During the war, a father writes to his son who is overseas to tell him the little dog he left behind has died.
When my father was young he had an exceptional Cocker Spaniel named Sandy. Sandy was with him through childhood and adolescence, and saw him off to war in 1940. Unfortunately, Sandy died while Dad was still overseas.
My grandparents (who had lost a three-year-old daughter to appendicitis decades earlier) doted over Sandy while Dad was gone. He became an object of their affection, a symbol of their much-loved son who was facing unspeakable horrors as a prisoner of war in Hong Kong. They had to wait for months, sometimes years, for word of their son’s fate, and the death of his dog during that time was a profound blow.
I found this page of my grandfather’s journal in an old steamer trunk in my basement. At first I thought my father had written it, but quickly realized that it was in my grandfather’s hand:
Cocker Spaniel Dog – ‘Sandy’
“Born about October 1927
Came to us 12th January 1928
Purchased from Mr. Smith, Frances Sask.
Passed over Wed 17th February 1943 in his 16th year.
A beautiful thoroughbred dog of great intelligence.
A faithful, loving, and devoted companion and friend.
Always a warm welcome awaited us on our return home at any time.
Our loss is great, but we shall meet again someday.
Love conquers all.
On Tuesday night (16th Feb) I took him out for a little before retiring. On reaching the backdoor to come in he became violently sick and vomited profusely. He was very restless all night and appeared not able to lie down in my bed or settle himself. I was up and down with him with practically no rest till about 4 a.m. on Wed morning, when after wandering all over upstairs he eventually lay down on a small rug behind Mummy’s bed till morning. He was still there when I came home at noon on Wed. When he tried to walk he appeared to have suffered a stroke and to have lost his sight. He would walk aimlessly, more or less in circles and bump against things holding his little head to one side. We realised that he was suffering and would not recover and in the interests of kindness and humanity, though much against our will, we sent for Dr. Stuart who confirmed our conclusions and put him painlessly to sleep. I held our little pet (wee San) while the Dr inserted the needle and all was over in a few seconds. He appeared to suffer no pain from the needle but just gasped as his heart action stopped. In death our little pet still looked lovely and we had his beautiful little body cremated by the civic authorities the following day.”
I never met Sandy, of course, nor my grandfather, but both of them figured in many of the stories Dad told me while I was growing up. I suppose one could say both of them have lived on through me in a small way.
When the time comes, I hope they will be waiting for me on the other side… Love conquers all.
Sandy and Grandpa c.1940, photographer unknown