• Day 64: ‘Poppy’ – update

    Nov 4th

    I got a voicemail on my phone this morning. I listened to it whilst on the toilet – as one does in these days of techno-omnipresence.

    Mobile phones and ipads intrude in the most stupid places –  I won’t be surprised if I receive a text message when I’m in my coffin: ‘YOU HAVE HAD AN ACCIDENT AND ARE ELIGIBLE FOR MONEY’.

    But this wasn’t a positive message : young Billie, the dog carer from AllDogsMatter in the UK, left a short message to say that Poppy, the dog that we had rescued together from a suspect ad on Gumtree (this was the dog that slept in the small space between my left ear and shoulder, the dog that she was taking care of whilst I lay in the sun in Greece) had just died.

    Poppy on arriving at my house.

    Poppy had contracted ParvoVirus (also known as ‘puppy killer’ disease as it’s so virulent and deadly to young dogs) and she had declined sharply and irreversibly.

    The name we had chosen, ‘Poppy’, was right after all – a beautiful but deathly symbol.

    I put my head in my hands. As I sat in the bathroom this wasn’t glamorous. But, as I was beginning to learn on this journey,  life and death often write their story in prose not poetry.

    My heart went out to Billie. If anyone could look after a dog it was Billie, if anyone would be mortified it would be her, but if ParvoVirus wants to kill not even the best vet can stop it.

    The RSPCA vet had checked Poppy over a week or so ago and given her the green light but secretly she bore the scars of a horrible upbringing. Parvo is a killer amongst dogs that are over-bred in poor conditions without good diet, proper access to their mother’s milk and can lie dormant and then be triggered by an external stress, like moving to a new home.

    This means that both the dogs that Billie and I rescued off the GumTree advert had died.

    All that work for nothing.

    And how many of Poppy’s brother’s and sister’s out there also had the same disease?

    My sadness turned to anger – what were we going to do about the bastards that bred and sold these dogs?

    I rang up Billie.

    ‘Hi Martin’ she said quickly.

    ‘Billie, are you OK?’

    ‘Yeh, I’m fine it was just very…’ the voice stopped and a new one came on the line. ‘Hi Martin, this is Ira’ .  In the background Billie was in tears.

    Poppy and Peanut. Now no more. Writing this caption makes me feel rather sick.

    Ira explained they were going to call the RSPCA to investigate the couple and Billie was going to report the couple for making money from dogs when they were likely claiming benefits.

    ‘OK. What can I do, from all the way out here? ‘I asked.

    ‘Nothing’, they said. ‘Don’ worry.’


    Not for the first time did I feel powerless as if watching life unfold from behind a glass screen. And not for the first time, and I don’t feel proud to say it, did I feel only a very brief sadness that passed over me quickly.  Poppy’s death was far away. It was as if I was sitting in warmth whilst  on the far side of the park a cold breeze was moving through the trees.

    Maybe this gap, between me over here and Poppy over there, is the reason I haven’t always acted on my compassion. Maybe this gap is the reason I still eat meat.  There is a distance between seeing an animal being slaughtered and seeing meat nicely packed on the shelf. It is the distance between knowing something with your head – I don’t think it is right to eat another animal – and knowing it with your heart  – I just can’t eat another animal.

    I had to get closer to animals and I had to, where possible, touch their suffering. While my slogan for this year is to save as many animals as possible – maybe my journey is a little more subtle than that. And more simple. It is to open my heart to suffering..

    This made me more determined than ever to find out about the infamous sisters at the centre of the island that apparently kept dogs in such bad conditions. The more mysterious this place sounds,  the more difficult it was to access this place , the more I felt I had to go there.

    I asked Marjorie what she knew…


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    3 Responses to “Day 64: ‘Poppy’ – update”

    1. Poor little Poppy. So sad. The drawings are splendid and I admire all your hard work on behalf of animals.

    2. I have only just discovered your blog. I am in absolute awe of you, Martin.
      My dogs are my whole life. I have bred one litter of Lhasa Apsos (all of whom have gone to good, lifelong, loving homes- I’m very careful to vet homes and offered full refunds with no questions asked, should they wish to return the pups). To breed is a massive undertaking. The thought of someone breeding without consideration for the pups is shameful and disgusting.

      Sadly, I lost the runt of the litter. I did as you did with Peanut, taking him into bed, doing night feeds (even at one point sleeping on the floor by their nest, just to make sure that when they woke up for a feed, I’d wake up too). He just wasn’t meant for the world. Despite the best vet care, he passed away in my arms. This was several weeks ago and I still burst into tears at the thought of him. I can completely understand how Billie felt upon losing Poppy. My heart absolutely goes out to her.

      Good luck with the rest of your task.


    3. thank you for reading Ashley. It’s not easy losing a dog like that at all. Thanks for caring. Martin

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