Clarence, Maisie and Stanley
I’d been a volunteer assessor and transporter for welfare for a while when back in 2008 I had the opportunity to become a client too! I had just unexpectedly lost my beloved bitch Elsa to cancer at 11 years and wanted a younger male to keep 13-year old Lucy company.
Clarence was 4½ years old, very handsome, tall and when he came to us, also very overweight. The victim of a relationship breakdown, he was being left on his own for up to 10 hours a day with only a quick walk around the local park if he was lucky. He had the biggest and the softest head I’ve ever seen on a dalmatian and he reminded us of a big bear! He had a number of health issues connected with his thyroid and a hormonal imbalance which was an uncommon consequence of him being neutered. Despite this, Clarence was very photogenic and, once he’d shed a few kilos, looked in great physical shape throughout his life. We were very proud when he was chosen to be on the welfare mug and show diary one year! Welfare kindly helped us out with the costs of some of his medication in the latter years for which we were very grateful.
Unfortunately, Clarence also had a bit of an attitude towards some other dogs that his previous owner had failed to mention. Although he relaxed and got much better with us over the years, we would always put him on his lead when meeting a new dog as we could never be 100% sure of him. With people and especially the children though, he was a gentle giant, always wanting to sit on your lap and have a fuss. He followed us everywhere in the house. We had some fantastic Easter holidays in Norfolk with him, where he enjoyed running on the beach, digging huge holes and eating/rolling in anything smelly and dead, and playing “hide and sneak” in the dunes. You could walk, cycle or run with him for miles.
Then in June 2014, just two weeks after a check-up at the vets who said how good he was looking, he developed a stiff neck. Within days he could hardly stand or raise his head and x-rays showed advanced bone cancer. Several of the vertebrae at the base of his neck/top of his spine were eaten away and other vertebrae were crumbling. Five days after the first signs of discomfort we had to have him put to sleep. He was just 10 years old. Although we’d only had him 5½ years he’d made a huge impact on us all, especially my husband to whom he was a real “best mate”. He still is the best £100 I’ve ever spent.
When Lucy sadly passed away in her sleep at the grand old age of 15, I registered again as a potential adopter with welfare – this time looking for a younger bitch to mellow Clarence! Within a few weeks I received an email with some pictures and a description of an 11-month old liver bitch (then called Lady) with the comment “Does she sound too lively for you?” Never ones to back away from a challenge we said of course not but we wanted to be happy that Clarence would accept her, so we were able to meet on neutral territory – all went well and she came home with us, two days before her 1st birthday and we changed her name to Maisie. Another dog whose owners had separated, leaving her alone for long periods, Maisie nearly very quickly wrecked our own marriage; within a week, my husband Richard threatened to leave home if she didn’t go first! Maisie would empty all the bins and shred their contents, steal food (usually his) from worktops and tables, chew shoes (again preferably his!) and pull washing down off the rotary line. She was manic, hyperactive and almost uncontrollable at times. As Richard sat upstairs in the bedroom trying to calm himself down after “the Belgian bun incident”, Maisie must have realised she’d overstepped the mark and she crept upstairs and laid her head on his lap – looking at him with her amazing amber coloured eyes. She was forgiven!
Since then, she has become an absolute pleasure to own. She is very small and slim with a face more like a whippet than a dalmatian and a patch like a pointer. No-one believes she’s a “proper” dalmatian, everyone thinks she’s still a puppy and she certainly behaves like one. She is always ready for a chase or a ball game and is the most intelligent of all the dalmatians we’ve owned. We’ve never yet succeeded in tiring her out.
Clarence’s loss left an enormous hole in our lives. We didn’t know if we could ever replace him but this time I went back on the adopters’ list within days as a house with only one dalmatian was definitely not for us. In less than two weeks Stanley became available and I really believe it was fate. He was not quite 3 years old, yet we were to be his third owners.
When we first took Stanley in he was quite subdued, never leaving your side on walks – a dalmatian who wouldn’t disappear off at a rate of knots as soon as they were let off the lead was a novelty for us! Two months later he still doesn’t go far away but will initiate games and chases with Maisie and they’ll bowl each other over. He’ll chase a ball but not bring it back. Throw a biscuit for him and you’ll never see a dog move faster! With more regular exercise and less food, Stanley has lost over 4 kilos and the vet says he is now perfect. He is an early riser, crying loudly at any time from 4am onwards and we haven’t managed to solve that issue yet. He does suffer from a bit of separation anxiety and the two dogs between them often manage to open the stair gate and charge up the stairs when they can’t bear to be away from you for 5 minutes.
He and Maisie get on fabulously – although why they have to have their most manic chasing games in the house and garden instead of over the park or fields, or why “bitey faces” always has to happen after 10pm is beyond us!
“Manly Stanley”, as we call him, has settled in better than we could ever have hoped and we have to thank everyone at the welfare for finding us not just one but three wonderful dogs!