I’ve never been a fan of the Lancashire countryside. I can see the beauty, but it’s a harsh, somehow unforgiving, beauty. The mill towns, built in that pale local stone strike me as cold. That we’re visiting Rossendale Pet Crematorium and Memorial Gardens, that is the pet cemetery, after a brutal, hellish night doesn’t help.
Nevertheless, with Arthur in the chapel of rest and the weather fine, the memorial gardens and cemetery were the best place to be for some quiet contemplation and taking of breath. The memorials are occasionally modest and occasionally far more elaborate than a human cemetery with the odd full size statue of a loved one. The variety and imagination of the tributes all demonstrate that the more emotion you invest in a pet, the greater the love you get back.
Thursday 8 May 2008 was a good day for Arthur. Katharine was working from home (although I had the misfortune of working in Leyland). When the weather was good he had a habit of jumping in one window and out through another as if this were a magic trick, like some kind of wormhole and after playing that game he demanded treats and snoozed. Life was good. Fit, healthy and just three years old he had at least a decade of play, hunting and fishing in the local brook to look forward to.
The vet said that, despite all we witnessed, he’d have gone into shock — ‘like a coma’ — and never known what hit him. Vets, and doctors too, tell all sorts of white lies to try and make things easier.
I found Arthur around 10.35pm thrashing around at the side of the road. He focused his gaze upon me and wailed. Katharine, already in her nightclothes, and I managed to calm him while tracking down a 24hr vet. When he saw his detested pet carrier he flung himself in the air in a vain attempt to hide behind the television.
Promises were made. We were with him now. We would do whatever it took. He would be okay. Everything would be all right. He trusted us.
Arthur Newton died in Katharine’s lap just a few minutes before arriving at the pet hospital. He’d received a massive head injury after being hit by a car. In a small close where it’s impossible to drive at speed, they must have hit him just so. The driver will have heard his scream and knew what they had done. He lay in agony for thirty, maybe 45 minutes. And while accidents can be forgiven that casual cruelty cannot.
Tribute to follow. The neighbours’ children have promised a daisy chain wreath to mark the scattering of his ashes. I reckon this offer will be forgotten before the day, but it’s nice thoughts like this that count and it’s surprisingly therapeutic to talk it all through with a seven and six year old: ‘When my grandad died, I had nightmares so I decided to erase him from my memory. That’s what you must do with Arthur.’