I’m going to write about the loss that always barges to the front of my mind when I think about loss. This is still the case even though the loss in question happened over thirty years ago.
The being that I lost, and whose loss still leaves a hole in my heart is the dog that I grew up with. He was bought by my parents when I was four years old, and he was there at my side until I was fifteen.
In the wider world he wasn’t a special dog. He wasn’t a pedigree, but he was the dog who was there through my childhood. He was the dog who would greet me excitedly when I got home from school, the dog who would sit beside me when I was watching TV or doing homework. He was the dog who I would throw sticks for, but who would look at you as if to say ‘You threw it, you go get it.’.
And years later I realised how much I felt I owed him. I learned the strength of love, all encompassing, unconditional love, and how dogs are better at that sort of love than just about any other animal on the planet. I also learned how important it was to have someone that could listen to what you wanted to say, and they wouldn’t interrupt, and they definitely wouldn’t pass judgement on what you had to say.
When I got older Rex was getting older too. He didn’t run as far or as fast, but he still had a joy in life, in chasing cats and in finding new and interesting smells. He never got used to being left on his own in the house, and would complain vocally until one of the family was home. We suspected that it had never really occurred to him that he was a dog, and he expected human company.
Old age came suddenly upon him. He got old, and slow, and suddenly walking was obviously painful. He could hardly make it out of the door to go to the toilet. Pretty quickly we found out he had advanced cancer and my parents had the awful job of having him put down. I didn’t get to see him go. I’m never sure whether I would have wanted to, to be able to say goodbye, but I know that I will always have such strong memories of him.
Nowadays, we have another dog. It took a long time to make the decision to get a dog. A lot of thought, and one of the things that held me back for so long was the concern about leaving the dog at home during the day. Our dog gets a walk each lunchtime with our local dog walker who loves her almost as much as we do. And my daughter I can see gets as much out of her relationship with Smudge as I did with Rex.