We’re waiting to hear some exciting news from Sebastian and Shima in Japan so when the text pinged on my phone, waking me, I thought it was them. But it wasn’t. It was from Elsa telling me that this morning, the day before her twelfth birthday, Winnie had got up, gone out for a wee, come back inside and gone back to sleep. Eternal sleep.
I am currently in France for Easter. Digby and Tia came along for the ride but Winnie stayed on Elsa’s farm like she’s done many times before. 2500 km is a long journey for a twelve year old basset so I left her behind. Besides, she loves Elsa’s farm. It’s probably one of the places she loved most in the world. I know this because of the way she always grumbled when I took her home again.
Of course it’s heartbreaking to lose her, but I couldn’t ask for a better way for her to go. For any of us to go really. My grandmother, whose stubborn, independent mindset Winnie shared, went the same way.
But here I am, thousand’s of kilometres away from Sweden and home. Away from my Winnie. I don’t get to kiss her one last time, I don’t get to run my fingers through her course fur. Courser than most bassets. I don’t get to say a proper goodbye to my girl.
But I will say this:
Winnie came into my life at an incredibly important time and her arrival quickly turned out to be one of the most important things in my life. Without a doubt. Winnie brought something, I late came to realise, that I needed and had been needing for more years than I new. Winnie, and all the bassets I’ve owned or bred, brought healing.
In just a few lines like this I can’t explain it; put simply, she has made my journey through life easier. Richer. Meaningful.
I always wanted a basset and after I quit my job as a lecturer and wandered around wondering what to do, Winnie was the girl that chose me. Or rather, I think she chose Margret on a dreary, rain-splashed day just outside Trondheim, Norway, and in turn melted my heart. For someone that has gone on to have so many bassets, I was more nervous about taking on the responsibility than anything else in my life before it; but we brought her home, via a night at Loá’s in Oslo, and began our life together.
During her twelve years Winnie had five pups, and eight “grand-pups”. A bit of a runt, “like a Drever, not a basset” my friend Elsa likes to tease, Winnie nevertheless had some beautiful pups. Really beautiful dogs have followed her line into this world and those dogs, descending from Winnie, have brought joy and happiness into other lives. I am lucky that Tia, her daughter, and Digby, her grandson, are just snoring away in the other room as I sit here and write this. They will always remind me of her. Tia hasn’t been herself the last 48 hours and I can’t help wonder if she knew something I didn’t. Or perhaps it’s just because, at soon 9, she found the trip a long one.
I am blessed to have had the opportunity to share my life with a basset like Winnie. Simultaneously stubborn, affectionate, athletic, intelligent – probably the most intelligent basset I’ve come across – mischievous and maddening. But most of all loving in her own special way.
It’s horrible being so far away from her today. Still, as the evening starts to draw in, I hope she is forever charging through the woods, reunited with Bernard and Aggie, who she loved so much, barking her sergeant major bark, speeding through the undergrowth. And one day, I hope I’ll be charging along with them, seeing the smile on their faces, feeling the sun on our faces.
I love you Winnie.