Mindy with Captain, her faithful Jack Russell (Image: Susan Hellard)

Seventeen years ago I visited a litter of Jack Russell puppies with some friends and two of us chose a pup. Or rather, in my case, the puppy chose me. The owner was delighted I’d bonded with the little black and white dog because he was the runt of the litter and had a slightly overshot jaw.

Captain, as we named him, came home, joining Crusoe the collie, Pablo the chocolate poodle, and Hattie, ourbig Dogue de Bordeaux cross Great Dane.

He immediately bonded with Willow, who was just a few months old. He rarely left her side; lying next to her on her play mat or sitting patiently by her highchair waiting for the inevitable treat of food spillage to land  on the floor. He was the quietest, most self-contained puppy we ever had and unlike many terriers never dreamt of running off on a hunting expedition. He was such an unusually obedient terrier, he’d happily abandon chasing a rabbit if we called him.

Captain loved life

Captain loved life (Image: Susan Hellard)

Captain never appreciated his miniature stature and when he was just a few months old trotted at my side to bring in the horses. At that time Richard had a huge 17-hand retired hunter called Monty, who was standing at the gate.

Captain came face to hoof with old Monty and immediately set about yapping and growling with all his might. Then the feet moved slightly and Captain, still barking, looked skyward and started to reverse. He walked backwards several feet before his eyes locked with those of the enormous creature before him. Monty lowered his head to inspect the tenacious little scrap, but Captain didn’t so much as flinch. He stood his ground and yipped his head off.

It was his only fault. From that day, if ever he was on the yard he would nip at the ponies’ heels, always trying to prove he was the boss.

As Willow grew, so did Captain, and he was possibly the most delighted little dog in the world when his playmate found her feet. He would join her and Izzy to dig holes in the sandpit, gallop around the garden at her heels and jump on the mini trampoline.

When Willow went to nursery, Captain came with us in the car and as soon as the child seat was big enough he sat on her lap for the journey. Then TG joined the family and Captain was smitten. They were the very best of friends but much as he loved his canine family, he was always true to Willow.

Until a couple of years ago Captain was still going on walks around the fields with the other dogs. But his hearing started to fail and he found the trip a little too far, so I would often carry him home to give his legs a rest. For a dog who’d always loathed being carried he accepted the change very well. I think he quite enjoyed seeing the world from a great height.

After he collapsed in the field 18 months ago I thought we’d lost him. But our little soldier fought his way back and after months of physiotherapy, and with a sling to help support his back legs, he managed to walk again and even run after a fashion, using a rocking motion.

Walkies: Mindy with Captain and Ojo

Walkies: Mindy with Captain and Ojo (Image: Susan Hellard)

However, his collapse had left his legs much weaker and his walks were restricted to the garden. He could no longer predict when he needed the loo and was wobbly on his feet. His sight diminished, so he could only make out vague outlines, and at his advanced age slept most of the day in his crate, lined with regularly changed puppy pads.

Last week, we noticed Captain toppling over every time he came outside and making no effort to get back on his feet. He simply lay on his side. His little face had lost its fullness and for the first time he looked truly exhausted. Yesterday, the vet came and, with his head in Willow’s hands, Captain’s face seemed to brighten again. He gave her that wonderful, desperately missed smile, and went to sleep.

He never liked to be carried, even through mud

He never liked to be carried, even through mud (Image: Susan Hellard)

A lifelong friend, true to the last.

Crusoe, TG, Pablo, Hattie and Boot… they’ve been waiting a long time for you little man. You can see and hear them, run like a pup and perhaps even be reunited with dear old Monty.  

Take our love with you, tell them we miss them, and if you see darling Rucksack, remember to lick his ears.



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