I’m not sure I’d ever go so far as to call myself a ‘dog person’, although I’m definitely dating one (a dog person that is). At the most I think I was merely someone who had a dog, one that I had begged and pleaded for from my dad for years. Finally, for my eighth birthday he relented.
Yes, we could have a dog. No, it was not allowed to be a puppy, that was a step too far. Instead we picked up a dog from a lady who had found that five was one too many. Her name was B.G., and her life was to be long, comfortable, and full of all the usual humorous anecdotes that follow dogs around.
She was, in my eyes at least, my dog. To my brothers, she wasn’t really a dog at all, but rather an annoying cat-like creature that tended to get caught underfoot. To them, a dog played fetch, ate heartily and chased with gusto. B.G. was the kind of dog who turned her nose up too often, and looked at you with derision if ever you were so stupid as to throw something for her to fetch as if to say: Just what am I supposed to do with that?
When she died, it was like the end of a story that you were expecting, but aren’t quite ready for. It had been a long time since she had been full of life. She was tired, and a heart murmur had left her exhausted and waiting for that final door. She died in her sleep, at well over 14 years. She was very much a dog raised to old age with love.
I told myself: I’ll never have another dog again. I’ll never love one, I’ll never own one, I’ll never call any other canine my dog.
Then, on a dark night at the start of February, fresh off a whirlwind trip to Paris and my first long-haul flight, I met Hecter.
Dean had described him as a medium-sized dog. This was a lie. He bounded towards me like a black shadow, a deep bark emanating in a shattering echo across the small living area. Hecter was a medium dog only if you considered Great Danes to be big dogs, which apparently Dean did (just for the record, Great Danes are extra-large).
For the first few months, I kept to my promise, keeping my distance from the canine beast that was entirely the opposite of my own four-legged friend. Hecter was the kind of dog who wanted walkies, twice or more a day, and lots of feeding. He chased with passion any item waved in his face, and was wildly jealous of anything he considered his own. He wrestled, barked at strangers, and tried to have his way with any other dog that came across his path, gender be damned.
In short, he was a dog’s dog.
But something about that dog’s dog started to grow on me, particularly after I swapped careers from an office to full-time online freelancing. Suddenly, I was working at home, and Hecter was my silent shadow. He followed me everywhere I went, defended me from mail coming through the letterbox, begged for my lunch, and grew on me.
We walked with him, fed him, cuddled him and (yes even this) let him sleep at the foot of our bed on cold nights. Suddenly, he was our dog.
I think that B.G. made me an animal person. After B.G. I considered myself an animal lover, the sort that would adopt and care for any animal that might need that affection, something I did with gusto throughout my childhood. Our menagerie included chickens, fish, cats, a monkey and a wayward tortoise.
But it was Hecter that made me a dog person. Cats are lovely, monkeys entertain, and I’m still not sure why anyone would own a tortoise, but there’s nothing quite like coming home at the end of the day and being greeted with the all-out crazy passion that comes from a dog. They’re the animal with so much love that it literally comes spilling out in the form of barking, whining and, of course, drool. They jump and hump and lick and get all over you, and you know what? It’s absolutely life-affirming.
After B.G. died I wrote a verse, something that described how I felt the next morning when I realised she had gone. I don’t think anything says it better:
And we will mourn them when the morning comes, and we are left with what remains: a shell of something that once loved us so deeply, and still does, but in another place.
This post originally appeared on BarefootBeachBlonde.com, the pre-evolved version of Maps And Mandalas. I’ve republished it here with its original date because I love it that much.