Tilly came to us in January of 2009, having been born on 20th November the previous year. Here she is at her first home when we went choose her with my daughter Abi and her boyfriend Dave (now son-in-law).
A cuter puppy you never would see.
Our boxer, Dixie was seven when we brought Tilly home. She'd missed my previous dog, Ragga really badly, seeming quite depressed at times. Ragga had gone in July of 2008.
I said we wouldn't have two dogs again but, whilst away on holiday over Christmas, I weakened and Tilly joined us within a couple of weeks of returning home. Despite Dixie trying to bite her head off on the first day, the two soon became firm friends.
We bought our motorhome in 2010, having first rented one to make sure the dogs were ok with it, such is our devotion to our canine companions. They lapped up the experience and we embarked on four years of travelling with the intrepid pair, usually ensconced in the first-class sleeper seats as we motored down the highway.
In 2011, Chrissie walked the Pennine Way with Dixie, but, after a particularly tiring day, Tilly was drafted in as number-one-understudy.
2012 saw us on a six week summer trip to Scandinavia. The dogs had so much fun and it was a delight for us to be traveling with our much loved pets.
Though we've both loved all our dogs dearly, we've had his and her dogs for many years. I enjoyed many backpacking trips with my special lab and she reveled in carrying her kit in her panniers.
As Dixie became less agile, Chrissie took Tilly backpacking too. Here, they were on a trip in the Dales.
Tilly was just seven this last November so, sadly, she didn't have a long life. At the age of three she had an operation to cure elbow dysplaysia, which worked, but we were warned it may lead to problems later on. At five, she began suffering with a spinal problem. She was in screaming pain if she jumped up anywhere, even if we lifted her. This was treated with a drug and, thankfully settled down, but not before Chrissie and I had taken turns sleeping downstairs with her (our dogs normally sharing our bedroom at night) to avoid her hurting herself by climbing the stairs. Over the next couple of years we had resurgences of both these problems and, as predicted, she developed arthritis in her elbow and her spine lost some mobility. Laterly she stopped running altogether and refused to walk unless attached to me by her lead. On the final morning I had to carry all 30kg of her back home down our street.
I can't imagine ever loving a dog more than I have Tilly. I retired, early, in 2007 whilst Chrissie carried on in the world of full-time work until 2014. As a result, I had Tilly as a companion on many solo trips leading to a very close bond between the two of us. After losing Dixie last year, this became especially noticeable to Chrissie hence our adoption of yet another boxer pup, Pebbles just this last June.
And, in time honoured fashion, a new bond was formed.
Tilly is gone now. I like to picture her running free again, with Dixie, free from the pain that so often plagued her short life.
I'll miss running my fingers through her chocolate fur. I'll miss following her as she led the way on hillwalks. I'll miss cuddling her in the tent as we whiled away evenings together. I'll miss tickling her as she, every night, came to lie at my side of the bed for ten minutes or so, before finally settling into her own bed. I'll miss that especially tonight.
I'll finish with a couple of fabulous pictures taken not long ago by our good friend Sara Porter, a pro photograper, at her studio in Stockport.
God bless my very best pal, my special dog, Tilly.