- - - - Content Warning: pet death - - - -
Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been absolutely besotted with dogs. Growing up around a fair furry few, it wasn’t hard for my adoration for them to develop over the years. My very own Dottie, a tenacious little Staffy/Pitbull cross from my local shelter, was undoubtedly the greatest joy of my childhood. I would play and talk to her incessantly, my exuberance for my new found friend unbounded. When we first got her she was emaciated and frail, covered from head to paws in scars and cuts. She was a mere shadow with wide, terrified brown eyes. A ghost in both presence and appearance, this was emphasized further by the streaks of white paint which clung to her matted ginger fur… a twisted token left by her tormenters. Like a lot of dogs at the shelter, Dottie was on doggy death row, deemed too dangerous to others and held responsible for her own abuse, paying for it with her own life. Needless to say we had to have her.
Once bathed and given a nice warm bed, I encouraged the little shadow to see the light. Dottie was tentative and shy, nervous around loud noises and hesitant to my touch. I couldn’t have loved her more. Her trust was by no means easy to attain but over time she began to reveal more to me about herself; she was not defined by her past, nor was she the vicious fighting machine she was purposely bred to become. She was playful and full of life, vibrant and shining with a purpose and yet at the same time, the laziest little shit I have ever encountered. She was happiest when she was eating (she had a strong weakness for cheese and all things dairy), napping in the afternoon and barking at the postman on his daily deliveries (in Dottie’s defence, he did look kind of shifty). I even designated a spot on my pillow just for her so that she would never be far from my side. Eleven long and happy years were spent dedicated to the life of Dottie… I cherish every memory I have of her.
When it was her time to go, I never realised how much it would affect me. The half hour long drive to the vet felt like an eternity as we stared out the window together, one last time. The weather was miserable, grey and full of rain. It seemed fitting given the circumstances. I carried her to the double doors of the veterinary centre, not letting her little arthritic legs for one second touch the cold, wet ground. Her blind, clouded eyes flitted across a sterile, white room, oblivious to her surroundings and the goings on around her. The vet asked if I would like to put her down on the table… One look at that cold, metal slab made me shudder and I refused, holding Dottie closer to my chest. She wouldn’t go through this alone. She lay on my lap while the vet administered the injection. My girl struggled a few times; her tenaciousness not lost after all this time. I calmed her down, smoothed my palm over her pricked up little ears and kissed her gently, willing her to settle. Don’t fight it. She soon relaxed and the vet continued.
One minute it took. One minute and I felt her little body go limp in my arms. A couple more seconds and then she was gone. Fast asleep and locked in my embrace. No more pain Dottie. In those last few moments she knew how much she was loved, I made sure of it. No matter how much it saddens me looking back on that fateful day in September, I don’t regret my choices, I’m glad I was with her till the very end. Dottie was my sunshine breaking through the clouds on a grey, rainy day and for the short time we had her, she made me infinitely happy. Six months on and I'm still holding her collar close to me as I write this.
One day I shall open my own home for dogs in Dottie’s honour. Unadoptables and mongrels alike will be warmly welcomed as well as any dogs who have been given a bad start in life and are in need of a second chance. Whilst writing is my passion and main career ambition, dogs are my first and foremost love in life. If you are at home this holiday, I encourage you all to give your dog or pet or loved one a hug. Appreciate them and let them know they are loved. It does not need to be said, small gestures are just as effective. Just let them know you care.
In loving memory of Dottie Will (My little sunshine)