The phrase ‘man’s best friend’ is cliche, everyone knows this and accepts that the companionship of a dog isn’t limited to gender. Personally I’d never truly understand the real meaning of said phrase but now as I look back on the life and times of my own dog I can say without a doubt that a dog truly is a ‘man’s best friend’.
However, my realisation of this isn’t due to my personal reaction to the death of my family household dog but because of the response from my dad. Yes, I was utterly distraught and I’m not ashamed to admit that for the days following his passing I wasn’t the man I usually am. I always knew that this would be the way I would react, as I knew I was losing a loved one who had been in my life for 12 years. My dog, J.C, was a caring family member who in my deepest moments of anger and sadness would always be able to put a smile across my face no matter the situation.
What I was not expecting was my Dad’s reaction. It’s fair to say my Dad is your typical Glaswegian guy. A man who is utterly charismatic, uniquely charming, admittedly annoying but still a genuine guy who would do anything for his friends and family. For people who know him these are characteristics which easily fit my Dad, but I would also say that the man has a clear emotional barricade. He shields his true feelings a majority of the time, as many men do, and very rarely will I see him break and express clear emotions.
Then the 9th of July happened.
J.C had been ill for a long time. Being a Staffordshire Bull Terrier we knew for the moment he was born that it would be very rare for him to live into his teens but J.C being J.C, he had a true will to survive. As he got into his teens it was very clear that my best friend was starting to show clear signs of fatigue. My once energetic and crazy wild dog was now an old man who showed little interest in the daily adventure he once had.
Then around a year ago things got significantly worse. J.C began being a victim of horrific seizures and he was collapsing frequently. We thought it was time to say goodbye but he improved, not massively but improved. However, last month my dog got ill again. He began bleeding in important areas and was highly immobile. So my dad made a decision to take him to the vet, and J.C never came home.
My sister and I weren’t home when he made that decision, but on my way home I saw my dad sitting in his car talking to the vet. Then I saw something I had never seen before; my dad broke down in front of me. For the first time in my life I saw my dad cry. The man who is an emotional brick wall, crumbled at my feet.
This is what losing a family member looked like. This wasn’t the death of just a pet but of someone who was truly loved and appreciated. And you know what; my dad truly hasn’t been the same. None of my family have. There is a J.C shaped hole in the construction of our household which isn’t going to heal easily.
When a pet comes into your life, no matter what, they will always be in your life. The physical loss of them doesn’t stop that.
Words by Paul Dawson