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Our Old Dog, Tony

Colin Weightman

As long as I could remember, as a young boy growing up, my constant companion was Tony.

Tony was our dog. He was just an ordinary dog, a long haired, medium sized, black and tan mongrel with a very quiet and friendly nature. He was treated just like any other member of the family. To me Tony was just like living with another brother.

Tony never owned a collar and was never on a lead. He followed us kids everywhere and accompanied us on many of our all-day adventures.
During long warm summer days he would often sleep in the middle of the road; not much traffic in those days.

When, on the occasions we were to get on a bus, usually at the Woodman pub bus terminal, Tony would follow us all the way, but then had to be told, very sternly, to to “Go home,” often several times, before he finally got the message that he wasn't allowed to come out with us for a trip. He would then look quite miserable as he lowered his head and turned to go home.

But all was forgiven later when we eventually returned back home, where he would rush up the road to greet you, leaping up and down, yapping happily, madly wagging his tail, as if he'd hadn't seen you for many weeks.

Tony was born on a searchlight battery in 1939, at the start of WWII, and as a pup was brought up amongst soldiers. My dad was with the RA at Woolwich and was stationed at that time with the searchlight battery, before he later became a gunner on the anti-aircraft gun batteries.

It was whilst serving on the searchlights that he adopted Tony and brought him home, as dad remembers him, “as a tiny bundle of black fur snugly held inside his army jacket”.

About five years later, I was born, in June 1944, and so we grew up together.
Mum would often get Tony a huge 'H' bone from the butchers. He would happily tackle this big bone, for hours at a time it seemed, holding it in his front paws as he gnawed and chewed his way through it. The bone would be on the back lawn for days; each day it got smaller and smaller until it finally disappeared.

The trouble with Tony, after these sessions of consuming the bone, was the aftermath! Often enough, when the family was sitting in the lounge and Tony was asleep on the floor, without warning, an odour would slowly permeate the room. Then, when someone exclaimed, 'Pooh!' Tony would immediately get up and with his head down he'd walk to the door to be let out. Often though, it was not he that was to blame but someone else, but he seemed to know that he was going to get the blame anyway, so he got on his way anyhow.

In later life, as he got older, he grew rather deaf and his eyes a bit dimmer. He used to suffer with epileptic fits, but these were fairly infrequent. We would put a cold flannel on his forehead when he had one and he was soon up and about again, right as rain.

He always had plenty of action, even into his old age. At seventeen he still enjoyed a good romp and chasing sticks over the Common. This was his usual routine, when he was bathed at home in the bath. He hated his bath and when he thought it was being run for him he would hide. Then, when he was found and carried to the bath, he was shampooed, rinsed and rubbed down with an old towel. Then it was off with us kids, over to the Common where he would rush and jump and play until he was dry enough. His coat would really shine in the sun.
When we suddenly moved from Plumstead, over to Manor Park in east London,this move was the end for my good mate Tony.

Mum let him out on the second or so night in our house in Manor Park. Mum said that he walked down the road a bit, turned and looked at her, and he walked off into the night.
Tony was never seen again.

Our family searched the streets and called out his name for many days after he disappeared. We put adverts in all the local shops and newspapers and phoned the council to see if a dog with his description had been found, dead or alive. We went and visited Battersea Dogs Home and did everything possible to find him. We notified our old home owners and our old neighbours to keep a look out for him.

Tony was never ever seen again. The PDSA suggested that Tony, being seventeen and a half years old, had decided to go away to die. They said that it was sometimes what an elderly cat or dog would choose to do. To simply go off when they felt that their time had come, to go off and find a quite private spot and lie down and await death.

It was the not knowing what had happened to Tony that was the worst bit about his demise, especially after his being with us for so long and being such a wonderful and faithful companion.

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