4 weeks ago

A Reader Writes: Nigel, The Famous Garden Dog


There has been bad news. We lost Nigel. Now this may seem foolish, trivial even, in the grand scheme of life, but I can tell you why it matters.

At Christmas time, like many other years before, a request came for suggestions for a Christmas present for the mother who wants nothing. A monthly subscription to a gardening magazine. A gift for every month of the year. It was perfect. It took a while for it to come, not quite being sure if the UK magazine service would deliver in the absence of the Eircode. However, shortly after the new year, it arrived. Enclosed was a packet of gardening seeds. Each packet promised a dazzling array of nigella, tomatoes and rudbeckia. Time was taken to talk through each new pot of seedlings on Facetime calls with her own mother. Steady growth was remarked upon each week. Nigel the Retriever appeared too. There he was on various pages with his rusty coat and fine stately face. A mainstay in a beautiful garden. She has a great love affair with dogs you see.

Earlier her daughter left for Canada. Before she left she brought Harvey home for her mother. A surprise. A soon-to-be-30kg surprise. A distraction from missing the youngest of her girls. Her daughter left but the dog stayed. In truth she had always been a dog person. Gary, Tim, Lotto, Bruce. The best loved of all being the dog that used to carry the children around on its back. Realising as she does now though that one dog is quite enough occupation, she has resigned herself to enthusiastically introducing herself to every other dog she encounters and staring wistfully at photographs of the handsome Nigel and his loyal companion Nell.

She watched the Gardeners’ World programme every Friday evening. Monty couldn’t amble around other fine gardens as would be the usual course but instead he filmed from his own: “the paradise garden”, “the jewel garden”, “the writing garden”. Each one more spectacular than the last. A lesson in the art of living slowly with purpose. Always there was Nigel. Each turn of the page, there he was hidden amongst the blossoming flowers.

Always there was Nigel. Each turn of the page, there he was hidden amongst the blossoming flowers. 

He probably wasn’t feeling well but apparently even through torrential rain on filming day, Nigel stayed. Loyalty, that rarest of qualities. Prized by her above all others. Then the news came. Nigel had passed. It shouldn’t have been remarkable. At the time every day there was a new death. The deaths were supposed to be remarkable if the patient was particularly young, particularly fit, particularly healthy but all were particularly sad. That old phrase, to expect the unexpected, became a daily mantra. Nigel though, was supposed to be untouchable. The focus was on humankind and for a moment it was forgotten that the world continues to turn, even for our loyal canines.

It was remarkable though. We both knew what it meant but neither spoke it. There will come a day when our own friend will leave us. Monty didn’t focus on the passing except to offer a celebratory montage of his most beloved companion. Viewing the montage is for another day perhaps. Darling handsome Nigel will grace the pages of the magazine no more but we have Nell and we have Patti. In time there will be more. For her there is Harvey, her lovable rogue. Her loyal and constant companion. Trampling the seedlings she has planted from the seeds she grew from the gift she was given. In time there will be more. There will be good news.

Main featured image via @themontydon


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