and taking him out for his normal morning walk I did not notice anything untoward, however that evening there was definately something not right.
Ziggy was slow and not really bothered about going out, this was not right as Ziggy lived for his walks. Thinking he may have an upset stomach as he was bloated, we took him to the vets. I left him there with my then wife at the time who is a veterinary nurse, knowing he would be in safe hands while I went off to run a class.
An hour later I received a call saying that I needed to come down to the Vets as they had drawn some fluids from his stomach and there was blood in it. This was not a good sign, so I rushed down and was told that having opened him up they found a tumor on his liver.
I write this last bit of the story with tears in my eye and a heavy heart, as the tumor had ruptured and the cells had spread around his body, he was dying and there was nothing I could do to prevent it. At this point my heart sank and my life stopped as I prepared to lose my best friend.
I went in to see him as he was sedated and just laying there he looked peaceful, I held him in my arms for what seemed an eternity. I knew I had to let him go but didn’t want him to leave me, perhaps that is selfish but that is how it was at the time.
Eventually we let him pass over to The Rainbow Bridge and at the time I wanted to follow him. It took me a long time to write his story as the pain of losing Ziggy cuts deep into my soul, but I know now that one day I will see him again and his spirit will alway live on here in my heart. In the meantime his bed remains in my living room and his casket sits on a shelf looking over me, always close, until we meet again, together forever.