musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: death

Losing a pet

Yesterday when I got home I had a message from my brother telling me that one of his dogs had passed away. This dog that went by the moniker “Ladybird”, was one of two that he got from the local SPCA many years ago and they were both probably about 4-5 years old at the time, although I always suspected that she was a bit older. She certainly had that grey look that an old dog has, and suffered from fits and was partly deaf, but that did not prevent her from squirming her way into his affections, just like the dog he had before, and the one before. And, when each one passed away he was left devastated. Such is the love that an owner has for their pets.

I never really bonded with her, although when I was looking after the house when he was in hospital I was her best friend because I wielded the tin opener, and I ended up having to deal with her fits. There isn’t much that you can do except make sure she doesn’t fall off the couch or injure herself as the fit happens. It was not a pleasant thing to experience, and I am sure that it was even worse for her. My brother did not use that as an excuse to have her put down, instead he kept her safe as she would have her fits and then made sure she had come out it properly. They were very attached and he will miss her terribly. Like so many dogs she would follow him around, and in spite of her deafness could sense the opening of a tin or the slight rustle of a packet from a mile away. She was not a picky eater and would gobble her food as well as the other dogs food and then still wander around looking hungry. I remember when he got her how thin she was, and after a few months she had definitely become more rotund around the midriff. When I saw her earlier this year she had taken to wandering around the kitchen in circles, in one door, out the other. She was however looking her age, which was over 10 years, possibly closer to 15.

Ladybird (L) and Teddy Bear (R)

They say that your pets wait for you at the place where you go when you die, in fact most people bank on that and I know it will be disappointing if it does not happen, because whether we like it or not pets give us a glimpse of unconditional love unlike many human relationships.

The other dog remaining is somewhat of a loner, he preferred corners or being underneath items of furniture, and it often made us speculate on his former owners treatment of him. But, he loved a good scratch, sleep and fart and was not that obsessed with food, instead he tended to nibble, but his partner would gulp it all down while he chewed thoughtfully. Unfortunately he is partly blind now, and I expect he will miss his companion, even though they were never really close. I hate to say this but think his time is not that far away either. (Teddy Bear had to be put down in August 2018 as he was no longer well)

I have never had a dog of my own, although I was very attached to our first dog from when I was very young. That dog was the one that cured my phobia for dogs, and when he was killed I was devastated. I have however enjoyed the company of other people’s dogs and cats and most have left my life just that little bit richer, and sadder when they left after a long and fruitful life.

Ladybird may not have been a beacon of light in the world, but she was my brothers beacon of light and he will miss her terribly, This is the third dog that he has seen leave him, and each parting has been difficult. But, she will live on in his memories and in mine, just like Nelson and Skipper do, and she will not be forgotten.

Update. 25/11/2017

This morning I saw one of the locals that lived in my area walking up the road, usually she doesn’t go anywhere without her little King Charles spaniel and will walk it many times during the day. I asked her about her little dog and she tearfully told me that she had to have him put down as he was suffering from what sounded like dementia and was unable to function. She was devastated, and I could see that she did not want to talk because of the anguish she was going through. I asked her whether she would get another dog and she replied, “I am old, there was only the two of us”. Her life has literally been turned upside down, and I felt very sad to see this woman in this state. The loss of that dog was traumatic for her, it gave her a reason to get out of the house in all weather and multiple times of the day. That reason no longer exists for her. Her life has become empty without her pet and I sincerely hope that one day I will bump into her walking another dog,

I enjoy seeing all the dogs in my area, and watching them chase balls in the field, they enrich our lives, and when they pass on they leave a large hole in our hearts; ask anybody that lost their pet, and they will agree completely. Dogs may be animals, but I would rather know some dogs than some people.  

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 18/10/2017

Updated: 18/08/2018 — 13:19

I wear a Poppy To Remember….

I wear a Poppy To Remember….

my Father: a signalman; who was captured in North Africa during World War 2

my Grandfather, a rifleman, who was wounded in Delville Wood

my Uncle: an air mechanic, who died in Egypt during World War 2, and who is the reason for my war grave photography


I remember the soldiers that I served with and who never completed their national service in South Africa.

Lionel Van Rooyen, Johann Potgieter, Peter Hall,  Hennie Van Der Colf

I remember those men of the South African Native Labour Corps who lost their lives in the sinking of the Mendi

I remember all of those other African and South African soldiers who have been largely unrecognised for their service


I remember the dedicated  nurses, VAD’s and other women who served in medical disciplines during and after the wars, many never returned and were victims of the conflict.


I remember the merchant seamen who faced not only a determined enemy, but the sea in all its fury, often in coffin ships that were only one screw turn away from the breakers yard. 


I remember those who have no grave, and who are just names on a memorial

I remember the soldiers, sailors, airmen, civilians, children and animals who lost their lives in the folly we call total war 

I remember the 6 million Jews who were exterminated
And the millions of other casualties who were caught up in the madness
I remember those who were left behind

and those who will die tomorrow, or next week, or next year, defending their country, their comrades, and their families; often for a cause they do not understand.

I remember them all because it is important to never forget them and to never drag the world down into the horror of total war, and I curse those who sit in positions of power and who create the conflagration but who never die in it, for they are a curse upon mankind. May they have to answer for the monsters that they unleash and may their punishment be eternal. 


When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today


Words do not adequately describe the feelings that I have around about this time of the year,  I served as a national serviceman in 1980/81, and when I first went in I did not think that at the end of 1981 I would have 4 names in my memory that would be with me until I die. My grandfather was a soldier, my father was a soldier, as was my brother, and so was I, my father and grandfather were volunteers, my brother and I were conscripts.  

It is difficult to quantify all of those who I have omitted, I could probably fill reams of paper with groups of people who were affected by warfare, and of course who continue to be affected by warfare. The images on this page are my own with the exception of the image of the grave of my late uncle Robert Turner who is really the reason I photograph war graves. I never knew him, but my mother did, and she still mourns him to this day. 
Updated: 01/01/2018 — 15:34

Rest in Peace Dokes.

This morning I got the news that one of the pets at my other home had left us. It was an inevitable passing though, he was 20 years old, and when I saw him in May he was obviously on his last days. 


Like most pets he was part of a family, he was always there, it is hard to remember a time when he wasn’t. He decided to adopt the family many years ago, moved in, took over and soon became a cherished family member. 


And like all family members he had his foibles and his routines.
We used to joke about the discoloured wall roughly 30cm’s high where he used to rub himself as he walked. In fact he was famous for not being able to walk past anything without first rubbing himself against it. Then there was the morning water drinking session out of the handbasin. The water had to be the right height, and fresh and he would delicately lap at it. Nobody was allowed to use the bathroom while this happened, and he could drink for hours. At one point he was notoriously obsessed with his food, he would only eat “pilletjies”, and would look disdainfully at anything else. He was also responsible for the demise of numerous catnip plants, as well as numerous birds, lizards, mice and anything that caught his eye. He once considered taking on a Hadedah, but decided it was just too much of a mouthful
In his younger days he was a bit of a streetfighter, coming home after an evening brawl with a sullen look and sometimes bleeding and battered. However, in his later years he really preferred regular hours, and would snooze the night through tucked into his owners shoulder or hip or wherever his new favourite spot was. He used to enjoy joining everybody outside when the sun was hot and there was a handy blanket for him to stretch out on. Although the blanket usually came out especially for him. 
Like many cats he had an innate ability to decide to sleep wherever he could create the biggest obstacle or inconvenience, and often would turn up at the right moment to catch a nap on your chest or keyboard or foot. And once ensconced would rarely be disturbed. It was just how things were. 
When I left South Africa in 2013, he was already thin and sleeping much more than before, and when I arrived in May 2014 for a visit I was shocked at how thin he was, and it was obvious that he did have very little time left.  He passed on 20 days after I returned to the UK. I am glad I got to say my goodbyes to him. 
The problem with a pet is that they are more than just pets. They are the part that gives unconditional love, and who listens patiently when you tell them all your troubles, although they often drift off for a snack in the middle of your woes. But they are always there when you need them. And when they leave us they leave a void in our lives. We expect to see them, to feel them, and to hear them. But they are no longer there. Your life is been enriched by them, and now it is saddened by their going. 
I come from the school of thought that says somewhere out there your pets are waiting for you to come home to them, I do not subscribe to the notion that pets have no souls, they certainly have feelings and a personality, and often have a sense of fun. I like to think that if there is a place where they go to, I would like to go there too. 
It’s difficult to write something like this, a kind of eulogy to a cat that belongs to a friend, even though  I expected the news I was heartbroken when I heard it. I knew Dokes too, he sat on my lap many times, and rubbed himself on my legs, and ducked and dived when I wanted to take pics of him. I laughed at his antics on many occasions, and was amazed at how he could balance a straw on his head. He was the alpha male cat in the household, and whichever cat becomes dominant now will have a hard act to follow. I believe the other cats are lost without him, just as his human family is. 
He is buried in the garden that he enjoyed. He may no longer be with us in body, but will always live on in our memories.
Rest in peace you old streetfighter, may all your days be full of sunshine and comfortable laps. Thank you for being with us for so long, we will miss you. 
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 26/06/2014, images recreated 17/04/2016
Updated: 30/12/2017 — 20:44

Loosing a friend

This morning I woke up to what I assumed would be just another day.  When I checked one of the forums that I haunt, I found that one of the members had been tragically killed in a car accident on the 28th. She was a young woman; intelligent, friendly, non judgemental, funny and one of the nicest people I ever met in a forum composed of self opinionated pompous asses.
She was training to be a school teacher and was in her final year, she was somebody that would have made an excellent teacher because of her ability to charm and befriend everybody she came into contact with. Yet, she was taken from us all.
I am used to rooting around in cemeteries, but seldom attend funerals or encounter the graves of  those who I know up close and personal. I do not know if her resting place will ever come my way, but when or if it does I know that I will feel very sad to stand there and say my farewells to her.  I know that she would laugh at all the fuss that has been going on about her, she was not the sort who would seek out attention, but her personality was as such that she always was the unwilling center of attention. She was a gentle soul who has left a void in our lives, and in that of her family; both in real life, and in the virtual world. 
Jessica, wherever you are, thank you for the laughs and smiles and conversations. Thank you for touching my life so briefly, I will never forget you. You were taken from us way too long before your time.

 Rest in Peace CM. 
4/4/1990 – 28/2/2012
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 14:37

They do not grow old, as we grow old.

In the course of my gravehunting I was always on the lookout for four specific graves. These are the final resting place of 4 young boys who died during their military service, and with whom I served during my two years. 
The first death I encountered was of a rifleman who was a member of E-Company in Jan Kemp Dorp.  His death was one of those that should never have happened, but it did, all because of the pig headedness of those who were supposed to lead us. I will not go into details, but he has been in my mind since 1980, and I have never found his grave. But, Sktr Van Der Kolf, (possible Van Der Colff) I have never forgotten you and hope that one day I will find your resting place.
The next loss I experienced was that of a young rifleman, Lionel Van Rooyen. During a rehearsal for what would become Ops Protea, the platoon that he was in, as well as some of my friends, was involved in a live fire accident and 15 of them were wounded, Lionel never survived. He was a very popular guy and a Springbok figure skater. That accident devastated our company, and Lionel became yet another statistic. Many years after the incident I read a report about the investigation, and  a magistrate in Ondangwa found nobody to blame. Ask anybody that was in platoon 6 on 10 July 1981, and they will quite happily tell you who they think was to blame. (Image courtesy of Eleanor Susan Garvie)

The next death that struck us very hard was that of Cpl  Johan Potgieter, who was killed during Ops Daisy on 04 November 1981. The events leading up to his death tell of his bravery and his sacrifice. It was not too long before the operation that I stood guard with him, and I remember us brewing coffee in the guard post. We had 44 days left of our national service when he died, and he never saw the day when he too could walk out of Tempe and return to civvy life. I was fortunate enough that I found this grave myself and was able to stand and say my goodbyes in person. It was a very emotional moment.

The final death was that of Rfn Peter Hall. I do not know the circumstances of his death too well, but if anything it was through “misadventure”. However, it matters not. He lost his life on the 2nd of March 1981. We had been on the border just over 3 months by then,  and he too became a statistic. Finding his grave was always a problem because we did not know where he was buried. Now I know, and this image is courtesy of  Tanite Swart.
The platoon commander of the platoon where Peter Hall was in, said that this grave completes the circle, and while in my case that circle is not yet complete, I suspect that I have found the grave of my Sktr Van Der Kolf, but just need confirmation to close it.  
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn them,
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 22/03/2016
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 14:47
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