Twelve years ago I introduced Montague on the pages of this journal. Today, it was time to bid farewell.
Montague, a stout, furry Jack Russell terrier, developed a cancerous growth in his snout and the last few weeks were (mostly) painful for him; he quickly lost his eyesight, his hearing, and his sense of smell, even though, until the very last day, he still ate with relish as much as he could swallow with ease.
I stroked the sedated dog in his basket as the veterinarian administered the lethal injection; his heart was so strong that it required two injections to put an end to his suffering. It even made me doubt, momentarily, whether he could not have pulled through after all.
I had never experienced dying before; that is saying a lot, considering that, in my youth, I worked in a hospital for twenty months and have been around since then for decades.
Adopted and at first reserved, Montague was the only dog ever to live with me. Given his past, shadowy though it is to me, he was cautious and not overly attached to anyone in particular; so it would not be right to call him ‘my’ first dog. He let my husband, me – and friends and relatives – take care of him as he saw fit; and I was glad of it.
I had to go to work after the veterinarian appointment. It was a gloomy Saturday, the day that Storm Callum caused the worst flooding in Wales in thirty years. When I walked to the School of Art, where I work, I heard organ music play in a nearby chapel. I do not recall having heard music coming out of that place before, at least not in my presence, atheist that I am. It felt like something out of Victorian melodrama; not that I, being late as usual, had time to dwell on the peculiar aptness of the music as a soundtrack for the moment.
On the previous day, my latest exhibition, “Travelling Through,” opened at the School of Art Museum and Galleries at Aberystwyth University. The wistful, melancholy title has added meaning on this day of loss.
I am prone to sentimentality; but, in this age of meanness, discord and accelerating indifference, I am glad to be feeling sorrow – though some may sneer that I simply feel sorry for myself – along with the need to let it be known; not in the hope of letting it dissipate but of making it resonate.
Farewell, Montague. Little though I know, you taught me a lot.