Tashi Delek, the most photographed Airedale Terrier in Cornwall, died peacefully on the settee, in the living room of her home in Padstow.Tashi, or Tash, or Snoo as she was known to Kim and myself was born in Grantham. She was the last of a litter of nine puppies to find a home, passed over repeatedly due to the straightness of her coat, that Kim and I were told, would not go down well with dog show judges. Kim and I looked at each other. As if!
On the long drive back to London, Tashi Delek, almost jet black and the size of a shoe, was ill several times on the back seat of the car. Long car journeys were to remain one of her bete noirs until the last, together with cats, squirrels, and postmen.
Tashi’s early years were spent in London’s Regents Park. She was the prettiest of a group of puppies ( among them Billy, Coleman and Carter), who met daily close to Gloucester Gate following the outer perimeter, as far as the tennis courts. It’s when Tashi developed something of a thing for tennis balls, especially new ones. If she couldn’t find one in the grass beyond the courts she’d sit and wait, refusing to budge, until the tennis coach, a thick set man with white hair, had whacked a fresh ball over the link fence, just for her.
Her collection often exceeded three dozen.
It was on these happy walks that Tashi made the first of many lifelong friends, Carter, a handsome chocolate brown Labrador. Carter took an instant shine to the leggy Airedale and would present Tashi with sticks or chewed up balls whenever they met. If Tashi grew tired of the gang, if ‘something in particular caught her attention’ causing her to leave the pack and wonder off, Carter would bark furiously until she fell back into line.
The pair maintained their friendship even after Carter’s owner became ill and was unable to cope with a young dog. He relocated to Kidderminster, taking up residency with Kim’s parents. Tashi and he enjoyed many happy times together there. They played together there just a month ago.
The “lovelies” grew out of those early walks. Such were Tashi’s looks – her jet black saddle, her deep brown eyes, her ‘envelope’ ears and light trot, that bystanders’ were caused to remark “isn’t she lovely”. In fact, it was said so often Kim would return home daily with The Lovely Count: Tashi’s highest for a single walk was twelve, although that doesn’t include those admiring ‘lovelies’ thought from a distance.
One of Tashi’s many endearing qualities, aside from her unbridled glee at unwrapping everyone’s gifts on Christmas Day no matter how elaborately wrapped, opening the Bonio cupboard door in the kitchen herself (showboating to impress guests), and never returning home without a ball or toy of some sort, was her gentleness, and willingness to turn the other cheek.
Whenever confronted in a street by the salivating fangs of the hounds from hell Tashi would come to a stop and look the other way, to a point somewhere in the distance, as if she hadn’t seen the predatory hound because she was preoccupied, like a bird watcher or meteorologist, on some faraway object. When this effective distracted indifference (another example of the ‘something in particular’ trait) had taken the sting out of any potential attack, the other dog or dogs by now too confused to be violent, Tashi would quietly, and very beautifully – tale erect and head held high – silently saunter past, as if nothing had happened.
Tashi’s nature, her gentleness with children, her exuberance, especially on the soft sand at Harbour Cove and upon Hampstead Heath, and her looks soon spread beyond the close circle of family and friends; those who broke their home rules, allowing her to sleep on the furniture and chase their cats into neighbours’ gardens. She lent her name to a series of compilation compact discs, Tashi Toons, culminating with the Christmas collection Santa Paws. She was photographed on the pavement outside her Cornish home by countless numbers of holiday makers. She went on to feature in the book Travel, photographed by Christina Wilson, The Daily Express’s travel pages, and appear on the cover of the Financial Times’ How To Spend It ‘Travel Unlimited’, in May 2008.
Latterly Tashi had become a fixture of many of Kim’s beach painting/embroidery images. Look around her assembled cast of seaside characters and you’re sure to alight upon a perky Airedale Terrier doing what she did best – having fun on the sand. It goes without saying that Kim’s pictures with Tashi in them have sold the fastest.
Despite the media attention Tashi kept a level head wanting nothing more for herself than any bed or settee in the house, and the three ‘Cs’: chocolate, chicken and cheese.
Her gentleness, her fondness for long hugs, and evenings curled up next to you on the settee meant that everyone who spent any time with Tashi fell for her. When our dear friend Pat, stricken with cancer, took to her bed on winter afternoons in Padstow, Tashi joined her. And when Kim and I were away Tashi would occasionally decamp temporarily to Muswell Hill, curling up beneath author Rob Ryan’s desk. “There isn’t a malicious bone in her body,” he remarked.
Some months before her death she was presented with a three wheel Dog Buggy. It raised a few eyebrows in Padstow, but arthritis had taken hold and the short walks to the beach to be with her friends Skye, Rosie, Daisy, Macie, Jo, Matilda, and Rio had become something of a marathon. Reluctant to get in at first, perhaps embarrassed to be perceived as an invalid, she nevertheless grew to appreciate the red canvas buggy, and would clamber in, even as it was being assembled.
Towards the end, when kidney disease had made her anaemic and weak, she’d lay in it outside the house watching the world go by, maybe wondering why life had become so difficult for her, but still enjoying the attention, and the ‘lovelies’.
Her last buggy trip was an hour or so before she died. The scent of wild garlic heavy on the warm spring air. Wispy pink clouds scudded across Bodmin Moor, leaving behind them deep pools of irradiant evening sun. And the Camel estuary, motionless out of respect, that indefinable colour between grey and blue.
Tashi saw it all, maybe thinking, after all the effort of the last few days, she was seeing it for the final time.
Tashi Delek, June 5, 2000 – June 26, 2012