Farewell Sasha

On Wednesday 8th September 2021, my family and I had to say a final goodbye to our beloved dog Sasha, who had a long and happy 15 years of life, laughter and mayhem. She was put to sleep following several months of living with lymphoma (doggy cancer).

Rather than dwelling on her death, I want to celebrate her life. Here I’ll share how she joined our family home, her nutty behaviour and some amusing stories from over the years.

Re-homing Sasha

Sasha laying on the sofa looking at the camera

Back in 2006, I was 12 years old, in my first year of secondary school and coming to terms with my sight loss. I initially looked into getting an assistant dog but at the time, there wasn’t a way for a dog to assist my physical disability and visual impairment.

Then one summers day in June, I had an inset day at school and so Mum and Dad decided to surprise me by taking me somewhere. Obviously, I had no idea where and couldn’t see signs of clues because of my vision.

We parked up outside a building and went inside. Next thing I knew, I could hear dogs barking everywhere and they were wondering around me. We’d arrived at RSPCA’s The Ark rescue centre in Stubbington.

My parents then went to the reception desk and a few minutes later, a member of staff brought to me this blonde staffy-cross who was completely hyper, leapt on me and licked me all over.

I was then told that this is our new pet dog. I was so shocked and so excited. Her name was originally Saskia, but we weren’t very keen on it, so we changed it to something slightly similar, Sasha.

She was seven months old and only been at the rescue centre a few weeks after her previous owners couldn’t look after her because of their busy lifestyles.

Sasha came home a few weeks later and settled in great. It was all a bit of a blur, but I just remember a lot of excitement, jumping around and barking at everything in sight.

Sasha the living shredder

Sasha sat on Emma’s sofa

Sasha’s biggest habit that she did from the day we brought her home to the day she died was shred anything and everything in sight.

In the early days, I thought she might like some of my cuddly toys. I collected a lot of beanie babies and offered her my favourite dog beanie toy, which I called Jasper, named after a dog on a kid’s TV show.

However, within 30 seconds of me giving him to Sasha, she had caused a beanie massacre and shredded him to death. I was slightly upset but then I couldn’t get angry at those puppy dog eyes.

We soon learnt that soft, cuddly toys weren’t suitable for Sasha and instead we stuck with strong ropes, balls and kongs.

Over the years, her shredding habits continued. We had carpet tiles in our hallway, and she kept pulling them up and destroying them. Eventually, my parents got laminate  flooring put down.

She also chewed a pair of Mum’s prescription glasses, a £10 note (which we thankfully got replaced at the bank), plastic bags and countless tissues from bins.

There has also been occasions when Sasha has shredded unopened letters and parcels. We learnt this early on and put post boxes outside our houses instead. However, this still hasn’t stopped some deliveries coming through the door.

One memorable time, I had ordered a new Portsmouth FC top. Mum and I had popped out and I assumed if it got delivered while I was out, it’ll be sent upstairs to my neighbour.

However, the delivery man decided to push it through the letterbox. Sasha then saw it and managed to open the packaging and make a hole in the new top. Again, I couldn’t too mad at her because the delivery should have sent it upstairs but it still amazed me why she shreds everything in sight.

Fortunately, it turned out this top was too small and I had to order the next size up anyway, but still had to fork out another £50 quid.

Release the hound

Sasha walking outdoors off the lead

When Sasha was young, we attempted to let her off the lead for the first time while out walking at Stokes Bay beach in Gosport.

We were on a grassy field and I was at the top of the hill with a treat in my hand. The aim was for her to be let off the lead, she’d run up to me, get the treat and be put back on the lead.

But, oh no, she had other ideas. She ran straight past me, ignoring the treat, across a quiet road (luckily no cars there), ran into another field and chased the pigeons.

The amusing thing was the birds had long gone but she still insisted on jumping in the air trying to catch them. She looked like a dog learning to fly.

My parents and brother sprinted after her and eventually Dad got her by the collar and dragged her back to me to put the lead back on.

We didn’t let her off the lead again for a while but a year or two later we could, and she was almost always coming back to us – I think.

Of course, in her senior years, she became profoundly deaf so commanding her to come back was impossible.

The great escape

Sasha sunbathing in the garden

When I was about 14, I invited an old friend from primary school to come visit me. Mum and I got in my car to go pick her up and bring her back to our house. We must’ve been gone 40mins to an hour.

When we got back with my friend, Dad came charging out the house to say Sasha had gone. It turned out he had left the back gate open as we drove off and Sasha tried following us.

So, Mum and Dad went around the neighbourhood looking for her while my friend and I stayed in the house in case somebody rang the phone or came to the door to say they found Sasha.

Luckily, a lady rang our landline to say she found Sasha in her front garden. Stupidly my parents didn’t take their mobiles with them, so we had to wait for one of them to come back and tell them where Sasha was.

She got home safe and sounds and I think Dad learned his lesson to shut the gate properly in future. But I’m sure Sasha enjoyed herself exploring the streets of Portchester.

Fetch failures

Sasha laying on Emma’s bed while Emma sits in her wheelchair stroking her

One of the reasons we got Sasha was to try train her to help me with very simple tasks such as pick-up objects off the floor, move objects or even just play fetch.

But Sasha was an awkward mut sometimes and only did things her way. When playing fetch, we tried teaching her to give me the toy in my lap rather than the floor but most of the time it still went on the floor or on my footplate.

I even had a pack of treats attached to my seatbelt, so every time she would give me the toy, I’d give her a treat. However, she sust out where the treats were and kept sniffing the pouch on my seatbelt and ignored the toy.

With regards to helping me pick-yup objects, that was a complete failure. Sometimes she’d watch me drop something and look at me as if to say “Yeah, what do you want me to do about it?”. So, I still had to call my parents or brother for help.

So, we can definitely say Sasha was not born to be an assistant dog, just an over-excitable crazy mut instead, but a lovable cute pup.

The school runs

Emma in her wheelchair holding Sasha on her lead outdoors

In 2008. I started at Treloar’s, a residential school for students with disabilities. From 2008 to 2010, I boarded there Monday to Friday. Every Monday morning, I would get up, put on my school uniform, have my bags packed and wait for the mini bus to pick me up.

The amusing thing was Sasha immediately knew I was heading back to school each Monday because she would wine and howl constantly for about an hour before I left. It was so sweet that she didn’t want me to leave and I felt bad every time.

When I came home on Fridays, Sasha would be ecstatic to see me and continuously jump and lick me. It would take me about 10mins to get up the ramp and into my bedroom, she was so excited.

If my mainstream school wasn’t so shit I may have stayed and be with Sasha every day but Treloar’s was the only place I could get an education, independents and friends and I couldn’t handle the 20 mile journey every day.

I think that is the one thing I regret about going to college and university because I spent less time with Sasha and maybe only saw her every 8 to 12 weeks.

I guess the plus side of Mum being my carer again, I got to see Sasha every fortnight or more for the last three years of her life. Although she became too old, deaf and lazy to play much or greet me like she used to.

My sleeping dog blanket

Sasha laying on Emma’s bed on top of a red blanket

When I lived with my parents and then came home at weekends and holidays while at Treloar’s, I had a TV in my bedroom.

Every evening, I would get into bed about 8pm and watch TV. Sasha would lie on my lap in bed with me – mostly with her bum in my face – but hey ho.

It got to a stage where Sasha knew when it was time because as soon as Mum put the duvet on me, she leapt on me without even an invite, which was amusing.

Sadly, Mum wouldn’t let her stay there all night, so she had to go to her own bed in the hallway when my parents went to bed about 10pm.

Then in the mornings, Sasha would come charging in and leap on my bed and slobber my face in kisses. During the day, she’d nap on my bed but I didn’t mind, especially as it was a good height for me to stroke her.

It is a shame that as she got older, she couldn’t get on my bed anymore. I did suggest we get steps for her, but it never happened unfortunately.

Dish, dash, gulp

Sasha lying in the grass

Sasha Purcell loves leftovers, well more specifically my leftovers. I do struggle to finish my plate completely either because I’m just too full or there are scraps of food I struggle to scrape with my cutlery. Therefore, rather than waste it, why not treat the dog.

The funny thing is, as soon as I finish, Mum will take my plate and Sasha will sprint to the kitchen with delight. Also, in her younger years, Sasha would literally hear the click of my wheelchair I reverse, run towards me and jump on my lap and inhale any crumbs.

Breakdancing dog

Sasha wearing Christmas tinsel

 

Sasha has known to do many weird things in her life but not a weird as breakdancing.

Basically, she lies on her back and almost twists her spine into a S shape and try to bite her tail.

Sadly, we never got video footage of it because literally every time we try put a camera on her she’d stop. It was as if she was trying to get our attention then as soon as we looked, she stopped.

I think it could’ve been perfect footage on You’ve Been Framed or viral video on YouTube, but it wasn’t meant to be.

On the plus side, that image will always stay in my mind forever.

The Howl Factor

Sasha in the snow

As well as Sasha’s creative dance moves, she also had a great vocal range too. As a puppy she would bark at every noise in the street and when she was home alone or knew someone was leaving the house she’d wine constantly.

One day about eight years ago, I was left home alone with Sasha for about 10 to 20 minutes. She of course began to wine then this soon turned into a howl, which I’d never heard before.

I managed to record the howling on my laptop and managed to convert the archive audio to my Mac to share here (and yes that is me howling too to encoyrage her to keep going for the recording) –

Sasha you were an incredible dog. Such a people person and always wanting love and attention. You were a crazy nutty pup but I wouldn’t have had you any other way. I will love and miss you always – especially your snoring!

RIP Sasha 01/11/2005 – 08/09/2021 🐕💔

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One thought on “Farewell Sasha

  1. I’m so, so sorry for your loss 🌹

    I really enjoyed your stories, some of which made me chuckle and others, to be honest, made me start to well up a bit.

    I love how she ran off to chase the pigeons on her first off-leash walkies. 🐾 It made me think of my old dog Robbie, who did the same on his first walk. And his second, third… pretty much all the walks! Fortunately he never wondered off from home, which must have been so scary for you all. I’m glad she was found safely and quickly.

    She certainly had her routines down to a T when it came to food and ensuring to never miss a single crumb of leftovers! It’s funny what pets can start to pick up on and associate with, like the click of you reversing your wheels, or your mum taking your plate to the kitchen. Cheeky and very smart!

    From Saskia to Sasha, it sounds like you were blessings in each others lives from start to finish.

    This is a beautiful tribute to her. I’m glad she knew such love in her 15 years as part of your family. I can only imagine how painful her loss is for you. Sending lots of love and hugs your way, Emma 💜💜💜💜

    Caz xx

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