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A Tribute to the Dog Who Saved My Life

The Side of My Dog No One Ever Saw

She was a scruffy mongrel my brother and I had picked out from the pound. She was the only dog that didn't look like it wanted to rip off my arm, and the only one my small frame could hold back on a leash. In excitement, we eventually persuaded our parents that this dog, this was the one. 

She was no ordinary dog, let's blame her two difficult years before she came into our family (not my terrible seven-year-old clicker training). We of course, my whole family, had no idea how to raise a dog and YouTube became our best friend. Unfortunately, to our humiliating dismay, those feel-good dog movies overrode our common sense when we brought our black-and-tan scraggly terrier to the beach. 

I unclipped her lead, after just owning the precious dog (which my brother decided to call Polly) for two days. The next moments were magical. 

She looked up at us, with huge brown eyes, turned... and bolted. But no, our dog was far too intelligent to just have a pleasant paw pummel through the damp sand, she had a goal—a mission, if you will. Eyes locked, target chosen, she charged straight at a miniature herd of poodles, all yapping around the ankles of their wiry-haired owner. Needless to say, neither the owner, nor her poodles were impressed by our rabid dog. 

It took us a very, very long time to catch her again. 

We came to the conclusion our dog was broken, but we were pretty sure the pound wasn't going to refund the pup and me and my brother were madly, crazily in love. This dog of sorts, was the product of a two childhoods of crying and begging and pleading and parents shouting and migraines.

My favourite memory of that dog, was probably the time I entered her into a dog competition my dad discovered in the local newspaper. At eight years old, I spent hours upon hours dragging my dog around the garden, trying to lure her into my commands with treats and mild harassment. I also brushed her to an extent, that upon reflection, could not have been good for her skin. My best investment I ever made with my small collection of pocket money, was the dog harness. That harness won us the show. 

Let me explain to those who aren't familiar with the concept of a small dog show what it was like: lots of dogs, walking in circles on leads. The 'man in the middle' (the judge) called commands, i.e. stop, sit, jog, etc., and everybody just went for it. He gradually eliminated a few people, and then chose out the three top. Now, my secret technique, which I give to you out of pure kindness: hold the lead so tight with your dog on the harness that it basically hovers just above the ground, its paws just touching the ground.

Voila, I just gave you a dog that heels perfectly, stops when you stop and goes when you go. You are welcome. 

Now, standing among my three rivals, my moment came. First place. My pride allowed my concentration to slip, along with my grip on the lead. Polly, being an obedient and now amazingly trained dog, did not run. No, she just tried to attack the dog beside her that received third place. 

Boy did I grab that trophy fast before anyone changed their mind. Still, it's my claim to fame. 

Over the course of the many years with our beloved family pet, we discovered all of her favourite pastimes:
  • Killing things 
  • Trying to kill things
  • Finding things to kill 
  • Never wanting to play with toys 
  • Looking at us like we were stupid when we threw a ball and yelled "Fetch!"
  • Never chasing her tail
  • Barking at anything that moved outside the window
  • Thinking about killing the things that moved outside the window
  • Annoying us
  • Biting our friends and relatives
  • Pretending to be nice to friends and relatives until she is close enough to attack their face
  • Trying to kill the previously mentioned relatives and friends
  • Never returning when off leash
  • Belly rubs
  • Eating our food
  • Eating rat poison and scaring the *!?# out of us
  • Trying to kill bees and losing the battle
  • Trying to kill pedestrians when we go for walks
  • Trying to kill children
  • Trying to kill other dogs
  • Generally hating anything that moves and trying to kill it
  • Having no other dog-friends, despite all our efforts
  • Trying to kill sheep and ponies in the mountains
  • The list continues

She was definitely not your average dog, but despite her aggressive tendencies, never in eleven years did she take it out on the four of us. Not once—in fact, she was a completely different dog around us, which is something sadly no one else would have been able to see. We loved her. In a way, I felt special being one of the only four people she loved and trusted. 

When I fell into deep depression, I hated other people as much as she did. They hurt me a lot, or else overcrowded me. I just wanted to be alone. Except, I really didn't—what I wanted was someone to just treat me the way I needed. On my darkest days, I found myself incapable of doing anything, and would spend hours glued to the sofa curled into a ball, unable to move from the purity of sadness that overcame me. Enduring it almost killed me at times, or so it felt. 

Polly, she knew. My parents did not always recognise how bad I was feeling, but she did. When she did, she came and curled up on the sofa with me. Sometimes there was barely room, but she would contort her little body into mind and snuggle up tight. She wouldn't leave me. She wouldn't even sleep—she would just lie there. She was my rock.

That was why yesterday, I stayed with her in the veterinary clinic. I held her in my arms, while a yellow syringe was connected into the catheter in her front leg. It went in slowly. When the end of the syringe passed halfway, her head began to slowly drop as the last half continued to be slowly pushed into her veins. Her whole body relaxed in my arms, sinking down. I held her for a moment, before laying her on the table. I knew I needed to be there for her in her final moments the way she was for me. She was a dog to never be forgotten.

Thank you for an amazing eleven years. 

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