A Word In Your Ear with Jon Rhodes - 19 May 2011

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TO be fair I have known this day was coming for sometime – it doesn’t make it any easier though.

Eighteen years ago – at the height of my rabble-rousing days as a young singleton without a care in the world – I took the rather strange decision to go and get myself a dog.

And not just any dog, this was “Dog Of The Week” in my local paper.

You know the sort. We have them every week in The Gazette, animals pictured as if on death row, making one final plea for clemency as they bid to escape the local RSPCA compound.

Now given this all happened at the height of my purple patch of beer, women and football, well all right mostly beer, deciding to become some 1993 Grunge-era version of Dr Doolittle was a little out of character.

But I had grown up always having a pet around, so what was more natural than shortly after buying my first house deciding to get myself a four-legged friend to share it with?

And the one I plumped for had not exactly had the best start in life, dumped, as she was, at five weeks old on Preston’s tough Callon estate.

I was given the job of writing that week’s Dog of The Week in the paper and was struck by the poor animal’s tragic backstory. Before you could say “ahhh” I was down to the RSPCA with my £35 to reserve her. Of course, no one prepared me for dealing with a puppy, the sudden restrictions on my social life and the fact she would need two walks a day.

Oh, that and the fact this small mongrel (a bizarre conception between dog, cat or fox) would then proceed to eat her way through two door frames and a full set of stair spindles.

But through it all she has stood by me, and a lot longer than most women did in those halcyon mid-1990s.

Over the last two decades I would not be without Jess.

And that brings me to my opening point, how do you know when the time is right to let them go?

Over the last two years the bounce has gone from her legs, her razor-sharp eyesight has failed to the point where she falls over her own feet, knocks over more than the odd glass of Chateau Budgeto and generally has no idea where she is – her quality of life is not great.

The Put Upon Wife took me to one side the other week and said, ‘I think we need to have a talk about Jess’.

In my heart of hearts I’ve known I must face up to this reality but, call me a coward, I find it all a little too serious to deal with and optimistically read too much into a wag of the tail as everything being okay.

I have for the past few weeks been avoiding all talk of her clearly failing health.

I ask myself who am I really dodging the question for – me or her? I am increasingly getting the feeling of being selfish.

But what do you do?