I have come late to dog ownership. For me, it’s always been about the cat.
Cats are snooty and silky and beautiful. They are quiet and don’t make too many demands of you-beyond food. Their needs are simple.
Then Dog 1 entered our lives. I was away for the weekend and received a phone call telling that my daughter would be minding a dog called Haru. The only catch was that she was going away for a couple of weeks and dog-sitting Haru would be left to the rest of us.
So Haru arrived and turned our place upside down. He terrorised our cats who hid behind our bed for 3 weeks. He forced us to go for walks although he wasn’t too fond of walking himself. He endeared himself to everyone, by putting his head on one side and listening. He could do tricks. He made us all happy, just through the sheer force of his personality. And then we had to give him back and the house felt very empty.
I spent the next few weeks on Dog Rescue websites and kept coming back to a little Maltese Cross called Bronte. The rest of the family were doubtful – they wanted a bigger dog. A dog with a beard. A dog like Haru. Not a little white, terrified ball of fluff with a bad haircut.
All objections aside from the rest of the family, I took her home and into our lives. Much to the amusement of the rest of the family, she followed me everywhere. If I had a shower she would wait outside the bathroom. In a funny way, she became my dog, rather than the family dog. I hadn’t intended it to be that way as after all, I was the cat person. As the weeks passed she became more comfortable and we could see that she was happiest when she was at the park. She never chased balls, and only occasionally played with other dogs, but she loved a good run and a good sniff and the treat at the end.
Bronte died six weeks ago. We discovered that there were lesions all over her lungs- the underlying cause probably cancerous. They wanted to give her an MRI scan, but her breathing was too erratic, too labored and she was too distressed.
We sat with her in the lead-up, my hand against the glass oxygen tent and her head next to my hand. As they lifted her out of the crib we all started to cry. She was happy to be with us and licked our hands. I held her in my lap, the vet administered the drug and then she was gone. We had owned her for just under two years, and she was part of our lives and our hearts. I had owned cats for years, the cats had died, and I was sad only momentarily.
But this – this grieving for a little white dog, it is something so different. We took her home with us and the kids and I dug a hole in the garden. It took us close to six hours to dig a deep enough hole, six hours and many, many cups of tea. She lies under the olive tree and we planted a Hellebore and a Rosemary. These plants summed her up perfectly. The sweet looking Hellebore and the spiky and feisty looking Rosemary.
We grieved for months. The first week passed in a blur of going to bed at 8.30 because I couldn’t bear to be up. I couldn’t eat, read or write – normally all these things comfort me. I blamed myself for not acting in time, for not noticing things and for letting things slide. But in time I have come to realise that we did the best we could and she had a good two years with us.
For a while, I stopped going on walks along Merri Creek as it was too painful. Too many memories of Bronte. Often, the worst time of day was coming home from work and not being greeted by a small white dog.
Several other families we know lost their precious dogs. In a way, this blog post is for all of them- the owners of Rowdy, Alfie, Lani and Max. And for anyone who has lost a beloved pet. It does get easier and it’s comforting to know that Bronte is still with us, in the front yard under the olive tree.
On New Year’s Eve, we adopted another rescue dog a 15-week-old puppy from Broken Hill- Lany. She’s wormed her way into our hearts already- as dogs do. She’s boisterous and exhausting and lovable. We have no idea what we’re doing and the house has been turned upside down again. The cats feel that they are in some kind of hell and it’s all too reminiscent of bringing a new baby home. It’s shaken us all up but in a good way. All a bit of the cause and effect of Haru. If we hadn’t had him, we wouldn’t have had Bronte and we wouldn’t have adopted Lany.