When I was a kid, I was totally petrified of dogs. If I saw one nearby, I would stay inside until it was gone. If I was out, I’d run to the nearest shop. I’d often avoid going to friend’s places if they had dogs, and if I turned up somewhere and discovered a dog, I’d wait in the car.
This was a major problem.
And it continued until I was around 16. So if I ever visited your place anytime up until that age and you had dogs? I must have really liked hanging out with you.
It all changed one day in the middle of winter. My parents had gone to pick up my sister from work, and when they came home they had a little furry puppy. So soft, so little, so cute… and so terrifying. She’d been dumped in a construction site, found, and somehow wormed her way into our family. I was horrified.
We named her Barkley, and were told she was a German Shepherd. Barkley, for some reason, followed me. Everywhere.
It was around this time I was being bullied really badly at high school. Every day was hideously painful, and in hindsight I would say that this was my first period of depression. One day I came home from school and found Barkley in my bedroom. I slammed the door and turned around and there she was – poking out from under my bed. I flopped down next to her and sobbed. She crawled into my lap, and that was that: the bond was made.
Barkley changed my life.
She taught me to love animals, and to respect them. She taught me to play again, and to listen. She taught me the value of stillness and time and thorough baths.
When I moved to Newcastle, not a day went by when I didn’t think of her. It was like a piece of myself was missing.
Every time I saw her, she would be older and older. She was having a lot of trouble getting around, and life was slowly leaving her. The second last time I saw her, I sat with her and gently explained that if she wanted to go and find mum, she could. That we’d all be OK. That she’d done everything there was for her to do. That it was OK for her to rest now.
The next time I saw her was heart breaking. I held her paw.
The pain caused by their moving on is worth the unconditional love. And I believe that their love makes us better people.
I love Barkley, and I am glad she has gone to hang out with mum. I know one day I will get to hold her paw and rub her armpit again.
It was a few years later that found my beloved and I at the RSPCA, rescuing a small brown puppy. It was when we were introducing Harry and Zelda to this brown bullet that it happened: the puppy clambered into my lap, and pressed herself against me in a kind of puppy-cuddle.
My Scouty girl.
I love my Scouty girl, and the way she follows me like a dedicated cross between a shadow and a minion. I love her cleverness and the way she exhibits so many human qualities – except the ability to judge. She dobs, and makes it very clear what you have done wrong – but she still just loves.
I’m not sure what inspired this post today. I guess there are days when the soul craves the touch of unconditional love, of judgement-free attachment, of knowing that yourself is enough. But I know when I see Scouty next, and Harold and Zelda, the loving is going to fill exactly those spots that need it.