It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Flash the dog. Renowned for his footballing skills and persistence with stick retrieval, Flash has died aged 11. A working Sheep Dog or Border Collie, he was born on 23rd January 2002 the son of Sid and Bonnie. He was registered in the name of Sid with the International Sheep Dog Society on24th July 2002.
His early life is uncertain. It appears he was born in Todmorden, Lancashire where he lived for the first few months of his life before moving to Preston. It is thought that he was unsuccessful as a sheep dog and suffered deprivations and character denigration as an unemployed farm worker, a forerunner of todays work shy skivers and scroungers much scapegoated by the present government.
It is possible that he spent much of his time confined in barns or chained in the farm yard, but this is pure speculation, possibly arising from his subsequent character traits which showed him to be of a nervous disposition. He was also described by many, friends and strangers alike, as an autistic dog. It is true that for a long time he avoided eye contact and took shelter behind a familiar figure if approached by strangers; that he barked at anti-social hours and was difficult to house train. However in later years he was almost the perfect companion dog. Loyal, friendly and much loved by all who knew him.
He was about three years old when he moved to live with my uncle in the village of Flash on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border. Described as a “rescue dog” he took the name of his new village, where he quickly became known to many of the locals. How my uncle met him is shrouded in mystery. My uncle’s previous dog had just died and he was in search of another. We understand that a friend of his knew someone who knew of Sid and as my uncle was well known for taking in “difficult” dogs they were introduced.
Although much loved locally Flash’s nervousness of strangers and tendency to leave his mark when stressed soon got him banned from the local pub. His great talent was football. Where he learned his skills with the ball is not known. It is possible he may have played as goalie for the local kids knock about team, but nothing has been recorded and there are no known photographs.
Flash spent four happy years wandering with my uncle over the moorlands of Staffordshire and helping at the nearby scout camp. He would occasionally disappear for a day, or sometimes two but always returned. Maybe he had a secret lover on a nearby farm or neighbouring village. We can only speculate as to whether he leaves behind any children and grandchildren.
In 2009 illness forced my uncle to look for a new home for his beloved dog. He needed a home in the countryside. Flash was no town dog. He would have found the pace and noise of urban life disturbing. We agreed to take him in. It took him a long time to settle and he needed almost constant attention. At night he fretted and barked. We had little sleep. What house training he had acquired deserted him and local sales of floor cleaner and disinfectant must have hit all time highs. Life with Flash was challenging but it was hard to blame him. He seemed so vulnerable and traumatised by the upheaval in his life.
Eventually, after much research and consultation with the vet steps where taken which may have delivered improvements and helped Flash adapt to his new home. Whether they did, or it was merely coincidence, we will never know. After six months Flash, now deprived of the opportunity for more pups, was happily playing ball and taking long walks. He liked nothing more than attending local cross country races where he was a favourite with the kids. Despite his interest in attending races as a spectator, he was no runner himself. His few attempts running along the canal were complete failures. After less than 3km he would fall back to walking and he was too distracted by sticks which he would offer to anyone he met, indicating that they should throw them for him. Most of them did.
Flash’s failure as a runner may have been due to his arthritic hips. He wasn’t in the best of conditions when he moved in. He had evident stiffness in his hind legs (probably the arthritis)and extensive damage to his teeth which we assumed was caused by him using stones as balls when he was younger. We have heard on several occasions that some farmer file the teeth of failed sheep dogs (which could explain a lot) but stone damage is the most likely cause.
He had been treated for arthritis on and off for a few years but over the last few months he had been experiencing more difficulty lifting himself from a sitting position, although his enthusiasm for football and chasing sticks was undiminished. Two weeks ago he became unsteady on his back legs and scans showed serious arthritis of the hips and consequential spinal damage. But he could not adapt to an inactive life style. Show him a football and he was off, backend not quite under full control but a strong front end carrying him along. He was prescribed steroids and painkillers and we researched wheels as extra support for him, but it was not to be.
His decline was rapid at the end. He played his last game of football on Saturday 27th and after one final attempt to play the ball on Monday 29th his legs gave way and he could no longer walk, or even stand. Over the weekend he was also showing signs of incontinence. An emergency visit to the vet was in order.
We hadn’t been expecting to have to say goodbye to Flash the dog quite so soon but it was his final trip to the vets. Anticipating the likely outcome we all accompanied him, pockets stuffed with tissues.We carried him in. His front end alert, big brown, trusting eyes looking eagerly around; backend refusing to function. How would we be able to look him in the eye and say goodbye? He passed away peacefully under the care of his vet with his head cradled in our hands.
Flash (formerly Sid) 23rd Jan 2002 – 29th July 2013.