Anthony has had miniature dachshunds as pets for as long as I can remember. When Ming was born, we’d just lost Doc, a male, to old age, but we still had Inky, a female puppy.
Inky was, at first, alarmed by baby Ming – this strange,new creature in the family. But her alarm soon became intrigue, especially once Ming started crawling, then toddling, then babbling and I’ll never forget the shock on Inky’s face when Ming uttered his first word – “INKY!”
They were inseparable, making their infant-to-child transitions simultaneously. When I took Ming to ‘occasional care’, we would take Inky with us in the car, then Ming would carry her into the centre, much to all the other little toddlers’ delight. It was around this time that Ming – if asked if he had any brother and sisters – would state, proudly, “I jus have Inky – she’s my liddle sista.”
Inky was four and Ming still three, when she began to lose her rather manic liveliness. She started to get really drowsy, and her tail didn’t wag frantically anymore. Ming became upset when she wouldn’t race him, or fetch the tennis ball, or make the shrill, ecstatic noise she’d always made when he cuddled her.
Then, one evening, Inky wouldn’t even get up for her food, and we knew something was badly wrong. We rushed her to the vet and as Ming, Anthony and I watched, he said, “She has a heart condition and is dehydrated. There is nothing I can do; I’ll have to put her to sleep.”
With tears in my eyes, I crouched down and explained to Ming that Inky was in pain and that the best thing to do would be to put her to sleep. He nodded, solemnly as the vet injected Inky.
As we took her little corpse – in a box the vet had given us – out to the car, Ming patted my hand. He’d noticed my emotion and said, “Doan worry, Mummy. Inky’s jus sleeping. Gimmee her to hold.”
That was when I realized that he didn’t understand that Inky was dead. So I got into the back seat with Ming and, as we pulled away, I tried to explain, in my clumsy adult way, that the little dog Ming was holding was not going to wake up.
The car seemed to get very cold. Then Ming’s silence broke and he started to sob and so did I, holding tightly to his little hand. Anthony said gentle words to us while he drove us home.
As we reached the farm gate, Ming had stopped crying and said, in a quiet, solemn little voice, “Hands up all the people what are sad.”
We all raised our hands.
Then, when we all got out of the car, Anthony wrapped us all in one of his gigantic hugs.