The third of July is the start of the Dog Days, the heliacal rising of Sirius, the dog star.
And on the 2nd of July, Saturday this year, we took our lovely girl, Maeve on her last journey to the vet. It was the last act of love and care we could do for her.
Maeve was named after the Queen of the Fairies and she was a slender, yet strong and lively, blue merle, rough collie, with a mischevious sense of humour.
Anyone who has owned dogs will tell you that each one is unique, with their own distinct personality.
When you take on another dog, after the loss of one, you are never replacing the previous pet. Nothing can do that. It is like saying that a new baby would replace another child. Every child, and every dog, is a unique individual with their own likes and dislikes, and very much their own personality and sense of humour.
After our previous dogs had died, our breeder friend Angela (Wicani Collies), asked us if we would consider giving a home to one of her adult dogs, China. It took us no time flat to say 'Yes! Please!' and off we went to meet China and possibly (? Who am I kidding!) bring her home with us.
But China lived in the kennels with another adult female, Maeve, and when China was let out to meet us, Maeve came too.
China and Maeve were as different as chalk and cheese. China is a happy, placid dog. Not the sharpest knife in the box, but solid, loving and always happy to finish off any food Maeve might leave. China was also the boss of the pair, even if it was Maeve who was the brains of the partnership.
Maeve was a year younger, more slender and delicate in build and with a sharper, more Mercurial nature. She was shy and would hide from visitors, where China would push her way in.
Maeve was also the dog who let us know if we had visitors coming, or if anyone was passing the house, or the birds were being too boisterous in the garden, usually by 'woofing' loudly, well away from the 'danger' and as near to us as possible.
China's place was on the sofa, Maeve's place was on the floor. But this meant she had the opportunity to lie on my feet, or nestle up to Graham, since he also prefers to sit on the floor.
And if we were having supper, Maeve would be the one who 'helped' me to eat mine. To the extent that I would look at her and say to Graham, 'Tonight we will have a Marmite sandwich and some cereal to follow.' Then it was a bite of sandwich for me, and a piece for Maeve, and any cereal left over (of course, there was always some) would also go the way of Maeve too.
One of her favourite games was not-letting-me-get-up-until-we-have-had-a-cuddle. And she loved having the top of her head rubbed while she pushed back against my hand making ecstatic, appreciative noises and nearly falling over.
When she became ill, I asked Anubis to look after her, and as I write this I have an image of two dogs walking away. One a tall, slender, black, Egyptian hound, with a smaller, fluffy white collie trotting along beside him.
Of course we are sad when they have to die. I have shed many tears for Maeve, as I have for other dogs and cats I have known over the years. But those tears are largely because I will miss her. I know that she is fine and happy in spirit.
The joy of having her, and all the other creatures who have shared my life, far outweighs any sadness.
All those who love their pets know: Our lives are richer and better for having known and loved them.