There’s always a special connection with a dog. Me or my family have never owned a cat, but I’m sure it’s the same with cat owners. But, at least in my mind, there’s always that connection with a dog that feels just that bit more special.
It’s January 2004. I’m coming home from what was a shit day from school. I wasn’t the biggest fan of school (who wasn’t) and I hated it to the extent I felt depressed throughout secondary school. I’m trudging up the front door ramp when, through the window outside, I see a white furry thing in our living room. A small thing. I came running into our kitchen to see what it was. It was a puppy. A west highland terrier, to be exact.
It was the most adorable thing I ever seen in my life (still is, actually). I knew then I’d love that dog until the day it or I died. And I did. I named him Homer after The Simpsons. My dad wasn’t best too pleased about it, but my mum overuled him. Homer it was.
For years and years, we’d literally play together in some way. The dog would run around the house in literally a Speedy Gonzalez way if you got him overly excited for anything (short of the W word anyways – he’d fully go nuclear after that). He was also mischievous to the point where he basically managed to get hold of my Season 1 DVD boxset of Alias and destroy most of the discs on it through teething when he was a pup.
That’s Homer above. I took that photo of him in 2006 (I think) just after I filmed a video (now sadly lost to time) of him and me in our (poop-infested, no less) decking, playing with his squeaky ball. That is the best picture I’ve ever taken in my life and will probably remain so for a good while yet. It showed him at his most stupid (he was a mix of smart and stupid – but lovably so either way, of course), but also at his happiest. It was lovely.
Sadly, this is where the happy sappy stuff ends. This doesn’t have a happy ending.
It’s February 20, 2008 (I remember the date well because it was my cousin’s birthday the night before and I was out then). I remember being up early in the morning to let him out and looking at him fondly. He was, at the time, my best friend (I say that because I never really had that many friends at the time after leaving school). I didn’t get to play a lot with him that day as I usually did. If only I knew what then followed, I would have.
My Dad normally took Homer out for a walk either up or down the road for about 15-20 minutes every night (except Sundays). I was actually asleep when my Dad took the dog out this one night. So the dog’s out and probably happy as can be. Then it happened. A car passing along comes up on the curb and narrowly misses my Dad. But it hit Homer. Why the car came up on the curb, no one ever knows. Dad’s mainly fine, but the dog’s not doing too good. Regardless of the status of owner and pet, the car stopped for the briefest of moments and then drove off. No assistance for my Dad or the dog as if nothing happened.
The dog is brought back to the house and into the living room, where I was sleeping at the same. Shocking enough, I wasn’t woken up once by the commotion that was happening with the dog, still alive at the time. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and head back into my bedroom and stay there until about 8:30am.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but I heard my Dad get a call. I could tell by the somberness of it that it wasn’t good news even despite at that point, I still didn’t know what happened to the point I called to see if he wanted out to do his business. Anyways, the call was from the vet. Homer didn’t make it through the night and died.
But before anyone could have the chance to tell me, I was already out of the house and on my way to an internet cafe (our house internet was busted, so I had to use an internet cafe for the better part of six months until it was sorted) when my cousin approaches me and asks if Homer is alright. Assuming he’s lying underneath one of my parents’ beds like he did sometimes, which I thought was why he didn’t want out, I answer, “yeah, of course, he’s fine. Why wouldn’t he be?” She never told me what happened because I was halfway down the road by that point.
When I came back from the cafe and home, my mum and a few other people were waiting for me. I was then told what happened. Everyone was upset. Except me. At least, not in the traditional sense. My heart sank and my mind was going 180mph after hearing the news. I didn’t break down in tears until I went into my room nonchalantly. Seeing a picture of his (the same one as above) as my wallpaper on my PS3 then set me off.
That first day? Heartbreak. The days afterwards, you keep expecting him to meet you at the door when coming home from somewhere, like he always did. Then realise he isn’t going to be there for the rest of his or your life. Those days felt blank. They were empty. Nothing could replace that dog or the memories you had with it.
But we loved having a dog in our lives again (we had one before Homer, but the gap between the last one and Homer was seven-ish years), so another westie was soon to follow. A week after what happened (some may feel this may have been a bit too soon – I did too a bit, to be fair), we got hold of a pup who was two-ish months old. Again, like Homer, he was adorable. I first met him when I was coming back from a friend’s place.
And ever since then, he’s still with me today. He’s a lot more dumber than Homer and whilst we’ve had our fallings out, that dog is still one of the most important things to me in my life. His name is Buddy.
That photo was taken two years ago, but that’s pretty much how he is now. He’s got a few traits that remind me of Homer – he’s batshit mental, would lie under the parents’ beds and more. But he’s still unique in that he is Buddy.
So what’s the coherent point to all of this? None, I guess. But I think what I’m trying to say is this: don’t ever take your relationship with your dog for granted. You’ll never know what’ll happen to it down the line. A dog will be there for your during the best and worst of times. It’ll be there when you need a friend. And it’ll be there when you feel like you have no-one in your life left.
Be kind to your dog. Be playful with your dog. And most of all, love your dog. You only live once. And so too will your dog.
[This post was inspired by an amazing blog you should absolutely read on Thought Catalog. Thanks to my friend and ex-VG247 colleague Brenna Hillier for the link.]