Boysie's life with the Preens 17 Aug 1998 - 25 Feb 2004

Last updated: Sat 3 Jul 09:56:29 2004
On 25th February 2004, I had to make the hardest decision of my life. To put my best mate Boysie out of his misery. This page is a tribute to the most devoted dog I've ever known, and a way to express my thanks to him for all his companionship for the five and a half years he was with us.

This story actually starts on Sunday 9th August 1998. I was now working from home full time, and it was the perfect time to get a dog. Becky and I located an RSPCA animal home, and drove through the wilds of Essex to Wethersfield. We looked around the cages of rescue dogs, some ignored us completely, others barked at us aggressively, but only Boysie picked us.

He had no name on his cage, and was so small, we mistook him for a puppy (in fact he had been badly neglected, had been re-homed twice before, and weighed only 15kg (half his recommended weight) and was 7 years old). We took him for a little walk, and he was an angel - no pulling or anything (little did we know this was an act !!). We weren't able to take him home then, as they had to perform a home check, and Becky and I were away for the next week. He looked so sad as we walked away - we somehow knew we'd be taking him home when we returned the next week.

Boysie - the story

When he first arrived, Boysie was very keen to establish his place as high as possible up the Preen food chain, I can still recall him opening the bedroom door on his first night, pulling like a sled dog on walkies, and the few early biting incidents (all explained by him being scared, and us being inexperienced owners). He also had a distinct dislike of other dogs. Therefore, we started to go to training classes with Pat Clark (who specialises in "problem" German Shepherds.)

The first lesson, Boysie decided to try to take a chunk out of Pat's hand, and was suitably admonished with a whack on the head with a diary, and thus the training began. I've got a couple of scars from incidents - both times where Boysie was being attacked, and I got in there to save him, and then he bit me by accident. Not a problem, they are little reminders of him.

Once he'd settled down, and understood that class was a safe place to be, he became the model student. He never exceled at tests, mainly because he always did things at his own pace, and the way he felt like doing them, which didn't always agree with the testers !! He was also a complete poser. Whenever I got the camera out (which if the truth be known I bought to take pictures of Boysie). he would put on a confident pose, which now means that we have constant reminders of him all over the house.

He was never a chewer, except of things he was given, but he was known to attempt to tunnel under the house through my leek garden. How he reckoned he was going to get under the house I've no idea, but it was his favourite place to dig, and we always knew when he'd been at it, as his nose was covered in mud, as was the grass!!! Generally, he respected the garden, but he had a special relationship with a hebe, which he loyally watered every day, even though his "watering" resulted in the hebe becoming much withered. I guess it must have been the smell of the hebe, as often on walks he would find someone else's hebe to water. His other garden hobby was to sit watching the various herbs, until a bee would land to collect pollen, and then he would pounce. It was an obvious giveaway when he smelt of sage !!

The other notable garden incident was the time when it was late at night, and Boysie had just gone out to do his business, when in he strode, bold as brass, with a hedgehog between his teeth. He was very proud of this "spikey ball" he had made friends with that he brought it in to show us. How he didn't hurt his mouth (or the hedgehog come to that) I have no idea, but he seemed most hurt when we picked it up in a tea towel, and put it out the front of the house with some of his dinner to eat. He also managed to scare a baby bird into the house one time, which I was alerted to by a very loud high pitched scream. Again, Boysie wasn't trying to hurt it - he just wanted to know what all the noise was about.

The first day Boysie came to stay with us, I went off to play squash, and whilst I was out, Becky noticed that Boysie was having problems breathing so took him to see the local vet, where he was diagnosed as having a leaky heart valve, and we were told that we'd be lucky if he was still with us in six months time.

This resulted in regular visits to the vet, and regular occurances of us trying to check his resting heart rate, and occasional panics when Boysie had a dodgy day. Although we always knew if he was really sick, as he'd refuse to eat chicken - an excellent test.

Having got the heart disease under control (with the assistance of our regular vet Greg Carson), and re-diagnosed as a hole in the heart rather than a leaky valve, Boysie was diagnosed as having glaucoma in his right eye. We tried various eye drops as guided by the vet, and the optomologist (Prof Bedford), but it was too late, and he lost the sight in that eye, and gained the Boysie stare he was so famous for.

Each time we went back to have his innoculations topped up, the nurses were surprised that Boysie was still with us, but apart from the regular problems, and occasional other minor problems Boysie was quite settled. In October 2000, we had our innoculations a month early as Greg was leaving the practise to return to his native Australia.

Towards the end of 2002, the problem we had dreaded started to raise its ugly head, as Boysie started to become lame as twelve years of wear and tear on his back legs started to take their toll. We had some bad experiences with the local vet, and went to see Jean-Louis and Marcus in Chelmsford. They were able to control the pain, and whilst we were going for much shorter walks Boysie was still enjoying going out. The diagnosis was not exact, as we didn't want to take the risk of the anaesthetic, but he definitely had arthritis, and probably also had CDRM.

Whilst Boysie was on his regular heart medication, he had pills at 9am, 3pm and 9pm, and whilst he didn't like taking his pills, he obviously knew they were good for him, as I could set my watch by him as if I wasn't moving to get his pills at the allotted time, he would come up to me, and interrupt whatever I was doing. The same happened when he was staying with Grandma Jacobs, and she had forgotten. This phenomenen was even more noticeable when the clocks changed, as he would be either an hour early (or late) with his reminder for a few days.

When we first started giving Boysie his heart pills, we used to disguise them, by smothering them in pate. This worked fine, until, whilst we were experimenting with doses, he suffered from digoxin toxicosis - this resulted in total refusal to eat pate (for at least two years) - although by now he would happily (as he knew treats would follow) sit and have the pills forced down his throat.

With me working from home, we got into a regular routine, and for the first five years, Boysie went for three longish walks every day. We always made an effort to do a loop, as Boysie disliked going back the way we had just come. We almost always walked on lead, due to Boysie's unpredictability when we met other dogs, but he never seemed to mind, as the extendable lead gave him plenty of scope to sniff and explore. He loved to meet people, expecially the local children, and would often look down the side roads to see if he could find them when we walked past. He didn't like cats, but could never be bothered to chase them unless they ran away. I remember one time, early in his stay with us, when a cat was sat on the fence at the side of the garden. Boysie ran at the fence and jumped, the cat arched its back, and then hung on for dear life as the fence started rocking from side to side. It looked somewhat relieved when it fell off the other side. I've no idea what Boysie would have done if it'd fallen of on our side.

Boysie was very good friends with all of our families. Being more local, he saw more of the Jacobs side of the family, and after we spent a week away in Shropshire with them, he adopted them, and was much happier when we occasionally had to leave him with them. Despite his dislike of other dogs, we wanted to introduce him to Barney (my Mum and Dad's dog), and we did so at a neutral venue, and they both got on fine. This resulted in many visits down to the South Coast to see Barney and my Mum. He always acted as my assistant when we were helping Mum to fix her PC. We always got up early to avoid the traffic, and went for some lovely walks around the local village, as well as at Abbots Wood with Mum's friend Diane and her dogs. Whilst Boysie was not as active as he had once been, he always happily plodded along, and seemed to enjoy our walks there.

Boysie was always a grazer when it came to food - you could put down a complete bowl, and he would eat it when he felt like it.... unless it was a bowl of tripe or chicken, which would disappear almost as soon as the bowl hit the floor. He always kept enough treats so that he could survive if we left him for a long time - so there were always many plates around the house. This was part of him being spoilt, along with having three water bowls, and two beds (and numerous quilted bed covers), but he deserved all the comforts we could give him, as he'd obviously had a bad life before. Boysie would also help us to finish our plates, but wouldn't touch the plate until invited. He was particularly keen on ice cream, carrots, Tesco's value digestive biscuits (also known as Boysie snacks), but he'd generally eat anything he was offered, although Becky's gravy was often very scary!!

Boysie wasn't always an angel when it came to food. Early on in his time with us, Becky had made an egg sandwich, and put it on the table to go and get a drink. When she returned, Boysie was spotted neatly taking one part - and running off with it. This led to a very funny incident a few weeks later. We were visiting the Jacobs, and Becky again had an egg sandwich, which this time was placed at the back of the sofa so that Boysie wouldn't get it... However, Becky's brother, Tim, sat on the whole sandwich causing much hilarity!! As time went on, Boysie was much better behaved, and would rarely take without being invited. However, he did have a habit of watching Malcolm sit down with a salad for lunch, and he'd do his best to try and steal a slice of ham. Malcolm got wise to this though, and normally positioned the lettuce closest to Boysie !! One time I recall, the ham was closest, and just as Boysie lunged for it... I spun the plate, resulting in a mouth full of lettuce :-) He always got a couple of scraps afterwards when he'd been good though.

Around xmas 2003, Boysie was starting to struggle with the stairs - he'd normally make it, but he wasn't happy, and often cried out so that we could be there to support him if he slipped. This resulted in more trips to the vets. We tried a whole stack of drugs, each one working a bit, before lapsing again, and eventually on 23rd February 2004 we made that call to the vets, and booked the final appointment for the 25th.

On the last day, both Becky and I took the day off, so that we could spend it all with Boysie. We got up offered him the chance of a walk, which he refused. He was then presented with breakfast in bed (tripe), which he wolfed down, and then he came downstairs to spend a penny. We then took him out in the car to Epping Forest, which was always one of his favourites. We went out for a little walk, but it was a bit muddy, which made it tricky for Boysie to keep his feet, so after about five minutes he decided he'd had enough and we headed home. We drove home via Tesco, and picked up a hot cooked chicken for Boysie's last supper. Becky and I had a breast each, and the rest of the chicken was cut up, and subsequently devoured by Boysie. Three bowls full!

He seemed quite content having devoured the chicken, and we spent the next hour or so just having some quality family time, before it was time to get dressed and go to the vets. Boysie happily plodded out to the car with us, and with a little assistance managed to get himself comfortable for the journey to Chelmsford.

For the first time in ages, we got there early, so spent a few minutes more just sitting in the car, and feeding Boysie the remainder of the Winalot Allsorts which he so enjoyed. Then it was time, and we went straight into a side room, where Marcus got a rug out for Boysie to lay on, and then, as normal he went down when told, and Marcus explained what was going to happen as we hugged our pal. After signing the agreement letter, the anaesthetic overdose was administered, and within seconds Boysie was asleep. We spent some time saying our private goodbyes, and then we left him. It was ironic that having spent five and a half years keeping Boysie's heart going, we had to stop it, and it was also very sad (especially for us), but he is no longer in pain, and that is what is important.

When we got home, the place seemed SOOO quiet (even though Boysie wasn't a noisy dog), and after a week or so, we decided that we needed a new friend. Not a replacement, NO-ONE will ever replace Boysie, but I'll bet that Boysie is sitting on a cloud somewhere having an almighty laugh at us as we try to train Jade.

She doesn't understand who Boysie is - but everyone keeps asking about him, which is nice, and she happily devours Boysie Snacks, and Boysie Sausages whenever given a chance.

Thanks for all the love Boysie - I hope you are getting lots of walks and plentiful supplies of treats where you are now. You'll always be in our thoughts.

Lots of love, Malcolm and Becky.

© Malcolm Preen, 2004