Here’s Olly, looking handsome and intelligent as always. I first met him in August 2010 at The Birmingham Dogs Home. He was poking his nose through one of the gaps in his kennel door, desperate for love and affection. We all knew he was the one, the one that we would give a home to, care for, play with, look after and ultimately love for the rest of his dog life. A month before Olly moved into our home, we had just lost the love of our lives – Sandy.
My mum and siblings first fell in love with her twelve years ago at The Birmingham Dogs Home. My dad had just passed away and my mum thought getting a dog would bring the family together and help with the healing process. I was ten years old at the time and completely heart broken, so on that rainy February afternoon, we went to find the perfect dog, and I remember smiling for the first time in weeks. My sister was the one that found her, sat by the door of her kennel, her puppy eyes peering up, needing someone to love her. She was tiny, no more than eight months old and her fur was the colour of sand. I remember wondering why anybody would want to give this puppy away, or leave her out on the streets. We were allowed to meet her, so we all cramped inside her kennel, kneeling down to give her some attention, she smiled – a toothy grin. A week later, she was ours. I put all my love and energy into chasing her around the garden, taking her on long walks around the park, playing with her toys, running after her when she had stolen mine, and spoiling her with affection. Months passed by and her personality grew. Whenever she had done something wrong, she’d slowly walk away, grinning at us, her way of admitting it. In the morning, I’d walk into the kitchen, and she’d jump out of her bed, smiling, and go and sit by the cupboard where her biscuits were. It’s as if she were slowly turning into a person, a person with a routine, and a person who was always there when we needed her.
My mum was right, because Sandy did bring us all together and she helped ease the pain. Some days when I couldn’t get out of bed because I felt too sad, she would appear and jump on me, as if she were forcing me to get up and live. Some days when I would cry, she would sit by my feet, and grin, as if she were forcing me to smile back. She quickly became the heart of the family and I thank her for giving me something to smile about, throughout those painful years, and being able to love an animal as much as I love a human. And mostly, I thank her for making me feel alive again. When she died, I was completely lost. I know people who’s dogs have died can fully understand what I mean when I say that, but you are lost for a while, especially when you realise just how silent the house becomes. Some people choose to not get another dog, whilst others get a new one almost straight away. And that brings me back to Olly [or teddy bear]
Unfortunately, I only had the pleasure of living with Olly for about 10 months, before I flew the nest [growing up – urgh]. But, during those ten glorious months, Olly made me realise just how special dogs are and how important they are to me. Although his personality is the total opposite of Sandy [he’s shy, always needs to be touched, and likes frozen chips], they share so many similarities. Maybe the fact that my family are energetic and positive people, it rubs off on our dogs and they end up becoming one of us? When I moved out, I felt like something was missing, and I’ve had that feeling ever since. I know it’s because whenever I wake up in the morning, I’m not greeted by the sound of pattering paws walking to the cupboard for biscuits, or a little morning grin next to my bed. I don’t have the pleasure of walking a dog around the park over the road, letting him off his lead, and watching him run off into the distance, rolling around the grass and feeling free. I’m not greeted by a bear hug when I arrive home, followed by endless kisses on the cheek. Although, I miss these things deeply and I feel my life isn’t complete without a hairy friend, I know that right now I haven’t got the time or space to give all of my love to a dog. It wouldn’t be fair to leave him for hours, have to move house every few years, and not provide a big garden, full of things for him to explore. Who knows, the right time might be next year, or in five. Whenever that is, I’ll make it my mission to give that dog the best home he’ll ever have and love him forever.
“A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.”
― John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog