It’s a Dog’s Life!

It’s a Dog’s Life!

I don’t want to put a dampener on things, not when we’re finally beginning to get back to some kind of normality. Lord knows, there’s been enough bad news without me adding to it. But I just wanted to share the fact that we have recently lost our dog. Not lost as in slipped his lead and ran away. Lost as in gone to heaven, over the rainbow bridge and into the next life of endless treats, constant sunshine and more doggy friends than he ever thought possible.

At this point, I will lose some of you too. You’ll turn the page, indifferent to whatever else I have to say, bored of a topic that, quite frankly, is of no interest to you whatsoever. The rest of you, however, the dog lovers among you, will read on. Already sympathetic, the memory of (or idea of) losing your own dog, will aid your understanding of my loss and compel you to continue, despite the sorrowful subject. Because, let’s face it, only those who have owned a dog, fed it every day, walked it day and night, rain or shine, picked up its poo and wiped up its sick, will know how I feel.

Ozzie was a Jack Russell Terrier, the cutest little thing with one brown eye and one blue. At thirteen, it was obvious he was edging towards the end of his life but even so, I was nowhere near ready to say goodbye. He was my comfort at sad times, soaking up my tears better than a three-ply tissue ever could. He was my mate at happy times, jumping for joy so I didn’t look silly doing it by myself. He was my personal trainer, forcing me outdoors when I’d rather put my feet up and watch TV. A comedian, making me laugh with his quirky habits. My tormentor, almost choking me when he silently passed wind. An irritant, peeing up my leg when he was overexcited. But he was always my best friend. Ozzie, it has to be said, was the best.

I suppose it must be like having children. Your own are always better than everyone else’s. Cleverer, prettier, kinder, more loving, more generous, more talented. Let’s be honest, we’re all biased when it comes to our families. And dogs (as well as cats, rabbits, hamsters, canaries, or whatever else you share your home with) are part of the family.

Ozzie insisted on eating breakfast the same as we did. He enjoyed a trip out in the car, a walk along the beach and a relaxing evening by the fire. He chased away strangers but welcomed friends. He knew exactly who liked him. And who didn’t. He knew precisely when it was time for dinner. And woe betide anyone who tried to steal his toys. He was one of us, as much a part of the family as the rest of us.

He first became ill in 2018, his zest for life suddenly absent. The vet prescribed what became known in our family as ‘happy pills’, transforming him (albeit temporarily) from a sorry-looking OAP to a carefree young pup. Gone was the old man with his tail between his legs and no interest in his lead. Replaced instead with a playful little guy, first in the queue for a day trip, raring to go in his new tartan coat.

But Ozzie wasn’t stupid. He spat out his pills like I spat out Brussels sprouts. Coupled with the tumour that was growing inside him, his days, it seemed, were numbered. Despite his healthy appetite, the weight fell off him faster than we could say ‘walkies’ until, eventually, we knew it was time.

As a dog owner, there is nothing more painful than taking your beloved pooch to the vet knowing you’re not bringing him back. It is the worst kind of heartache and one that only other dog lovers will understand. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried; broke my heart, in fact. The house just isn’t the same without him. I miss his happy face when I walk in the door, his excited face when I put on my shoes, his hopeful face when I make a sandwich (especially if it’s cheese). I miss his handsome face when he poses for a picture, his playful face when he chases a ball, his sleepy face when we say goodnight. But say goodnight we did.

As heartbroken as I am and as raw as it still feels, it’s reassuring to know that we gave him the best life. A happy life in a loving home. Quite literally, a dog’s life. And it’s heartening to know that, maybe, just maybe, we can do the same again. Because, as those of you who are still reading this will know, life just isn’t the same without a dog.

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