Eventually we all come to that moment that we have dreaded for years, when we loose a much loved canine friend. There is that awful feeling of bereavement and a feeling that life is going on without us really being a part of it. I have found that one of the best things to help me get going again is to buy a plant that I can remember that dog by.
Obviously you are looking for a plant that is in flower at the time and is pretty long lasting. You will probably want to be able to see that flower for years to come and remember all the wonderful times you had with that dog. I find that there is a special poignancy if I can choose a plant that has characteristics that are suitable for the dog.
The first time that I decided to buy a plant to remember a dog by was in 1994. Her name was Penny and although she was my second Welsh Springer, she was the one that really introduced me to the world of dogs. She started living with my mother, but came to live with me when she was just over a year old in 1982.
We went dog training and eventually became a part of our club’s display team, doing formation heelwork and stays. I decided to show her too. She won her class at Crufts in 1984, my first time showing at the world renowned show. Penny also managed to win her way into the Kennel Club’s Stud Book. But most of all, she was my best friend. We travelled the country, visited friends at weekends and shared our lives.
Unfortunately she never had any puppies as my single lifestyle didn’t allow it. Eventually, she had to leave me, but I know she is waiting at the Rainbow Bridge for me.
The next day, I went out to the garden centre and bought a house plant, a cyclamen that was flowering its socks off. It was a lovely deep pink colour and made me feel the joy that Penny had given me. I had never been that good at keeping house plants, but believe it or not, I still have that cyclamen. It doesn’t flower every year and has had to be repotted quite a few times. It lives on my office window sill. Every time I look at it, it reminds me of that wonderful dog, who still hasn’t left me, even after almost 20 years.
Another plant I bought was to remember a beautiful bitch who died in the spring. Rhian was a very gentle soul and had gone so grey that she looked as if she had had a bag of flour poured on her.
The following day, the Royal Horticultural Society happened to have a spring show near by. The trip out to the show gave me purpose at a time when I didn’t feel like doing anything. We wandered round the show. There were loads of daffodils, cacti and such like, but none of them spoke to me and reminded me of Rhian. Finally I spied a beautiful white double camellia. The flowers were delicate rather than blousy and there she was. The plant was not cheap, but that was immaterial, I had to buy it. When I got home, I had to decide where to put it. I wandered around the garden looking for the right spot.
Finally I found the right place and planted the camellia. It was a couple of years before it started to flower. When I saw those wonderful blooms, Rhian was back with me – her purity and serenity lived on.
For many of us, our dogs are really special friends. When the time comes for them to leave us, a plant is a wonderful way of remembering the special place that they had in our lives.