Having dropped off my rescue collie Gracie at the referral clinic, screaming in pain but still weakly wagging, and been told by the surgeon it might be a tumour, I’ve been sitting by the phone, going insane. Finally, the vet called.
‘Gracie has had intravenous painkiller and an MRI scan, which shows she has a slipped disc. It’s very severe. We can operate now while she’s still under anaesthetic, but as it’s late in the day, it will cost more.’
‘Do it! Do it now!’ I shouted.
That was Wednesday night. It’s now Monday afternoon and I’m about to go to pick her up. She has to be kept in a cage for four weeks and, after that, a rehabilitation regime of gentle walking on a lead, aqua therapy and no jumping on furniture. During the time without her, I’ve been frantically raising money to pay the bill, which is hovering at around £7,000*. (I wonder how working collies would fare were this to happen to them.) I’ve sold my 30-year collection of fashion coffee-table books: all 186 of them, and for that I got just £105. The DPD man has just been to collect them. My other collie Mini, as usual, squirmed outside to wriggle hello.
‘Does it bite?’ was the only thing he said.
‘No, she doesn’t. But I do.’
What is it with these weird, monosyllabic, unhelpful, wimpy men?
I’ve also sold my marble Tulip dining table to a man in Germany, so will have to eat on my lap. And my two Eileen Gray bedside tables. My last remaining designer evening gowns – Bottega strapless and Dries slip – are still on Ebay. As is my espresso machine. My Bill Amberg bedhead. My 90s hipster Helmut Lang black trousers. Each item holds a memory. The bedhead bought when I moved into my lovely Georgian house in London; it has a scratch on it from Squeaky, my long dead cat. The Helmut Lang trousers purchased from Matches for my first trip to New York for the fashion shows. The Bottega for my first nomination at the press awards. The espresso machine bought after witnessing it being purchased and puzzled over by Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City. It’s not true, the prevailing philosophy that mere things cannot make you happy. That a car is just metal, a house just stone. ‘Things’ for me were always landmarks, showing how far I’d come from living in a £10-a-week bedsit with babysitting duties thrown in, and no cooking facilities. Clothes were my passport to belonging. Things kept me company when everyone else – friends, siblings, husbands – left. It’s reassuring to own objects: like ballast in a storm. I already miss my fashion books with an ache of longing. The only one I’ve hung on to is Inside Vogue: My Diary of Vogue’s 100th Year. Why? For the simple fact I’m mentioned in it, twice! I take up almost two pages!! I’m described as an attack dog, but still, who cares? I can die happy.
But despite the nostalgia, none of these objects compares to what Gracie means to me. The pointy nose in my eye. The stress wee if ever she is asked to do anything she doesn’t want to do. The soft pink tummy.
My assistant Nic comes to pick me up to take me to collect her; I’m too traumatised to drive. When Gracie is brought into the consultation room, both front arms shaved, a vivid red scar snaking down her throat, she is staring glumly ahead. Then she glances up and she sees my face. She actually does a double take. Her eyes shine. She simply cannot believe it’s me. She must have been thinking all the while that she’d been returned to the rescue home for not being good enough. That she had chewed one Le Chameau wellie too far.
I have to lie on the floor to stop her climbing me like a tree. After collecting her drugs and four A4 sheets of instructions, we walk her slowly to the car. It takes two of us to lift her inside. On the A1, we can hear her gnawing enthusiastically on the inside of Nic’s car. ‘Ah,’ Nic says with relieved fondness. ‘That’s good. She’s feeling more herself.’
* You might wonder why she’s not insured. Well, insuring three dogs is ruinously expensive, but the fear of something else happening means I have just taken out insurance on my other dogs Mini and Missy: the maximum payout is £5,000, and due to Mini being over ten, she’s only covered for a year…