My Harry: remembering a much-loved Cocker Spaniel

'I have never felt such a feeling of loss in all my life'

harry cocker spaniel

On 14th November 2003, a beautiful orange and white Cocker Spaniel came into this world.

By Miranda Green

I first held my boy, my first ever dog, in my arms at 10 days old. He had not even opened his little eyes and sat in my hand. I cuddled him for an hour that first time and he fell asleep in my arms. The Cocker Spaniel breeder said to me, are you sure you want this little one; he is the dominant one of the puppy pack and is very ‘vocal.’ I said, “I am sure! He is ‘The One for me!!’.

miranda green with her dog harryAt 9 weeks old, I took my boy home. His Kennel Club name was Bartonian Dyramid Boy and apparently his Grandad and Great Grandad had been show champions at Crufts. I called my boy ‘Harry.’ He just looked like a Harry.

I did not get much sleep for 2 weeks as he howled all night long. I gave him a hot water bottle for comfort in his crate and a ticking clock like his Mummy’s heartbeat and played a relaxing CD to calm him, but, he really was not happy.

A few months later, he slept with me in my room. He was happy then. Over the years, of course, he slept on my bed! I couldn’t help it, I adored him and he adored me! It was only me and him and Bertie the budgie, Bobby the bunny and two goldfish, Jilly and Derek. So, he really did get quite spoilt!

His favourite toy was a latex chicken

I took him to puppy classes and he was such a clever boy and picked all the commands up really quickly and he adored agility and ‘going through the big hoop’ game.

harry the spaniel with his stickHe even had some rosettes for being a good boy, although he was a stubborn and feisty fella and would not have his teeth cleaned or coat brushed and sometimes he only came back to me when we were out walkies if I had a treat for him!

We spent 5-6 years happily together and had such an amazing and strong bond. We were unbreakable! Team Green!! Then Rob came along, my partner. Harry was unsure for a while, but, soon learnt to love him. He now had a Daddy as well as a Mummy! Happy Harry!!!

We moved to a new home and Harry seemed unsettled for a while and became aloof with other doggies on walks. He was a funny fella though, as he loved playing with other Cocker Spaniels but not other breeds.

His favourite toy was a latex chicken (he destroyed everything else!) plus, he loved a game of ‘throw the stick’ on walks. He also loved food and would wait for things to drop from the kitchen work top. He would love sleeping between us, snoring loudly, and in the morning we would both be hanging off the sides of the bed with no duvet!

A typical Cocker Spaniel, Harry even smelt water he’s soon be in it

A typical cocker spaniel, Harry adored water; if he even smelt water he would find it and be in it. He also resembled a hippo at times as he loved playing in the wet mud, too. Lots of grumpy bath times, as a result! He wasn’t keen on the sea though, as once, a big wave smacked him in the head! He also loved his countryside walks.

dog running on the beachHe really enjoyed cuddles but only when he wanted them and at night he would be like a sleepy raggy doll and would lie in your lap. He enjoyed hiding under a cuddly blanket, too. He went everywhere with us. We were an inseparable family unit. He was our baby.

When he was 8 years old he developed a prolapsed disc. He lost the feeling in both back legs and literally dragged them, and, unfortunately, steroids were ineffective. He had an operation at the Animal Health Trust. He had the most amazing Neurology Surgeon, Fabio. This man was just amazing in so many ways and I cannot thank him enough for the care and love he gave Harry and us during this difficult time.

After the operation we had to teach Harry to walk again

Fabio, would sit on the floor with him and kiss him all over and talk so kindly to him. After the operation, we had to help teach him how to walk again and needed a back halter to help him to go to the toilet and to walk. We had to hold his back end up as he walked. He walked with a hunched back for some time after. But, eventually his gait and mobility improved and he just had a little wobble.

He also had hydrotherapy for 2 years afterwards. He was a determined little fella and you could see that he would never give up! It brought such a glow to my heart, watching him enjoy life once more.

When he was 13, he went deaf and also was rather arthritic in his joints. He developed a cough which made him hoarse and it became quite frequent. The vet gave him antibiotics which did not clear it. But, he was a stubborn, strong-willed chap and ploughed on and carried on enjoying his walks. His cough continued so the Vet performed a chest X-ray. It was not good news.

cocker spaniel close upHarry looked deeply into my eyes – I knew he was ready to go

He had a shadow on his lung and because of his age, the vet feared the worst. We were offered other exploratory options, but, we did not want to put our old boy through that. We filled our weekends with days to the beach and trips around the park and his favourite ponds and rivers, too. We enjoyed every day with him. He became breathless, so the Vet put him on steroids and pain-killers. He reached his 14th birthday and I bought him his favourite Tripe sticks and took him on his favourite walks. Then, he was on the strongest dose of steroids but these were proving ineffective as he was panting at rest.

I remember vividly, he was panting in his bed and looked up to the ceiling and followed something around the room. He then looked at me deeply into my eyes. I knew it was a sign that he was ready to go and that the Angels were waiting to take him to be at peace.

cocker spaniel and rabbit lying

I have never felt such a feeling of loss in all my life

I feel very sad as I write this; we did the bravest, most selfless and kindest thing I think we have ever done. We held his paw and cuddled him and talked to him and kissed him as he went to sleep. Rob and I hugged each other so tight for the next few days. We did not sleep at all and I just felt so lost, like I had lost my child. I have never felt such a feeling of loss in all my life. I felt like I had been punched in the chest with something really hard. My heart was shattered into tiny pieces. I just did not know how I would go on living.

I spoke with my GP and she suggested I contact The Samaritans, which was helpful. I also saw a counsellor who was actually experiencing the same grief as me at losing her beloved whippet. We shared our grief which was comforting.

My partner and I were grieving differently and it tore us apart

man cuddles harry on sofaWe had our Haz cremated. When I got his ashes back, I emailed the crematorium for advice on where I could find further support as my partner and I were not sharing our grief together. We were grieving differently and this tore us apart. The dynamics in our relationship seemed to have changed somehow, too. The Pet Crematorium put me in touch with a charity called Our Special Friends who help folk by providing emotional support when they lose a special friend. I spoke with a beautiful lady called, Belinda ‘Bin’ Johnston. She was amazing and I have kept in touch with her ever since Harry died, just over 2 years ago.

I learnt to reach out to others instead of keeping my feelings to myself and got support from so many lovely people. The house was so lonely without him, though. He would greet me at the door when I came home, he would sit on my lap, he would sit with me when I was in the bath, he would follow me everywhere and, yes; he was very vocal! He was a cheeky, strong-willed, feisty, stubborn and very determined boy with a beautiful heart. We even received a ‘With Sympathy’ card from our beautiful Vet Helen at Swayne and Partners in Bury St Edmunds, and her words encapsulated his personality perfectly. She just ‘got’ him!

We scattered his ashes in his favourite woodland

cross stich picture of cocker spanielI enjoy cross-stitch and decided to create a cross-stitch of my boy. It took me a while to finish it. It now sits proudly in my bedroom and I blow him a kiss at night and smile at him in the morning when I wake up.

On 23rd November 2019, I was ready to scatter some of his ashes. Rob was respectful in waiting until I was ready. He wanted to scatter them a long time ago. I guess we all grieve differently? I have kept some in an urn and have scattered some in the garden which is a place that he loved. Harry had a favourite spot over the heath in the back of the woodland. He would just ‘come alive’ through those woods and would have a big, vibrant grin on his face as he ran through there. So, it was respectful for us to scatter his ashes and set him free in his favourite place.

Rob and I created a video on my phone in remembrance of our beautiful boy and each, in turn, scattered his ashes. We secured a photo of him on a tree, too. It was a sad, but, also joyous experience. I felt liberated. He can fly now, and in his favourite spot, too!

I missed him ‘clip-clopping’ along behind me

Our home was so quiet without The Pops. We have wooden flooring and I missed him ‘clip-clopping’ along, behind me. So, 18 months ago, we re-homed a beautiful chocolate-sable Cocker Spaniel Bitch called Maddie. She is 3 years old. She has a genetic condition called PRA, which means that she will lose her sight at some point. She is the most beautiful, kind and loving soul. I think Harry would be pleased that we have given another Cocker Spaniel a good, loving home.

Harry the cocker spaniel pet bereavement

Harry the Cocker Spaniel

Thank you for sharing 14 wonderful years with me, Haz. Gone to Spirit, but, NEVER forgotten. Until me meet again one day, Your Mummy, Miranda (and Daddy, Rob) XXXXXX

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