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Our Molly (2008-2023)

Our wonderful Labradoodle, Molly, sadly passed away on 23 May 2023 after ruling us (benevolently) for 15 years. Molly was an F1 Labradoodle, a combination of breeds which produces a lively and loving dog. But these qualities came with a headstrong sense of self. It made for an interesting life.

At an early age Molly decided that there was no discernible merit in the game of fetch and she conveyed this to us in body language which seemed to say “you threw the ball, you can get it”. It was an attitude she happily applied in various other contexts. For Molly, the phrase “Come here” was not a command. It was, at best, a potentially interesting idea that may or may not guide her immediate future actions. But it would first have to do battle with a variety of compelling alternatives including (1) Remain rooted to the spot with a look that says “No, you come to me”; (2) Briefly glance at the silly human attempting to exercise their alleged (and accursed) dominion before pointedly wandering off in the opposite direction; (3) Run away in search of someone else – anyone – prepared to provide treats. In one now famous instance she even jumped in a lake and swam to an island, refusing to return despite our shouting, begging, and pleading.

For us, the problem was that Molly carried this occasionally entitled belligerence with such charisma that you just couldn’t stay mad for long. It was also this charisma – her sheer self-confidence – that ensured we were doomed to lose any battle of wills. One contest in particular made this very clear, and it concerned the thing Molly valued above nearly all else: the sofa.

Molly’s relationship with the sofa might be best defined as a form of ‘love’ (it was rivalled only by an equally intense bond with her stomach, to which she was beholden through to the very end). To sleep on the sofa was the central goal of her day, and as such there was nothing that Molly would allow to stand in her way. There was no barrier, no obstacle, no power that she would suffer to frustrate her Nietzschean ‘will to sofa’. And so, as a family we did what was sensible and accepted defeat. The sofa was hers, and we (and any guests) were obliged to accommodate this reality as though it were an immutable law of the universe. Molly, of course, knew that the victory was hers and communicated this in typical fashion. She not only occupied the sofa; she expressed her ownership by – very deliberately – stretching out so that she covered as much space as possible.

If Molly was rather wilful she was also affectionate, gentle, and intensely loyal. When our daughter arrived we wondered how she might respond. Would Molly feel usurped? The answer was quickly apparent. Molly contentedly accepted her new status in the pack and assumed a role that she would carry through to the end of her life: guardian. When we took our daughter out in her buggy Molly placed herself close beside. When, on one occasion, another dog came sniffing around Molly emitted a noise so intimidating that it seemed to trigger in the offending animal a primeval terror deep in its very soul. It quickly ran away. Molly was similarly protective of the other being for whom she assumed responsibility: her little sister Topsy, a Sprocker Spaniel who joined the family when Molly was 12.

When we first brought Topsy home Molly was unimpressed. What was this small pissy thing getting in the way? Topsy, in marked contrast, was in awe, and the key objective of her early life was to cuddle up to her big sister. She tried; Molly growled. Topsy tried again, and Molly got up and walked away. This went on for at least a couple of weeks until Molly at last acquiesced. “Fine”, she seemed to say, “we can cuddle. Just don’t annoy me”. It was the greatest day of Topsy’s life; all her Christmases at once. From then on their bond was unbreakable, a fact especially apparent during one memorable moment.

I was out walking them both when we encountered two large Greyhounds. On a previous walk (when Molly had been absent) they had chased and bullied Topsy until she yelped in exhausted terror, and they were clearly keen to do it again. But they had not reckoned with Molly. I don’t speak Canid and so I cannot be sure as to exactly what unfolded in the ‘exchange’ that followed. In my mind it went something like this:

Greyhounds: “Hey, we’re just going to chase the little one for a bit. Y’know, have some fun, run her to ground. We cool?”

Molly: “No. We not cool. The little one is under my protection which means you have two options. (1) Fuck off now. (2) Fuck off in 5mins, minus some legs. You feel me?”

Very sensibly, the Greyhounds beat a hasty retreat.

Throughout this exchange Topsy stood close by Molly, gazing in adoration. And for the rest of that walk I saw something remarkable: an animal without worry or concern. For what was there left to fear in the world with Molly on your side? For her part, Molly accepted her elevation to the status of demi-god in Topsy’s eyes with all the calm equanimity one might expect.

In her dotage, Molly slowed down. Her sight failed and her hearing went (she was largely unphased by the latter, seeming to find in it a wonderfully useful justification for what she had already been doing for many years: selectively ignoring our various pleas and commands). But she retained all her charisma.

She became especially popular at our local café, the Hall (best coffee in the country), where she had her own special spot as well as a dedicated following. On our arrival for a morning brew Molly would be greeted as a Queen. Staff doled out treats, regulars told her she was wonderful (she already knew this, but who doesn’t like a bit of affirmation). Sometimes she would skilfully ‘work the room’ before adopting someone at whose feet she would then doze. Her café friends included writers, musicians, novelists. When the end was close we made sure to take her to the Hall for a final farewell. She left the staff with tears in their eyes.

There are so many other stories and memories, too many to recount here. I’ll settle for just one more. It was some years ago in early autumn, deep in a Lakeland valley. Molly and I had spent the day hiking and swimming (she adored water) before pitching tent in the gloaming. The night was cool, and in the early hours I woke to the sound of Molly coughing. She was looming over me, clearly finding it a bit chilly (despite her thick coat). Her intention was clear – Molly wished to join me in the warmth of the sleeping bag. We exchanged viewpoints on this. I lost. Two hours later I woke again and discovered that in classic Molly style she had somehow managed to evict me from my own sleeping bag and was now snuggly snoring. But here’s the thing. She looked so happy, so content, that I let it go. Instead of protesting and reclaiming what was rightly mine I accepted my lot.

This was Molly’s ultimate genius. She could take what was yours – be it sofa, sleeping bag, or your dinner – whilst seeming to suggest that she had, very kindly, done you a favour.

This was our Molly. She was our friend, our companion, our guardian. She was our Queen of the sofa. And she is missed.

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