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 are going inwards and my eyelashes are curling 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.
Thank god for antibacterial wipes.
For now, I tolerate his dominance of my laptop.
He’s 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.
A little rebel in the making.
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 over the years. There were two miniature Poodles, both called Apricot. A Belgian Shepherd called Freek; Laika the German Shepherd, and a few ‘genetic accidents’ created by Mother Nature while society was looking the other way.
And then, at eight weeks old, Dusty.
Sitting in my lap in the car, looking up and straight into my eyes, building an instant relationship while wondering if I would be his human.
His future cookie factory.
By week nine, he was called ‘Wolf’. Such had been his appearance, neighbours and strangers alike thought I was out walking a wolf pup. Considering I have been an enormous wolf lover for as long as I can remember and in fact adopted one through an wolf conservation society, calling him Wolf made sense.
Wolf and I never looked back.
He was Wolf.
I was his human.
Thirteen years later, I 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.
And it hurts
I’m without a dog at the moment and it hurts. Until I have my own apartment, I can’t keep pets, and it hurts so damn much because they say that once you have had a dog, you are never complete again without one.
So, I am not complete.
And I have not for many years.
Nothing like a pup falling over its own feet.
Running into doors.
Trying to crawl under doors.
Chasing their tail.
And, people looking stupid watching dogs chasing their tail.
There is no human equivalent of such talent, so you are just in awe.
Brilliant memories are now 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.
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But, Wolf was the “once in your lifetime kind of dog”.
His biological Mam a Doberman, his Dad 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 dog-mother, I happily engaged in conversations with strangers, “Well, he is a mix of etcetera…” and they couldn’t quite believe this was the result.
His popularity rose 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. I’ve never been so happily fooled by anything or anyone.
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 quite regularly, hence I knew they were OK. So, I called Wolf on separate occasions.
Colleagues in stitches because I was “calling the dog again.”
I called them fecking eejits – Irish term of endearment – who had no idea what having a dog was like.
Or, flying 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, hearing and seeing him in pain because of hip dysplasia.
Saying goodbye to him knowing I would never see him again, I felt physically ill. My parents wisely decided to call the vet soon after, even though I asked them to let me know as I wanted to be there. Knowing what it would do to me, they made the right choice.
Then came that dreaded phone call about Wolf’s euthanisation.
He was not in pain anymore.
He was gone.
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 don’t watch 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.
The film did not disappoint.
Character-wise, Marley was a quintessential Wolf.
Big. Funny. Loudmouth. Stubborn.
Everyone laughed and cried in unison over what might have been reflections of their own crazy moments with their dogs.
But, when the film showed a fictional Marley aging and eventually being euthanised, something within me broke.
That was Wolf
And 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.
Pain. Utter heart-shattering pain.
Yearning for him to still be alive.
I needed him to be alive.
I needed him to be alive when I went home.
Guilt because keeping him alive for my own benefit was morally wrong.
On Tuesday I heard a song called “Bright Eyes” and my eyes welled up, a memory flashed through my mind of Wolf sitting in my lap at mere 8 weeks old, and looking up as if he wanted to ask if I would be his human.
It’s hard to explain to people who never had a dog. They are as much part of your family as other loved ones are, and deserve the best home possible. Research in fact has shown that losing a pet can be just as painful as losing a human loved one.
So, next time people complain about dog hair on their clothes, tell them this: “Sorry, but the dog lives here, you don’t.”
When they 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, as Zig was left behind aged 9 after her neighbours and his owners went into a retirement home. He captured my heart from the first time I saw his cheeky eyes. Given his daily macho Cavoodle poise, I reckon, ‘Cav’ suited him as well.
Needless to say, his diplomatic status as bummer-in-chief needed to be worked on, as I wondered if he really needed his tail and bum warmed up.
Just like every dog, Ziggy thinks I can’t find my own way to the bathroom and the holy of holies, the fridge. His curly, red hair is used to weaken my knees and at nine years old, he is still as mischievous as a pup. He prefers cats to dogs so lucky 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.
I have been blessed to have grown up with pets and the social skills attached to it because 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.
For more on dogs:
2018 Winner Best Blog Post with ‘3443 Needles’, Blog Awards Ireland, Ashville Media Group, Dublin, Ireland
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◾ Ireland Blog Awards: Finalist 2014, 2015, 2017
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© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and irelandms.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.