Everyone has them; years or prolonged periods in which life just gets a bit bumpy and you have to hang onto your seat and smile with the hope that everything will settle soon. I’ve just been through one of those. I had a good selection of family, medical and business drama to deal with and so while I had loads to write about, none of it was particularly inspiring and uplifting, and some of it was deeply personal, so I wrote nothing at all. For ages. But here I am, with a spare five minutes and the urge to share….. so here goes….

My parents are not great at presents (sorry Mum and Dad) but twice in my life they’ve come up trumps. For my 21stbirthday they gave me a yellow Labrador puppy, Annie. And while I loved her, I had a ‘normal job’ and so she spent all day hanging out at the boat yard with Neil and became his dog. They were inseparable. So, as a wedding present my parents gave me Molly, another yellow Labrador puppy and Annie’s niece. By this time I was working at the boat yard too with team ‘Nannie’ and so, on the return from our honeymoon, I collected Molly and we formed our own, much cooler but slightly naughty team.

I say naughty because like me, Molly was a little bit cheeky and impulsive.

Fenton. Molly was like that dog Fenton in the deer park. Don’t know what I mean?  Then watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7xTC2-klpM

It still makes me laugh because I understand the owners frustration.

Where Fenton’s weakness was deer, Molly just couldn’t resist a good roll in dead seal. If she caught the whiff of a dead seal out on the marsh, no matter how far away (we could be at the three bridges in Morston and that dead seal could have washed up on the far point) Molly would be gone. Bounding merrily over the marshland and creeks, deaf to my howling and calling her back.

My heart would sink whenever I saw her go down on her shoulder and her four legs come up, waggling ecstatically in the air. I’d be furious as I tramped for miles after her. She’d eventually get up and slink over to me, knowing she’d done wrong but that I couldn’t tell her off because she’d come back to me, of her own volition, just before I’d reached her. She’d trot besides me all the way home and only cower as I pulled out the hose pipe. Have you ever tried to wash dead seal from anything? It’s impossible. Fairy liquid breaks down the fat but the smell lingers for a good week or so.


My baby before I had babies.

Maybe that’s the hardest thing about this last year. Watching Molly wither and knowing that soon it would be her time and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

What words could possibly make you understand and see the beauty of her soul? She was after all, just a dog.

I could say she was my best friend but that’s not true. She was more than that. I shared my home with her, my family and without her I am without.

I have worried about what living without Molly would be like. I have worried about knowing when the time was right to let her go. About making that decision.

In July the time was right. The decision was made. I held her in my arms and told her it was okay. It was time for her to go. And she left.

And I cried on that horrible day. A lot. And I cried a bit more over the next couple of days and then life got in the way and I kind of got on with things. It was only when we went on holiday and all the normal distractions stopped that I started to miss my dog, my friend. My grief and sadness leached from me under the Greek sun. I quietly wept for most of the two weeks we were away. On the last day, as Neil swam in the sea and the children paddled I began to cry again. Neil swam to shore and looked at me sitting on the sun lounger and crying again.

‘I feel like there’s nothing to go home for!’ I called to him.

Neil laughed as he walked up the beach.

‘Maggie?’ He asked.

Many of you will know Maggie our Norfolk Terrier.

 I do really love Maggie but I’ve always thought that Maggie would happily live with anyone who feeds her whereas Molly was not food motivated, she needed her pack.

As Neil dried himself down I explained to Neil that I have never been a married woman without Molly at my side. I had only worked at the boat yard for a year before she came along and never in the office without her. I have never been a mum without Molly. For fourteen years, for pretty much twenty four hours a day, fifty two weeks of the year, my time had been spent with Molly beside me. She’d seen me through every low and every high. She’d loved my kids as much as I had, maybe more because in her eyes they were truly faultless and the source of titbits and treats. Who was I without Molly? Going home meant beginning again without her and it felt like a betrayal. Especially as we were picking up a new puppy the next day. A puppy that I wasn’t even sure I wanted because all I really wanted was my old dog back.

Neil didn’t rush to comfort me or tell me it would be okay. Neil told me that when Annie had died he had felt lost and it took a year, maybe more, for that feeling to subside. That’s what I wanted to hear. Not that it would be okay. We all knew that it would be okay. I just wanted to know that my feelings were normal and that it would get easier. This was after all, only a dog I was crying over. When we returned home I spoke with my mum and told her I had spent most our holiday crying for Molly. Mum was sympathetic and agreed that losing Molly, my best friend, was devastating and she tried, in her own way, to put it in perspective for me by saying, ‘If this is how you feel about Molly, imagine how you’re going to feel when me and your Dad pop it.’

Being cheeky, I replied,

‘This is very different. Molly’s love for me was unconditional. She never called me ‘difficult’ and when she took a poop on my floor, it was an accident because she was old and I cleared it up because I loved her. If you come round my house and take a poop on my floor you’re going into a home.’

Mum laughed at me which is good because I was only joking (honest Mum) but that conversation did make me think about the strength of that bond we have with dogs, a species completely different from our own. Neil told me yesterday that a dog is the only other creature, like humans, where if you starve it of human contact and food and then offered  both it will choose the human contact over the food no matter how hungry it is. Isn’t that amazing?  That dogs need us emotionally as much as we need them.

We picked up Daisy, the Labrador puppy I wasn’t sure I wanted and whom I now adore.

She’s terrorising Maggie (who, being a feisty terrier, secretly enjoys it), chewing everything (shoes and live cables are her favourite) and being just a little bit naughty. She’s never going to replace Molly and I don’t want or expect her to. She’s bought a different energy to the house and made me appreciate Molly even more because I’ve realised that while puppies are cute, they are also the painful stage you have to go through to get a good dog. Daisy has also made me realise that it was Molly’s time to go. I can see in her the dog that Molly used to be, before her heart and body began to give way around her. I just hope, because I’m sappy  and believe her energy is somewhere, that wherever Molly is now,  she knows how much I loved her and how she will always be the hardest thing I’ve had to let go.








10 comments on “My Boatswain

  1. Alexandra Gray on

    As I lie here this morning, reading your blog and listening to my own aptly named ‘Poppy’ dog endlessly fart in her bed, I realise that we all have that dog that comes along that is truly special to us. Molly was that dog for you.
    Weirdly, I miss Molly too. I miss her soft head and big ‘love me’ eyes.
    She was so lucky to be so loved. X
    (Now, where’s the air freshener?)

    • Richenda Thompson on

      5:39 – you should still be asleep – you’ve just committed a hate crime against your bed by being awake at that time in the morning! Do you remember that time with Molly, when we were walking on the point and those people were coming towards us? I know you do…Poor Molly. Loved her so much. The house feels weird without her. You’ll see what I mean the next time you visit. Love you xx

  2. Linda Chapman on

    Dear Richenda, I’m sitting here crying my eyes out over your story about saying goodbye to Molly, I thought I was being silly with sad times over my dog this August, it’s comforting to know I’m not alone in this grief, I keep trying to tell myself that we gave her a new life, one that she loved and was happy in, she too would sniff out a dead seal from Blakeney and run for miles to roll in it. She met Annie and Molly quite often out in the harbour at low tide, either whilst out for a walk or spending a few days on White Water,
    pausing to sniff a hello then belt off to the next dead crab, fish or worse, salt water’s pretty ineffective at removing the muck, she too hated the hose!
    Thank you for putting into words in such a beautiful way just how empty and lost one feels without your best ever companion. The happy memories will never fade, as for the bad memories, well there just aren’t any.
    I too hope to find another yellow Labrador in a little while to start building another life long friendship but it won’t be quite the same as the very special one I had with Daisy x

    • Richenda Thompson on

      Hi Linda, thanks for your lovely comment. I think I’d been trying to mentally prepare myself for loosing Molly and was unprepared for how sad I feel. Dogs really are the best and even though I miss her, I’d never want tone without one. As you say, there are no bad memories. I hope you find another woofer soon. Richenda x

  3. Kim Farrow on

    A beautiful piece of writing which has made me smile and a little sad, thank you for sharing with us, I could relate to all that you felt having had my first dog an Alsatian at the age of 2, and not being without a companion since then.
    I will look forward to seeing you out on the marsh with Daisy, and maybe she won’t love the odour of dead seal !
    With love
    Kim x

    • Richenda Thompson on

      Hi Kim, it’s so nice to know that people ‘get’ this as Molly was just a dog. I guess the trouble with that statement though is that it’s hard to encapsulate all that a dog is in a tiny three letter word. It does not do them justice. You will meet naughty Daisy soon, I’m sure xx

  4. Bernard King on

    Been there, done that and know exactly where you’re coming from. Had 4 ( mom, dad and two daughters, flat coat retrievers dad /springer mom ) lost them one by one, very hard to take. Now “dog share” with our son’s black laby who is adorable and a little mischievous even though he is 10 now, it can be a ‘pain’ having to take them out in the winter but none of us with and love dogs would change a thing. Companionship and love is second only to another human.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *