Today I lost a friend.
At seven years old, I was introduced to a feisty character who would later become the heart of my family. During his infancy, he learned about life and the daily components of the routine established by his human counter parts. He sneakily enjoyed a daily poop behind the sofa and biting zips with his shiny white daggers, my new friend was, at times, a little mischievous. His excitement was contagious and I was in awe of his ‘Get-up-and-go’ approach to life. Get up and go, on the back window, while standing on the parcel shelf of the car. Our peers emerging from school chorusing “Is that your dog peeing in the car?” Yes. Yes it is!
At 8 years old, I found myself in a new house, a new school and feeling somewhat alone. At 2 years old, my friend found hiding places for treats he would uncover years later and became attached to a pink ball called Squeaky. Squeaky always had a smile on her face despite losing her squeak early on in life.
My friend was a barking connoisseur. Barking at birds, barking at cats, barking at the wind, barking at anything that moved. A low, consistent, rough growl suitable for all situations. I’m not sure if the boy smoked on the sly, but it sounded to me like he did.
As life handed me lemons, Ben wanted me to throw them. Over and over. And over. Until I learned that no matter what life threw, we could always see the bright side of any situation. Coming home to a wagging tail, made life a little more bearable. Who am I kidding? It made life livable.
Parking his fluffy butt down beside me, consoling me by licking away my tears after a bad day, his dog breath perfuming the air. Followed by a sneeze right in my face as if to say, “uggh, your tears taste disgusting!” At least he didn’t point out my over plucked eyebrows and teenage acne!
The front paws that dug into my legs, only to be held for a quick dance to the song on the radio. We had a mutual love for 80’s pop, or at least I think we did, his hearing declined with age. But I assume he enjoyed these moments, either way.
How many people can say they light up someone’s eyes just by existing? I can. No, really. I can. Yeah, yeah. Maybe cataracts set in the last four years, but the glisten was always there when I came in. The swish of the bushy tail that had never been docked, man I love that tail. The giddy butt wiggles and playful growls. Time to play, time for a treat, time for a wee. Let’s go!
Under the guidance of my life coach, I was taught the correct way to throw the ball 20 times. The right way to rub the belly and how not to touch the cute paw pads, EVER! If you open the fridge, it’s carrot time and don’t think he doesn’t know. Because he knows. As for treats, Grab them as if life depends on that tasty morsel of food. There’s a time and a place for “sit” and “paw”. Home is not one of them. Grab, smush, inhale, repeat. Watch your fingers, or I might just have one of those for lunch too. Just kidding. I’d spit it out for you to sew back on.
If you try to lift me, I will fight you! Boundaries. And please, don’t catch my eye while I’m pooping – I will make it awkward for you. By the way, that cat litter isn’t ready for the bin, it’s preserving potent supplements for refueling after intense playtime. Oh, you already put it out? How dare you not consult my dietary requirements first?!
The lanky and the small. We stuck together, no matter what. That time I decided to run away with my barbie backpack filled with one can of beans, a teddy and a piece of rope, Ben followed suit. That’s right. We don’t take orders from parental figures about eating dinner before dessert! However, our adventure was short lived when we realised the garden shed was a cold place to spend the evening.
During the last few months of my best friends life, he surprised us all with his zoomies from the back garden to the kitchen. Puppy mode: ON. Having fun is important, it replenishes the soul. Live a little, do that thing, feel the rush! Then sit back and feel cramps in muscles, you didn’t know you had!
Aside from the lively antics, I thank my wonderful fur friend for his patience, for the gentle lessons and the kind nudges. For those fleeting moments that can never be gotten back, I am forever grateful. When others left, you stayed by my side and in silence your companionship healed me.
Thank you for being authentically you. In all your moods. The chewing, the stealing from plates, the erratic barking, all of it. Thank you. You showed me parts of myself I needed to work on. You showed me what doesn’t really matter and what does.
Your time with me was brief and the moments we shared were never going to be long enough. I would never be ready to say goodbye to you. You are everything. To the eyes that saw every good and bad thing I’ve said or done, and still love me anyway. Thank you.
Maybe that’s it? Maybe you taught me in the most selfless way possible that I am worth loving in all my shattered human pieces? I admit to feeling unworthy of such devotion. To you I owe everything I am today, because without you I would have never known what it was like to have someone in my corner. In all your depth, you are not “just a dog”. You are abundance and gratitude. You are strength and vulnerability.
I see you. I see your determination to walk though the arthritis is trying to paralyze you. I see the pain when your body has given up but your mind is ever youthful. I see the courage, strength and bravery you exude. And just when I thought you couldn’t teach me more, with all of your vulnerability you showed me humanity. You showed me what it meant to be ever powerful and ever loving. To be open to hurt and pain just to love with your whole heart, completely giving.
With the face that was hardened and grey, the eyes that were steadfast to see, you spoke in silence. Time was ticking and goodbyes lingered everyday, you knew your time was coming. When your body couldn’t hold you and your sweet face was lost in pain, I took the time to love you and grieve the life you had left. My duty to your kindness, to ease your final breath, was lie you on their table and celebrate what you meant. So here you are leaving your legacy of love and kindness upon my heart.
You are remarkable. You are everything. You are the sun dancing through the trees on a cold day. You are hope. You are innocence. You are free.
My mentor, my confidant, my best friend.
You are the Alpenglow.
In memory of Ben
20th March 1999 – 3rd February 2016