Tuesday, 18 July 2017

When you've loved a dog

I watched the Dog Whisperer every day the September we moved into our first house. Sometimes I’d devour two or three episodes in a row without taking a bathroom or snack break for fear of missing something. The way Cesar could calm any dog, get it to walk beside him; I was transfixed. I loved everything about the show: how they presented the problem behaviour, the video demonstration of it and then Cesar teaching the owner how to help the dog be its best self.  It was inspiring.  And I knew I could put Cesar’s teachings to practice.

Only one problem: I didn’t own a dog. I was seven months pregnant and grieving.

I cried every day for the first few months after we put Judge down. But when there were no tears left, I watched Cesar Millan train the problem behaviours right out of all the dogs he met.  It was a welcome distraction, like the baby boy growing inside me. Like the new house with its unfamiliar streets.  

A relief because I could no longer bear those old streets.

They reminded me of the tugging of the leash, the feel of him heavy and sure, next to me as we walked. The old streets ached in me to feel his breath hard on my face when he wanted me to wake; made me weep that he’d never nudge my hand again to force my touch if I dared stop stroking his long back. He was our first baby and the one who gave us a taste of the family we could be.

We loved him desperately for 11 years.

He’s been gone ten years tomorrow. Cancer riddled his sweet gentle body and there was nothing to be done.

The kids feel sure they knew him. They know the stories; the ones Shaune and I tell shaking our heads, laughing and I sometimes hear them retell these to their friends as if they really did know him. And today, the pine box that holds what’s left of him sits on Deaglan’s dresser next to a picture of 22 year old Shaune kneeling beside a big yellow happy dog.

We’ve had other pets since then. Crash the cat, some fish who’s names I don’t remember and most recently two hamsters named Skibby and Stephen. We lost Deaglan’s beloved Stephen a few weeks ago and knew for certain that it was time to add to our family. 

We picked Myrtle, a one year old Jack Russel Schnauzer, up two weeks ago from the farm she was living on. She was making it very hard for the free range chickens to feel free. 

She stole our hearts that first day. My words can't do justice to the the kind of delight she has brought to the boys. They are simply smitten. There's so much goodness on this parenting journey but it's a special kind of joy to watch your kids love an animal.