It is with profound sadness that I write this piece. It was meant to be a tribute and thanks for two very lovely people, Jane and Alec Lee, and their wonderful pets. It was to go up on the website but was kept back for the Jubilee news. Then came the tragic message that Alec had died quite suddenly and without any symptoms of impending illness.
We, who knew them have had tears and anguish but for Jane and their son James, it must have been the most terrible shock. We send our deepest sympathy and every prayer.
I knew the Lees well and always admired their efficiency and cool calm approach to all ‘doggy affairs’. They were an absolute joy to be with and knew all the answers.
My Granddaughter Kate remarked this year at Crufts “We can go shopping now because the Lees manage everything so well, they don’t need us at all.” My reply was always “Yes I know but I love watching their dogs – talk about ‘Charm Bells.’”
Their contribution to the ITA has been immense; committees, events, shows and ‘Stars’ at Discover Dogs, always charming and approachable – a huge pleasure to have around. Alec will be so sadly missed but his wonderful pictures are a lasting legacy.
I was delighted to hear they were spending some time in the New Forest and would call in for a play morning with the dogs and a walk along the sea wall and paddle along the water’s edge.
It was such a happy day, Libbs and I took turns to fall in love with Finn and the girls, who are about the same age paddled their way through the shallows and chatted to everyone who came along. We stopped to talk to our beloved Rusty who lives in the lane on the way home. He’s the girls’ great friend and we meet often on the marshes. He is a huge honey coloured Retriever, who had that terrible accident falling off the wall but has at last fully recovered – he’s funny and gentle and we all twittered at the gate. I was so impressed with the way the two boys dealt with one another, looking through the gate, no tail wagging of course, but just two perfect gentlemen taking off their top hats and saying “How do you do?”
We walked home along the lane and Alec made it very clear that he thought the road was too hot for the dogs feet, so I said “We’ll have to run through to the patches of shade.”
One last thing, when we had said our goodbyes (Libby firmly behind the front door, refusing to come out) Marybel and I stood at the gate to wave them through. But Alec stopped the car and leaned across to take my hand and Jane held my other hand and we stood still for a few brief moments – it was such a generous kind of gesture and I felt touched at the time. I realise now that it is one of those rare dear moments which will never be forgotten.
Thank you dear Alec for all you have contributed, it was a joy to watch you with your dogs and realise how well you understand how the ‘Micks tick’
Jane has asked us to put up the original piece we wrote about Orlagh and her great friend Smudge, the Magical Cat and this comes with respect and admiration for a charming person who loved the Micks and was one of the safest pairs of hands in the business.
Smudge The Magical Cat
The Lees; Jane, Alec and their son James have always enjoyed a mix of dogs and cats as family pets. The pets, over the years have been very fond of each other and so much a part of their family life.
Jane says “It’s mainly a matter of introducing and settling them tactfully and carefully from Day 1. Everyone is a favourite and everyone is a friend. We spend time playing games with them, cuddling them together and they do have a lot of fun. Their fondness for each other is a ‘life long bond’.
The current set is 2 Irish Terriers, Finn and Orlagh and 2 cats, Truffle and Smudge. They are a very happy band, the dogs are inseparable whilst out of doors having doggy adventures but each has a special cat friendship when they’re at home.
Finn likes to hang out with Truffle and Smudge is devoted to Orlagh and never leaves her side for one moment.”
Now this is the story of Smudge the Magical Cat.
He arrived with his little sister and was immediately named Smudge by James because of a blotch on his nose. The little girl was called Maddie. They were Orientals and enchanting kittens playful, confident, affectionate and so beautiful.
They adored each other and life was perfect.
But Smudge, before he reached 2, suffered a serious ear infection which left him stone deaf. He became very dependant on little Maddie and would do nothing without her.
Then came a terrible day when they had been out in the garden together, Maddie inexplicably disappeared – gone – vanished – and they never saw her again.
The Lees live in a small village. Everyone knew and loved the cats and no one had ever heard of losing a cat before. The whole village searched high and low.
It has remained an unsolved mystery. Jane thinks that someone passing, seeing the cats in the garden, while the dogs were out walking, quite simply scooped her up and took her away. She was such a sweet friendly cat and we could only hope that whoever stole her would love her as much as we did. And Jane says, “I have a feeling she would have seen to that.”
We were bereft but poor Smudge was heartbroken and completely inconsolable. Since his deafness, he’d become a ‘yowler’ making the most awful noises, half bark and half shriek, if he thinks he’s been left alone or simply that things generally are not quite to his liking. He still howls sometimes and has us all running from every corner of the house to comfort him.
Finn arrived shortly afterwards, but he was full of fun and energy and ignored Smudge and spent all his time when indoors with Truffle.
The time was perfect, Finn was 4 and still a puppy at heart. Time for a new baby in the house.
Enter Orlagh, our darling girl, very sensible, confident, beautiful and kind.
If Finn was pleased, Smudge was ecstatic, totally besotted with her, from the first glance. Irish Terrier puppies are not a push over, but Orlagh seemed to realise even as a very young pup, that Smudge, who was now 8, was fragile and she was very gentle with him taking care that he should not be hurt.
He insisted on sleeping on her bed and never left her side if she was indoors. We wondered if he was being a nuisance, but she didn’t seem to mind a bit, happily curling up with him in his or her tiny bed.
Alec started sending into the website these amazingly touching pictures of them. He is a brilliant photographer and I was completely captivated. They became regulars in the Calendars. People from everywhere in the world would ask how Alec Lee managed to pose his cats. We emailed back “It’s not a pose – it’s for real, they genuinely adore each other.
When Orlagh was 4 last year, Jane and Alec decided she should have a litter, she’s such a kind lovely bitch and would enjoy her puppies. They did have some anxious twinges about Smudge and how he would react. They need not have worried.
Orlagh was fit and well prepared. There was no fussing and the whelping went without any problems . There were just 3 puppies, all boys, an ideal number for a new mother to manage. Finn put his head through the door to see what was happening, but as Jane said, “Orlagh just gave him that look and he backed off at once and never tried to see the puppies again.”
But Smudge was in the room all through the whelping, can you just imagine that? After the third pup arrived Orlagh was ready for the tidy up . Smudge got into the whelping box and began to help tidy up the puppies, licking their faces and fussing over Orlagh.
From that moment until they left for their new homes, Smudge guarded and looked after them, night and day. When Orlagh went out for little walks, he’d take over completely, setting the pups down for a nap. Orlagh was a wonderful mother, patient and always ready to play. She was never tired or exasperated while Smudge was in charge of the entertainments which kept everyone happy.
As the pups grew more strong and boisterous everyone was anxious that they might injure Smudge by mistake while playing too roughly. He was by now 12+ and they felt it might be wise to put up a gate so that he could still see the pups but not be knocked over. But he kept squeezing through the rails and would hover around them like a football referee just keeping out of harms way.
The time came for the puppies to be settled into their own families, who they were carefully selected by Jane and Alec. It was sad when they left but puppies can become wildly playful and exhausting to everyone. It did seem mysteriously quiet when they were gone. Orlagh took up her life, shared so blissfully between galavanting in the woods with Finn and visiting friends and never a backward glance.
She’s a remarkably steady, sensible bitch and so much more grown up than Marybel who’s the same age.
I always think that I would pick up a glossy magazine one day and discover an article with the catchy title ‘The 2 men in my Life’ by Orlagh Lee, now that would make us laugh.
Thank you Jane for requesting that this should be read, I do hope to have captured some of the joys of just being a ‘Lee’.
With my love and happy memories of times spent with you and Alec.