Our dear Cavalier King Charles Bijou died on January 3rd at the age of 6 ½. She suffered from the cardiac genetic disorder which is common with this breed. It came as a great shock last Spring to discover this. She had been on heavy medication and was suffering significantly. There has been much publicity recently regarding genetic problems caused by the inbreeding of pedigree dogs. We are assured that kennel clubs worldwide are tackling the problem. Let us hope that this is so.
Can there be any breed more lovely than the Cavalier King Charles? My eldest daughter thought Bijou’s beauty was proof of the existence of God. One must, however, acknowledge the significant input of man over the centuries into the development of this loving little companion. It is fashionable nowadays to declare loudly to all comers that one’s dog is a rescue dog. Call me cynical but I have a deep suspicion that the subtext here is ‘I am virtuous. More virtuous than you. Tell me I am wonderful’.
Bijou was a posh dog. Her breed has been the favourite of artists for centuries. See the header of this blog ( Landseer’s Cavalier’s Pets, 1845, Tate Gallery). We thought it likely that her forebears had slept on silken cushions in Hampton Court and frisked about the skirts of meninas in Madrid. The daughters considered that Bijou was the Audrey Hepburn of the canine world and so she was. What eyes.
As befits a posh dog Bijou frequented posh places. She accompanied us to France every Summer. She loved her French village and frolicked happily off leash on the paths through the vineyards. She had one holiday reservation. She disliked the kennel on the car deck of Irish Ferries’ Oscar Wilde. What relief when we were reunited on arrival at Cherbourg.
Bijou has sat under a table at the Café de Paris in Monte Carlo. She has strolled down the Rambla in Barcelona. She has been welcomed in eateries in France, Spain and Belgium. She has travelled through the Channel Tunnel with us. We once overnighted in the Hôtel Grand Monarque in Chartres. The restaurant was classically, elegantly French, very belle époque. We strolled in with Bijou. Pas de problème. ‘Vous voulez de l’eau pour le chien?’ the waiter enquired. A gold rimmed dish of water sitting on a matching gold ringed underliner was put before Bijou. Only in France. We surmised on the probable reaction if she entered an Irish restaurant. Shrill calls to Liveline no doubt.
We make no claim to rival the standards of domestic hygiene of some of our compatriots. Bijou was allowed upstairs and on beds. On cold days she snuggled underneath the duvet. Nobody died. Bijou loved her annual beauty treatment in the toiletterie canine in Limoux. She would emerge bathed, ears trimmed and smelling of doggy perfume. The coiffeuse kissed her before handing her back.
Bijou was the greatest giver of love imaginable. Would that people might be so loving. Forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up her sum. She got accidentally locked out during last year’s snow but bore us no grudge for her one hour ordeal. A lap was her constant delight. She was the original lapdog. At Halloween she had her own little witch costume. Squeals of delight from the kids at the door.
I still have a lingering faith that somewhere out there there is a doggy heaven and Bijou is playing with all the storied dogs of this family, Scrap, Two Spot, Kate, Nell, Rusty, Sunshine, West, Girlie, Don, Teddy, Rowdy, Dirky, Ravager, Toby, Frisco, Victor, right back to Flora, my great-grandfather’s Wheaten Irish Terrier from sometime in the nineteenth century. And many more.
My mother would quote Kipling
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware/Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
She never took the implied advice of course. In time we will taste again the joys of puppyhood. We hope next time to have our pet for many more years. We may even take a look at the rescue dogs. Bijou will be a hard act to follow. Right now we mourn Bijou, our silkyheaded darling. Thanks are due to Denis Shannon, her vet in Clontarf and Dr Michèle Jornet, her vet in Limoux for all their care.
Nullus dolor est quem non longinquitas temporis minuat ac moliat.
There is no sorrow that does not diminish and soften with the passage of time.