If a dog will not come to you after having
looked you in the face,
you should go home and examine your conscience.
It’s so cold my toes are curling upwards, my fingers bend inwards and my eyelashes curl sideways. That’s how cold it is.
What feels warm is looking at my mum’s dogs, a female Beagle lying next to my feet, and as always, oblivious to the world. The other, a Cavoodle, the red-haired, funny, tiny one is helping me write this post by sitting on the side of my laptop… with his bum on the numerical keys.
No time like the present for warming your tiny bum on a warm laptop I suppose.
Thank god for antibacterial wipes when he leaves.
For now, I tolerate him.
His testing my resolve. I’m testing his.
It can’t be comfortable sitting on something and being pushed up, down, left and right because I need the letters he’s sitting on.
Little rebel, he is.
Looking back, I’ve always been more a dog girl than a cat woman. Cat/human relationships are built on conditional love.
Dog/human relationships on unconditional love.
And more cookies when we get home.
And before going to bed.
My family and I have had a few jokers our my lives. There’s been the two miniature Poodles called Apricot. The Belgian Shepherd called Freek, Laika the German Shepherd, and a few genetic accidents as we called them, created by Mother Nature.
At age eight weeks, there was Dusty.
By week nine, he was ‘Wolf’. Such had been his appearance at nine weeks old, neighbours and strangers alike thought he was a wolf pup.
Wolf and I never looked back.
He was Wolf. I was his human.
Thirteen years later, he was no more.
I moved to Ireland four years prior. Instead of having him quarantined for six months and being alone for twelve hours a day, it was a very hard decision to leave him in my parents care.
I’m without a dog at the moment and it hurts. Until I have my own apartment, I can’t keep pets, so it hurts so damn much. They say that once you have had a dog, you are never complete again without one.
I am not complete.
Nothing like a pup jumping around without reason, falling over its own feet and looking at you with total mischief in their eyes.
Running into doors.
Trying to crawl under doors.
Chasing his tail and me looking stupid watching him chase his tail.
There is no human equivalent of such talent, so you are just in awe.
Other brilliant memories running through my mind of our other pups, seeing them grow up, the many long walks and the laying on my lap when they were not the size of a bulldozer yet.
And even when they eventually became the size of a bulldozer, they’d still try sitting on my lap. “Look, there’s a dog with human legs sticking from under it!”
But, Wolf was the “once in your lifetime kind of dog”.
His Mam a Doberman, his Da a Malamute. We were looking forward to seeing what this little wolf-like pup would grow into.
During walks, people would shout from across the street, asking what breed he was because according to them, “he was stunning.” As a proud mother, I happily engaged in conversations with strangers, “Well, he is a mix of etcetera…” and they couldn’t believe this was the result.
You could compare his popularity to that of the Goldendoodles and Labradoodles of now.
And he knew it; tall, talkative, showman, always happy and always ready to play with or fool you. And boy could Wolf fool you. I’ve never been so happily fooled by anything or anyone.
Whichever, he made one hell of a dog and I will miss him until my dying day.
Wolf standing behind me as a pup, trying to howl and bark like a pro, and in the process making me jump because I had no idea he was even there.
Wolf trying to get under the duvet to wake me up.
As if 50 kg of dog jumping full weight on you while sleeping, wouldn’t wake you up already.
Wolf walking me instead of me walking Wolf. During those walks, he would look up to me to see if I was still following him.
He honestly thought I didn’t know the area we were walking in.
He was the leader of the pack, I just the runt.
Or, when we would walk to the horse stables, he would be nose-thumping the 2 horses.
He never gave me that opportunity though.
Nose-thumping with horses is now on my bucket list.
After I moved to Ireland, I would call Wolf. I talked, emailed and texted with my family, hence I knew they were OK. So, I called Wolf.
Colleagues in stitches because I “called the dog again.”
I called them fecking eejits – Irish term of endearment – who had no idea what having a dog was like.
Or, I flew 875 kilometers to be with him because he wouldn’t eat properly after I moved.
And also, memories of Wolf living to his 13th birthday but crippled by painful hips and paws.
When I said goodbye to him knowing I would never see him again because he was in too much pain, I felt physically ill. Days and weeks later, when lying in my bed in Ireland, I could still hear him crying of pain. Hell, I still cry to this day when I think of it.
I asked my parents to call me when they knew when he would be put to sleep, as I wanted to be there.
Then came that dreaded phone call about Wolf’s euthanisation.
He was not in pain anymore. He was gone. My parents decided not to have me present knowing what it would do to me.
He was taking out of his misery in an act of mercy, just as much they decided against my not being there an act of mercy.
But still, it was gut-wrenchingly awful. While writing this, seven years later, I’m still crying.
And then there was Marley & Me
Because of lingering hurt, I refuse watching films about dogs. However, I couldn’t resist Marley and Me on its opening night in the cinema, and it looked like everyone in my town did as every seat was taken.
Character-wise, Marley was a quintessential Wolf.
Everyone laughed at the same time in what might have been reflections of their own crazy moments with their own dogs, and almost everyone was in tears when they left.
I never felt so good about crying in public in the cinema.
Hell, everyone else was doing it!
But, when the film showed a fictional Marley being euthanized, something broke in me. That was Wolf. Because I wasn’t there when he was put to sleep, I didn’t fully process what it must have been like for my parents in that moment, and what I might have been witness to.
Yearning for him to still be alive.
I needed him to be alive.
On Tuesday I heard a song called “Bright Eyes” and my eyes welled up, a flash memory of Wolf looking at me the way he used to.
“Are you here?”
“Let’s go for a walk.”
“I think I deserve a dog cookie, don’t you think so?”
It’s hard to explain to people who never had a dog, but they are truly a part of your family. They deserve the best home possible. When people complain about dog hair on their clothes, “Sorry, but the dog lives here, you don’t.” When people think they bark too much, “Sorry, but my dog is looking out for me.”
And this is how Ziggy, the laptop-bum-sitter arrived at my Mam’s. He captured my heart from the first glance I caught of his cheeky eyes. Mr Ziggy Stardust is a Cavoodle, a crossbreed between a Cavalier King and a Poodle, hence “Cav-oodle.”
I reckon, ‘Cav’ as a name suited him as well.
Taking over laptops and whatnot, wanting in on the writing game.
I think he really wanted me to stop doing what I was doing and instead allow my lap to become his property.
Needless to say, his diplomatic status needed to be worked on, as I wondered if he really needed his bum warmed up.
Just like every dog, he thinks I can’t find my own way to the bathroom, or to the kitchen, thinking he will get something from the fridge. He’s so funny and so handsome with his curly, red hair. Nine years old but still as mischievous as a pup. Mam’s cat is his four-legged best friend, they chase each other around the garden and house and I secretly suspect Ziggy thinks Kato is also a dog, but we’re leaving him to think so.
Blessed be the ones who believe cookies and cats are a godsend.
Returning to Dublin next week will be with tears in my heart because once there was and still is Wolf, and now there’s also Ziggy. Wolf in my heart, Ziggy in front of my eyes and with his bum still on the ‘Enter’ key on my laptop.
Pets fill a hole in our hearts we never even knew existed. Love is when you’re watching a sad movie and your dog sees you crying and comes over to comfort you. Happiness is a soft little furry dog laying on the side of your leg as you watch TV on the couch. Quiet, loving, unconditional companionship.
Home is where the bark is.
◾ MyTherapyApp: Multiple Sclerosis Blogs: 10 of the Best in 2019
◾ Ireland Blog Awards: Finalist 2014, 2015, 2017
◾ MyTherapyApp: Best MS Blog for Simplicity 2018
◾ Everyday Health: Top 10 MS Blog of 2018
◾ Feedspot: Top 50 MS Blog 2017, 2018, 2019
© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2012.