Written by Gary Boustead
One day they arrive. With all the excitement of a new friend and the responsibility of ownership that goes with it.
Suddenly there is this animal, a living, vulnerable thing, dependent on you for its every need. Day in and day out, the walks, the routine, the mealtimes and the training.
With time the bond forms and they settle into your home while at the same time creeping into your heart. They discover every little part of you, establish their favourite places and let you know they have become part of the family on equal terms, with no other expectation other than love in return for theirs.
As the years go by, they grow into your daily existence. You rely on them to be there for you, every day and all the time. When you need them, when they need you, and when they drive you crazy with worry or frustration. And they often do, when they are sick or injured or do something mad in the garden. When they are attacked, lost and hopefully found. Their dedication and love grow with each passing year.
But they are short years. Because the clock is always ticking faster for them, their lives run at a different pace. Their bodies age and the seeping ailments creep in, they are not so agile anymore, they become less active, and you find yourself looking at them and wondering, asking the question, small at first of when it might be their time? And it fills you with dread, that you know, and their eyes know, and you watch the suffering increase. You love them with all your heart, as they do you and the pain of their pain becomes yours and you hope that maybe nature will take its course, but it often does not until the day comes when you cannot bear their suffering anymore.
You make the arrangements or just act on the day, but it is never easy, and you always wonder if its too soon. Should you have waited longer? Another day, another week, perhaps a month. They look at you and you wish they could talk and tell you what they are feeling. Then, in an instant they are gone. And you grieve for them, you find their hair on blankets a year later and although missing them becomes less painful it never really goes away because a little bit of their soul lives on inside you.