Growing up, I wanted a dog. Mum and Dad said that when I was seven, I could have a dog. I woke up on my seventh birthday and said “Can I have my doggie now?” Of course, they didn’t dive into things and it took us a little while longer to get set up, but we finally got her the summer of that year, from an animal shelter. Roxy, a German Shepherd/Border Collie cross. She was with me from when I was 7 until I was 21. She was 14 years old when she died, and she was the best dog ever.
Her old owners gave her up because she was too much work. By that, I mean they kept her locked in a tiny flat all day and then got confused when she destroyed things. How can you keep a puppy crossed of those breeds in a tiny flat? When I saw her in the shelter, she greeted us like we were her owners, running around like crazy. It’s as if she knew we were there to take her home. But I managed to get her to sit, there and then, for all of two seconds. When we took her home, we found out she could shake a paw. When I was sick, she’d sit beside me by the sofa the whole time.
She didn’t bark much, except when the post lady came. She was hyperactive in her early years and still had her moments into her senior years. She had a boyfriend, a boxer, and they would lick each other before haring over the fields together in a game of chase. She wasn’t too good with other dogs she didn’t know, and I had to keep her under control once while a Jack Russell had a right snarling go at her.
She was a scaredy dog, really. She had the normal doggie fears, vets, thunderstorms, fireworks. She didn’t like the crackling fireplace and would never snuggle up with me beside it. We had a fishpond, and in summer she’d sit in the shade next to it. Sometimes, the fish inside would splash around, with big splashes, and she’d jump up and run to the opposite end of the garden. She learnt to be scared of bees, after nosing a few on the clover and getting stung, she’d run a mile when one buzzed.
She loved snow, though. I used to throw her snowballs, which she loved. If they hit the ground, they’d disintegrate, but our smell was still all over it. Sometimes, she’d catch them in mid-air, leading to her standing with snow on her face. Better than normal tennis balls, which ended up down so many rabbit holes. One time, she found a branch about twice as big as she was, and dragged it back home.
She had her moments, too. One time, we bought a tuna melt panini home for my father, in the bags with the rest of the shopping, and left it unattended for two seconds. We came back to an empty wrapper, the panini gone. One time, she had a go at Mum’s homework. There used to be fox excrement over the fields where we walked her, and she would roll in every pile she found. And every hole in the fence we didn’t notice, she’d slither out of and find some mischief to get into over the road.
She slowed down. Her legs had been getting stiffer for years, but suddenly she wasn’t eating. For a dog that would finish her dinner in two seconds, this was a first sign something was seriously wrong. Then her legs gave out almost completely, she could barely hobble. This change from a perfectly lively elderly dog to could barely move happened over a week. We took her down to the vets. The vet took one look at her, and told us she really should be put to sleep. I cried, but she died peacefully. I’m sorry that she even got to that state before we got her there, but if we’d known something was wrong beforehand, we would have done something about it. She went downhill fast.
Even though her death was a few years ago now, not a day goes by when I don’t miss her. It’s not a constant hurt like it was when she first left us, but I’ll just see something that reminds me of her and wish she was still here. Some people might find it strange to miss an animal this much, but they don’t understand. She wasn’t just an animal, or a pet, she was family. She was with me for many of my formative years, and as an only child, she was my sister.