Pongo Horsnell


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PONGO. 3.11.98 to 14.4.09

I had been looking for a dog to join our family for a few months when I found the Dalmatian Welfare Fund web site in February 2003 and was genuinely surprised that a breed as elegant as Dalmatians would ever need a re-homing service. My 2 boys, then aged 9 and 6, were very keen on the idea but my then wife, who was allergic to most animals, was a lot more cautious. Calls to Anne Gurnsey and Nina Byles resulted in a DWF lady from Kings Lynn (sorry but I’ve forgotten her name) bringing not one but two Dalmatians around to our home to see whether we were a suitable family for such a “dotty” type of dog. My boys loved having the dogs here, the dogs thoroughly enjoyed it too and my wife suffered no ill effects either, so a good result all-round. A few weeks later, we got a call to say that a suitable dog required a “new” home and so it was that on the 27th April 2003, “Pongo” joined our family.

We were told that he had come from a pub in Watford and that the family there did not have the time or space to look after him. He was a bit on the chubby side but a very fine fellow and we were immediately struck with his calmness, not “dotty” at all……most of the time ! Pongo and I enlisted at the local dog training club, not only to learn the right way to do things, but also to get to know each other better, and he did himself proud. We entered him into the village dog show that summer (2003) and although he didn’t win any obedience awards, the judge was very impressed with Pongo’s ability to shake hands (or paws) with people and he won a rosette in both the “best local dog” and the “waggiest tail” competition. As a family of (now) five we would often visit Thetford forest on our bikes (except Pongo who always went on foot) and Pongo would run alongside us with his ears flapping and tongue hanging out. Provided we kept moving he would never leave us however great the temptation.

The seaside was another favourite place (between October and April of course) where Pongo would try and chase the stones we would through as far into the sea as possible. Pongo would chase as far as the water’s edge and then, when his paws got wet, run back to us. Pongo was a truly lovely dog. It is fair to say that he was not the most playful of dogs. He didn’t do “fetch”, you could see the puzzlement on his face….if humans want to throw a ball, they should get it themselves, but he did occasionally have a mad half hour with his play rope or toy squeaky hamburger. One particularly funny memory that I share with my boys is the day that Pongo decided to chase one of the many hares that we had visit our garden. The boy’s grandfather was over and I sat in the lounge with my boys watching first a hare, then Pongo and then my Dad run past the window, not once but three times until the hare saw sense and ran out of the drive, unharmed. Pongo and my Dad ran round again, not realising that the hare had gone!

Pongo much preferred to stretch out in the sun and go to sleep, or to lie in front of our log burner with his head on someone’s lap being stroked. Whatever he was doing however, the sound of the fridge door opening or a saucepan being readied for a meal would always bring him to his senses and he’d join me in the kitchen looking up with those brown eyes that said “anything for me?”. We soon discovered that he loved raw carrot and mushrooms and I’d always share some with him if they were “on the menu” that night. After about a year we had our first non routine visit to the vet. After a particularly playful day with my cousin’s dog, Pongo would not put his back left leg down. The vet told us that Pongo’s spine wasn’t totally straight and his hips were also slightly dodgy (or should that be dog-dy ?). Bed rest and Metacam were the vet’s recommendation and this was done. After a few days rest all was well again but we did make sure that he took things a bit more gently when “friends” came to play.

His mobility did decline from about 2006 onwards and we would lift him into the boot if we were going out as he could no longer leap in himself. Walking on rough ground wasn’t good for him and he would occasionally loose the strength in his back left leg if it landed awkwardly and he’d have to rest a while before continuing at a slower pace. He would never complain, he’d just sit down and then set of again when he was ready. Life was good though, I’d walk him in the morning after taking my youngest son to the village school and again in the afternoon before picking him up. During the summer months I would sometimes take Pongo with me to the school to collect my son and Pongo soon became a hit with all the children. He would always enjoy greeting new people, a lot of tail wagging, quick sniff and then that would be that. Guard dog duties were not his thing either, during the summer Pongo would lie in the open doorway and the post-lady would step over him, still asleep, to put the post on the kitchen table.

It was during 2007 that we noticed a lump appearing on the left side of his head. At first I thought it was a fatty lump as he had already had a fatty lump removed from his “good” back leg. The lump on his head was hard and immoveable but it didn’t seem to affect Pongo in anyway. The vet didn’t know what it might be either and said it was better left alone so this we did. It steadily kept growing and by the end of 2008 it was very big, his left ear nearly 2 inches further out than it should be, and the lump had grown forwards, nearly reaching his eye. He didn’t seem worried until one day towards the end of March 2009 when he simply went off his food. Neither carrots nor mushrooms could tempt him and the weight simply fell off him. After a few days, he would eat a small amount of food but nowhere near enough to sustain him let alone put back the weight he had lost.

His pain relief had been upped to ensure he was not in any discomfort and although he would still walk down to the garden gate wanting to go for a walk, he’d only be able to manage 50 yards instead of a couple of miles, before having to turn back. By the 13th April he preferred to stay in his bed, not getting up at all and so we would lift him, in his bed, to the sunny side of the house and there he would lie, still keen to be out in the garden with us, still occasionally wagging his tail. I called the vet on the 14th April, asking for advice as to whether it would be kinder to let him “go”, in truth already knowing the answer but not wanting to make that decision myself. The vet was very understanding and Pongo passed away lying in his bed in a sunny part of our garden, his favourite place to be. He is now buried in the garden and although it is an incredibly sad time, I felt I wanted to put on paper the joy, friendship and fun that he brought to our family over the 6 years that he was with us.

I know that everyone’s Dalmatian becomes a real integral part of the family and so my story is far from unique, but he was so unlike any other dog I have owned or known. He was always a total gent, he never snapped at anybody, only ever displaying patience, tolerance and love, happy to be wherever the family were and join in with whatever we were doing. His only bad habit was one that most dog owners will know. We were never sure whether his name “Pongo” was because of the Disney film or his great ability to “Pong and Go”, leaving the rest of us having to suffer until the air cleared !! He will be very sorely missed and has left a huge hole in the family. I want to thank The Dalmatian Welfare Fund for all that they do and for enabling my family to share six years of love and friendship with a truly wonderful chap called Pongo. Thank you. David Horsnell.

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