Sometime in 2006 my partner Ronnie suggested getting a rescue dog and I only had one answer 'well I'm not going to walk it'. Even though I'd never owned a dog (growing up we had guinea pigs and then cats), I knew what a commitment they were and I also knew Ronnie and how many other commitments he had, including his daughter Abby, who was only about seven at the time and who stayed with us half of every week.
Anyway, I must have relented, I love animals and we thought it would be fun for Abby.
We had to be vetted to see if we, and our home were suitable for a dog and when we got the all clear we decided to go to the RSPCA in Brighton on the way to visit some friends. I woke up that morning with one thought in my head, that if we got a dog we should call him Rufus. I have no idea why, but I just woke with that thought so clearly in my mind.
Our only discussions about breed were that it should probably be a smallish dog as we didn't have a very big garden.
Unusually there were 3 Westies at the animal sanctuary, a female and two males. The little female was so bouncy and happy and just looked so cute so we asked about her, but she had already gone and so had the male Westie next to her. They pointed out another Westie on the opposite side and the poor little thing looked so forlorn, he had been washed and left to sit on the cold concrete, shivering.
We were delighted when they said that he was available.
We weren't allowed to take him with us, we had to keep visiting and taking him for walks around the large field next to the sanctuary. He didn't seem very keen on walking, so Ronnie often picked him up. He also didn't react to his name which was Brandy, and luckily Ronnie and Abby were happy to rename him Rufus which quickly became Rufie.
Three weeks after our initial visit I rang up and almost begged to be allowed to bring him home, I couldn't understand how they could keep him in a cold cage when there was a warm home for him at our house.
Fortunately they said yes, so I went and collected Rufie from the sanctuary that morning, it was February 2007 and he was 9 months old.
Poor little Rufie was scared stiff at first, he hardly moved from the sofa, he didn't know how to play or how to go for a walk.
The first couple of nights we left him downstairs, then one evening Ronnie suggested we bring him upstairs and let him stay with us for an hour or so (I was thrilled), and from then on he never slept anywhere else but on our bed.
I didn't have any work when we first got him, so of course I took him for walks, fed him and generally looked after him and inevitably he bonded with me the most. At that time we lived 10 minutes walk from the beach and it was such a pleasure to go down there, especially when the tide was out. If we were both working he had a dog walker Julie, whom he adored. She took him up into the hills with other dogs and they played a doggy version of football. She also told us that he was like a little marshal; if other dogs weren't getting on, he would gently intervene and try and make it all better.
Unfortunately my relationship with Ronnie wasn't working out and when he said 'you love that dog more than you love me', I thought 'yep, you're right', although I didn't actually voice it. We parted company in 2013 and I moved back to the house I owned and had rented out for seven years. Abby was 13 by this time and didn't question the fact that I would be taking Rufie with me, it was an unspoken absolute, that Ronnie had a daughter and I had a dog.
Although we didn't part on good terms Ronnie and I eventually became friends and in fact he and Abby spent the following four Christmas's at my house and I still keep in touch with both of them.
Rufie didn't like moving house, he sat by the front door for the whole of the first day, and it took two more days for him to settle down and enjoy his new home. I think it helped that Julie still came to get him and take him for walks.
Rufie didn't like being touched and so trips to the vet were difficult, he often had to be muzzled. Eventually we realised that if I left the room he behaved much better, so that became the norm at the vets. We also didn't have any luck with dog groomers, he was just so petrified and they couldn't get near him so after two attempts we gave up and he remained my scruffy little Westie. I trimmed his hair myself when I could but I just loved his fluffy teddy bear looks and other dog walkers often remarked the same.
Leaving him, even for a couple of hours was difficult but coming home, especially after a day's work was exciting every single time, knowing that my little boy would be so pleased to see me.
Julie retired but then he had two other lovely dog walkers, Crystal and Amy who posted pictures and videos of him on social media. It was such a thrill to be at work and check facebook at lunchtime and see videos of him out on the South Downs, enjoying himself. If either of them came to the house while I was at home (sometimes I worked from home) he wouldn't even give me a backwards glance, he absolutely loved those walks.
It is thanks to the lovely Amy, that I have all these wonderful pictures.
Rufie had a problem with a grass seed one year (they can be very serious and work their way through a dogs body), and then a couple of years ago he damaged an eye digging in the sand on the beach. I had to work from home and give him two drops every two hours during the day until it healed, I stayed at home for 15 days.
I tried to avoid thinking about Rufie getting old, though I could see he was getting slower and couldn't walk as far. Then one day in February Amy mentioned his cloudy eyes, and I thought I'd better take him to the vets. The vet said he had cataracts which was normal for a dog his age, by now he was almost 13. She also said she would like to give him a scan because his breathing was laboured.
On Tuesday 12th March I took poor little Rufie to the clinic (he tried to leave at every opportunity, he hated it there), and had a call a few hours later to hear the absolutely devastating news that my little baby had cancer. There was a large mass attached to his spleen and it was also in his liver. They said they could take out the large mass but that it wouldn't necessarily prolong his life, but there was no way I was going to put him through that, the scan was bad enough.
A week and a half later I walked out of my job: trying to negotiate working from home became too difficult, and although I liked the work, there were a lot of things about the job that I didn't like. They never gave me a contract so it wasn't very difficult to leave and although I didn't have pots of money, I knew I could survive for a few months if I didn't live too extravagantly.
The vets had told me that Rufie would probably live for a few weeks or months so I was aiming to stay at home with him and not to look for another job.
I'm so so glad I made the decision to leave work because I had five weeks with him. I wasn't expecting him to go so soon but his poor little liver was giving up and he was having seizures. On Friday 26th April a lovely vet told me that it was totally my decision but that in her medical opinion I should let him go. After visiting the clinic that morning, we came home and he went straight to his bowl and ate all his breakfast so there was no way I was letting him go. By Saturday morning he had had two more seizures and I knew I shouldn't let him experience any more pain.
I had to get my brother to ring the clinic and then we spent the day waiting, mostly with Rufie on my lap, for the vets to come to my house and let my baby go peacefully. They were extremely kind but as you can imagine it was unbelievably hard.
I had already said that I didn't want them to take my little boy with them, that I would bring him up to the clinic myself. I sent my brother away too, so that I could have a couple of hours alone with Rufie. I wanted to tidy all his fur, cut off all the messy bits and make him look as good as he could. Then I sat on the sofa, with him next to me, his little body still warm. It may not be what everyone would do, but it helped me, I just couldn't bear someone else taking him away from me, the process needed to be gradual.
After a couple of hours I took him to the clinic and eventually left him.
I'm finding it very hard to cope, I feel completely lost without him. I have had a couple of lodgers, and met a couple of men but nothing serious, Rufie has really been my whole life for the last seven years. My friends and family have been amazing, they all knew how this would affect me and I appreciate their amazing support.
Sometimes I have moments of pure clarity, dogs don't last forever, my dog got to be almost 13, he had a wonderful, completely spoilt life and that's what I have to cling on to. I was lucky, I got to spend years and years of my life with a wonderful little creature who gave me so much comfort. I have his ashes in a lovely little box, and pictures of him everywhere.
One day I will get another dog, there are so many other dogs out there that need rescuing, that need the comfort of a nice home.
For now I'm just taking one day at a time, doing the best I can.
I love you Rufie xxx