Friday, July 01, 2011

Gio - A Tribute


Gio Simmonsdale
1997-2011


Maybe it's somehow fitting that this will be the last ever blogpost on this blog. It marks the end of two eras - the end of this blog, as in a few days time my new site, Dale & Co launches, and also the end of a life.

Five hours ago my beloved little Jack Russell, Gio, died. Those of you who have ever had the privilege of owning a dog will know what a devastating time this is for me and my family, who loved him with all our hearts. It is scant consolation to know that we gave him the best life a dog could possibly have, as a gaping hole has opened up in our lives, which can never, ever be filled.

Most Jack Russells are characters, and Gio was no exception. He was a cheeky little blighter and had us all wrapped around his little paws.

Gio was a Battersea dog. Back in early 1998 we went to Battersea, ostensibly to get a fully grown, house trained dog. We emerged with a six week old Jack Russell puppy who was so small that I could hold him in the palm of my hand. People often ask why we called him Gio? I wanted to call him Rio, after Rio Ferdinand, but that was vetoed by he who must obeyed. But I wear an aftershave called Aqua di Gio, and as I was shaving one morning I saw it on the shelf and thought to myself that Gio sounded enough like Rio, and it was just right for him. After that, my aftershave became known as Gio’s piss...

When I grew up we had always had Jack Russells so I knew what wonderful dogs they could be, but I had no idea this little mite would give us so much pleasure and become such an integral part of our lives. He was a dog that everyone loved. And Gio loved them back. Well, almost everyone. He didn’t care much for children, and let them know it in a typical Jack Russell kind of way - he would give them a nip. For some unfathomable reason he also didn’t like people on bicycles. If he saw someone riding a bike he would literally go mental.

During the first few years of Gio’s life, he would come to work with John and me at our Westminster bookshop, Politico’s. We barred him in behind the counter, but on several occasions he escaped and delighted running round the shop at full pelt, causing total havoc. The customers thought it was an absolute hoot.

In his early years Gio was a very fit and active dog. He loved going to the park and haring after a tennis ball I would throw. He never tired of it and would happily carry on for half an hour given half a chance. Sadly, this activity came to an end when one day he jumped off a sofa and damaged a knee ligament. Although we were still able to take him for walks, he wasn’t allowed to run at all, which meant that over time he became a bit of a porker. This proved to be a real problem as Gio was a terrible food thief. You’d give him his meal and ten minutes later he’d give you a look which said “Daddy, why are you starving me, give me some of your doughnut”. And believe me, he had this look which made you want to give in to his every demand. We didn’t, but felt very guilty for refusing him anything.

My worst memory of Gio's life was when he was run over. And it was my fault. He was on an extendable lead and I was walking ahead of him when I suddenly became aware of an approaching car. It happened in slo-motion. I heard a thud, and then Gio emerged from the side of the car and sat down on the pavement holding his paw up. I gathered him up, ran home bawling my eyes out, thinking he would die. We put him in blankets and rushed to the vet who diagnosed a sprained leg. It could have been so much worse.

Back in 2005 Gio spent a morning with me on the general election campaign trail in Cromer. We bought him a union jack coat. But sadly even Gio’s charms couldn’t rescue me from an inglorious defeat at the hands of Norman Lamb.

Gio was a dog that liked his routine. At 2pm precisely he would sit by the dog chew draw. At 10pm he would demand his nightly rich tea biscuit and slurp of cranberry juice. On his nightly walk he would go so far and no further. And like all Jack Russells, a walk in his view was less about exercise and more about having a good old sniff.

But over the last year there had been a clear decline in the little scamp’s health. He developed a slight heart problem and seemed to pant too much. We were warned by the vet that he might not be long for this world. But he was a doughty fighter and bounced back again. But just before I went to Australia it became clear that he was struggling. I dreaded going away for three weeks with the thought in the back of my mind that I might not see him again. My partner John and I chatted on Skype video twice a day and I made him show me Gio each time, just so that I could be reassured he was still alive. I know John dreaded having to tell me he had died while I was away.

Whenever I go away the one thing that keeps me going is the thought of the welcome Gio will give me when I get home. And that was my abiding thought as I flew back from Australia the Sunday before last. But instead of being delighted to see me when I walked though the door, and instead of giving my face a good licking, he just looked at me to say “Oh, you're back then.” And then he wandered into the kitchen. I was gutted. And I knew then that something was seriously wrong. He had also clearly lost a lot of weight. He’d come to my sofa for “a love” – and just stare u at me into my eyes, as if to say “Daddy, what’s wrong with me, please put it right”. That look never failed to bring a tear to my eye.

Anyway, the vet then diagnosed diabetes. We were told he’d need an insulin injection every day. But then a minor miracle happened. An hour after the first injection he was back to his old self. He was eating properly, full of life, tail erect, being cheeky, keen to go on his walk, and everything seemed right with the world. But it wasn’t to last.

I got home from my radio show on Friday night to find that a few minutes before I got there he had had what we thought was a hypoglycaemic attack. He had fitted. We got the vet out to see him, hoping beyond hope that he would be able to fix him. Instead he delivered the devastating news that Gio was unlikely to make it through the night. It appeared he had had a stroke. He wasn’t in pain, but the sadness in his eyes told its own story. As the hours wore on, his breathing got gradually weaker, and at 5.30am he passed away.

Our lives will never be the same. He meant everything to John and me. He and John were devoted to each other. Gio knew that if he felt ill, it would be John that would make him better. He was the constant in Gio's life. John and I are very different. John is stoic and knows what to do if Gio is in pain. I collapse into an emotional jelly. And so it was last night. Gio spent most of his ast few hours staring up at John and I. If he could have spoken, he would have said to John: "Thank you, Daddy, thanks for being there for me. Thanks for giving me a wonderful life".

If you haven’t had a dog in your life you cannot comprehend the gaping void that can never, ever be filled. Someone said the best thing to do it get another dog immediately. I just couldn’t. It would feel like betraying his memory.

As I complete this tribute to the best friend I am ever going to have, it provides little solace to know in my heart that we gave Gio the best life a dog could ever have. Maybe one day we’ll feel ready to try to do the same for another rescue dog. But there will never be another Gio.

35 comments:

Alan said...

My heart goes out to you both, and also thanks you for giving such a life full of joy to Gio.

Louis Barfe said...

Oh my. Gio puppy pictures. He can't have been much older than that when I first encountered him at Artillery Row. A wonderful tribute to a wonderful dog, which made me both laugh and cry. Condolences to you and John. Must go, Lyttelton is barking about something. I like to think it's sympathy.

amjb said...

Very moving and raw account. Gio was a very lucky dog to have had you both as owners. I hope it is sooner than you can currently imagine that you can make another dog lucky.

AD Scott said...

I very much enjoyed reading that post. Gio was a very lucky dog.

If this is your last blog post, what is the new URL for your new site?

I read this blog in my reader and will want to add your new place to it too.

Thanks for all the great blog posts, an end of an era and start of a new one!

Cogito Dexter said...

You could never betray Gio's memory by getting another dog, because that dog would be, by its very nature, a totally different personality.

Plenty of people say, in the aftermath, that they'll never get another dog. Most find that they can't live without the never ending source of love, mirth, excitement, frustration, laughter and joie-de-vivre our furry friends give us. Today you can't imagine filling that gap. In a week or two's time you may find that you can't function without it being filled.

Gio was blessed to be cared for so well. If he could have spoken, he would have wished for you not be bereft forever. There's another doggy out there somewhere waiting to put your names on its heart, I'm sure of that just as much as I'm sure the sun will rise tomorrow...

This may be saccharine and cliched (and kleenexy!), but I believe it wholeheartedly, because I can't imagine a just deity could possibly allow otherwise..

There is a place, just this side of Heaven that we can describe as the Rainbow Bridge. The meadows and lamp posts on our side of Rainbow Bridge have another doggy resident today. The dogs there are happy and content. They have no pain and are in the full flush of youth as they want for nothing and play amongst their friends, although a memory of something special will linger. One day in the future, one or more of them will see a familiar face in the distance, making his or her own journey towards Rainbow Bridge and they'll forget everything there as they leave their pack and they run, full pelt, to meet the newcomer to smother him or her with happiness and in that reunion your joy will be complete as you cross the Rainbow Bridge together.

Piero Repetto said...

I feel for you. I lost my beautiful dog recently after 14 years. I found it amazing how devestated I was so can understand what you are going through. Time will heal the pain and you will be left with the fabulous memories.

Anna Raccoon said...

What an inspired and inspirational tribute to little Gio.
Written from the heart and heartwarming.

Helen said...

I was going to write about that wonderful tribute to a wonderful creature but, sadly, something got into my eye and I can't really see the screen properly. Oh dear, where IS my hankie?

JuliaM said...

Awww, very sorry to hear this... :(

Archbishop Cranmer said...

Dammit. Now His Grace's ashes are all wet.

Sincere condolences to you both. Animals are a precious gift. RIP Gio (Eccl 3:21).

Caron said...

I feel so much for you both. What a terrible loss for you. Gio sounds like a wonderful companion and clearly had you both trained to meet his needs and most of his wants perfectly.

Your post was written with so much love and it made me wish I had met the wee chap.

You have lots of love and sympathy from me. The days and weeks ahead won't be easy for you.

Of course it's too soon to think about another dog - but an animal in your care is a very lucky animal indeed, so at some point in the future, I hope you will take another wee mite into your home.

Enlightened Despot said...

Most dog owners have had to cope with losses. They don't live for ever. The best thing you can do is to get another soon. I have now had three go, two of them very early, and although I felt at the time that they were irreplaceable, the arrival of a new one to look after has been the best remedy. Yours went at a good age and gave you a lot of happiness, so you have nothing to regret and no reason to be scared of not bonding with his successor.

Not a sheep said...

OK, tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat after reading that post. But then I am very much a dog man and have a love for Jack Russells.

Be strong...

Alvin said...

"the gaping void that can never, ever be filled".
I feel for you. I still miss our beloved Ramble. I feel a pain when I see his empty collar.

Osama the Nazarene said...

Sorry to hear of your loss. I know how it feels and you have to suffer the loss of a dog to fully understand that.

We lost our dog in November 2009 after 14 years when he grew up with our kids. The feeling of loss was what you must be going through and it affected the whole family.

Consider yourself lucky that he didn't die while you were in Oz and that probably explains why he didn't greet you as you expected when you arrived back home. He must have been having problems with his own ailments.

Cogito Dexter's advice is wise indeed. We felt that another dog would never replace the one we lost but seven months later we got another Cavalier from the same breeder as our original dog 14 years earlier. He's not a replacement but a different dog in colour, temperament and character.

You won't want one immediately but give it a some time and you'll find that you can provide a fantastic home to another lucky dog.

chrishtech said...

I cannot bear the thought of losing our dog - the cheeky (and sometimes frustrating) 4 legged member of our family that means so much to us.
One day you will feel better that you gave Gio such a good life, but in the meantime,sincere sympathies at this time.

Peter Botting said...

I was gutted to hear your news this morning. And cried reading this post. My Buster is my best friend, my daily life. Thinking of you. I loved the way you said it was a privilege to have a dog - so true. In time, another totally different canine personality will wait to greet you when you come home with a standing ovation, shout at you when he wants a walk, cuddle or lick you when he is soppy, grunt when he is sulking at you and generally strut around like he owns the place. He will never replace Gio - who could? - but he will love you and be adored in return. And he will lick your tears away and remind you how to laugh

Paul Walter said...

My heart goes out to you both. We have a three year old Bichon Frise who is the centre of our family, so I can imagine how distraught you are after such a long time....

raincoaster.com said...

Oh Iain, I'm so sad to hear about Gio. Everybody who read your blog became a kind of Gio fan by default, and God knows, Jack Russells are born thinking they own the world. Take care of yourself and I'll watch for the new site soon. Work is a good distraction.

Thatsnews said...

Iain, John, I could not type until I wiped the tears from my eyes.

Iain, I feel you should write a book about Gio. Perhaps with some money going to the dog's home.

I remember when Patch, our family dog, had heart medicine to take, daily. My dear -late- father was quite excited when he realised that Patch was on digitalis, just like HE was!

maurice said...

I have been there. My best friend 'Friday' (she was a girl Friday - was first seen as a two week old pup on a Good Friday) died four years ago. She is still with me everyday - and I see her on my laptop everytime I open it up. And what a character, each and every JR is unique and precious. I haven't as yet replaced her, but every time I see another JR I am sorely tempted. Thanks for a magnificant tribute.

Raedwald said...

There is nothing more ancient nor more precious than man's bond of love and trust with a dog. You have known the glory and now must feel the pain of parting. My thoughts and wishes are with you at this dreadful time.

Ian M said...

Last year I held our spaniel throughout her last moments at the vet. I was and in many ways still am distraught.

Your essay brought those memories back but in a positive way since it also brought back good memories.

Norman said...

There is a solicitot firm called Dale and Co.

Wycked Hors said...

I share your sorrow - my old Labrador died last week aged 15 - a hole exists in our life once filled with unconditional love and loyalty. Gio struck lucky with you as his life's companions - remember him with love.

JohnT said...

I dislike dogs, but even I'm feeling soppy after that post!

So sorry to hear about your bad news x

Not that Nick Wood Reborn said...

Such a moving and eloquent obituary, tears have sprung to my eyes reading it as it reminds me too much of my own beloved Mortimer. If there is an afterlife Gio will be waiting for you, tennis ball at his side, waiting for the game to begin again. My condolences and thoughts are with you both.
Nick

Johanna said...

Gosh, I didn't expect to end up crying when reading this but I'm totally sobbing. I have lost a dog before and it's devastating. I now have a Daxie (2/12 yrs) and the thought of losing him is unbearable. I feel for you both. Gio was a lucky boy. xxx

Mikey Shotgun said...

Genuinely sorry to hear about Gio. I don't agree with you on much, but on this I'm right with you. I can't imagine being without Yoda (my Pug/Jack Russel cross). Lots of JR character traits in your post I recognise.

Danny said...

I'm sorry to hear of Gio's death. You should realise that he had a happy life through your love and care.

Look after yourself.

The Nameless Libertarian said...

Condolences. Only those who have had pets can truly understand how they each have unique personalities that it is possible to love and how sad it is to lose one.

Linds Davies said...

My little Jack Russell Poppy is now 14 - She is a very best friend - I cannot imagine how sad you must be feeling - you guys have lost your 'best mate'. My thoughts are with you.
Lindsey
x

Andrew said...

That was really sad to read Iain and I feel your for your loss. I have never owned a dog only cats, but I do understand what you and John are going through. I've cried buckets when I've lost a one of my cats. They're not just pets, they're part of the family and when they pass away it's heart breaking.

At least Gio had a very long and happy, fun fulfilled life. Nobody can take that away. So many animals fall foul of bad owners living in fear, feeling unloved and malnourished. Gio was one of the lucky ones.

Mavis B Sausage said...

So sorry to read of your sad news, this must be a truly terrible blow for you both. I know only too well the feelings of loss and emptiness but I must encourage you to seek out another dog (or even better, 2 or 3). You obviously have a lot of love to give and in my experience it is the only way to fill the horrid gap. You will come to love and care for your new dog(s) just as much as Gio but differently, they are all so individual.
I have five dogs at the moment and they couldn't be more different from each other. I do have a favourite but the others are also much loved and bring me great joy. I hope that you and John will soon recover some of that joy for yourselves.

Gina Hearn said...

So, so sorry, Iain. I have only just seen this, but I can imagine that you are just as upset as you were when you wrote it. I still cry at the thought of my Bella, even though she died in 1984. Have a look at the last few pages of Watership Down. It is a moving account of the death of the hero of the story and never fails to comfort me when I feel sad, remembering the death of a loved one, whether the much loved Bella or a family member and I shall read it often this week, the 30th anniversary of my father's death.

Much love

Gina Hearn