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David Blunkett pays tribute to guide dog Cosby

16 Nov 2017

Former Home Secretary, Lord David Blunkett said goodbye to his faithful companion, guide dog Cosby, on Friday 10 November.

The black Labrador-cross curly coat Retriever was his sixth guide dog since he qualified with his first in 1969.

In a moving tribute in the Daily Mail, Lord Blunkett remembers the great character of ‘Cosser B’.

Lord David Blunkett And Cosby Credit Hugh Blunkett“Over the last two months, I’ve lost three good friends from over very many years, he writes”

“I have family and close friends who are facing the most enormous challenges with ill health. I am painfully aware therefore, that for those who have lost a child, a partner, a parent or a sibling, hearing about the loss of a beloved animal will seem to be bordering on the self-indulgent.

“Forgive me therefore for writing in emotional terms about the great big loveable and endearing Cosby, my guide dog over the last six years.

“Last Friday, with the excellent advice of his vet and the veterinary surgeons at an animal hospital in Hertfordshire, I had to take the heart-breaking decision that seven-and-half-year-old Cosby should be put to sleep.

“Such a moment would be upsetting for any dog-owner, but even for a hard-bitten ex-Home Secretary, this was a deeply harrowing decision.

“What made it more traumatic was the speed with which events unfolded.

“The previous Sunday, in Sheffield, had seen him chasing a ball and being his usual exuberant self. True, he had been spooked by the previous night’s fireworks in a way not experienced in previous Novembers. But apart from needing more attention and lapping more water than usual, the only sign of the problem to come was the slowness with which he ate his dinner.

“Cosby was a curly coat retriever/Labrador cross, and as any owner of a Labrador will know, the next best thing to a walk in the woods is food. Even the best-trained guide dog will look out for any opportunity to nick titbits. And when you stood as tall as Cosby, even the highest kitchen surfaces were within easy reach.

Cosby“So not gobbling up the nearest morsel was very much not like him - and clearly he must have been in some discomfort.

“Back in London on Monday evening, he was still guiding me without a grumble around the Palace of Westminster. The only sign of something possibly amiss - and this is only me looking back in retrospect - was that he had slowed down a bit.

“By the following morning, when he didn’t have any breakfast, I got the message there was something wrong. So I made an appointment with Cosby’s vet.

“Thank goodness I did. He was found to have a high temperature. Although blood samples were taken that showed nothing untoward, all of us were worried.

“To cut a long story short, he underwent an ultrasound and then a biopsy was taken. Fortunately, I was able to take him to the veterinary hospital where further tests were performed. It was discovered that he had a massive liver tumour that had spread.

“Fearing the worst, I had to wait until the following day for the biopsy result.

“The dreaded phone call duly came and the prognosis was dire. Clearly, the cancer had accelerated and the surgery that had been planned was now out of the question.

“So, on Friday afternoon, after I shed tears, my wife and I revisited the clinic and I held his head while the deed was done.

“During our six years together, Cosby had become a familiar friend to many, and my guide and companion.

“Through many changes and challenges in my life, for example stepping down as an MP with the loss of the Commons support systems that I had been privileged to enjoy, transition was never going to be easy.

“But with the confidence and the independence of mobility that he gave me, it wasn’t so difficult after all.

“Of course, every animal we grow fond of is different. Each of my six guide dogs - Ruby, Teddy, Offa, Lucy, Sadie and lately Cosby - has been a character in their own right.

“But with all the others - unlike with Cosby - at least I had time to prepare for their retirement, or, in the case of Teddy, who joined me in the Commons 30 years ago, his gradual decline. Even Margaret Thatcher sent me a handwritten note when she learnt of his death.

“Cosby’s predecessor, Sadie retired when she was 11 and so we had time to grow older together. Indeed, I had expected that Cosby would have been with me for another three years. There was something special about him. In many ways he was a one-off.

“When I first got him at the age of 17 months, he had a propensity to wander, exploring the area around our home. This once resulted in him being returned by the police.

“His habit of scoffing my porridge directly from the bowl when my back was turned and his desire to sleep on the settee at night took a little time to thwart.

“Tragically, all that is now just a memory.

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“As happened after the loss of all my previous guide dogs, I can only at the moment imagine what life will be without Cosby’s assistance and knowing that he will never push his cold nose into my hand again.

“His sudden departure means that I will not be able to have a planned process with a new dog – as always has happened in the past.

“It takes up to 18 months to train a guide dog. When Sadie retired, somebody described her as having been my left leg - with me through thick and thin.

“Now, I fear it will be some time before I am matched with a new dog.  The right animal will have to be chosen by Guide Dogs’ magnificent staff and there must be schedules of training.

“As with all their predecessors, they will have to learn my daily routines. This means getting to know the intricacies of the Palace of Westminster, learning how to navigate from Portcullis House to the Lords chamber — a journey involving escalators and an extensive underground walkway.

“The dog will also be trained in busy areas around St Pancras Station and get used to travelling on London Underground. Crucially, it must learn exactly where to position me when we approach a lift; how to manoeuvre correctly on an escalator and, vitally, to tell a ‘down’ escalator from an ‘up’ one.

“Like Cosby, his or her biggest challenge will come at home in Derbyshire and the wonderful countryside of the Peak District. For that to be possible, the dog will have to suppress its natural instinct to chase sheep.

“And, as Cosby accomplished very quickly, it will have to learn how to squeeze into the luggage space behind the seats on the mainline trains to Sheffield.

“Above all, he or she must learn about how to deal with people — who often seem happier to see my guide dog than they are to see me.

“In the meantime, how I will miss Cosby’s ever-wagging tail.

“I have never known a dog more happy and easy going, with a willingness to work but sometimes in his own inimical way.

“Above all, I shall remember his incredible bravery in those last few days, including walking unaided into the veterinary hospital. And, even at the last, giving us a wag of his tail as he sniffed one of his favourite tennis balls, which smelt of the woods where he spent many happy hours.

“So thank you, not so old friend. I shall miss you, and so will many others, who will remember “Cosser B” as he was known as a part of their, as well as my life.

“I could not have asked for more.”

There are a number of ways of remembering a loved one or beloved pet in support of Guide Dogs; from a donation, to fundraising to name a puppy in memory.



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The charity Guide Dogs has been working with Blue Cross for the past few years to provide a bereavement support service. This service is available to current and retired guide/buddy dog owners, volunteers – and their families.

The Bereavement Support Telephone Service is available from 8.30am – 8.30pm every day on free phone 0800 096 6606 or
email.