Brief Lives

Posted Sat 06 Apr
3 comments so far

Everyone else wanted a dog. I didn’t. Never grew up with them. Never even considered one. For all the usual reasons: I’d be the one picking up after it. I’d be the one playing with it. I’d be the one taking it for walks (oh the absolute irony of that, which I’ll likely get to). So I set a single condition: I got to choose the name. This did cause some alarm, but I gave reassurances it wouldn’t be anything too obscure, nor from the Greek pantheon. The family agreed to my demand, and we ended up with a puppy. Called Tycho.

A small, wrinkly thing with an uneven distribution of hair. (Which the vet was skeptical of him growing properly, it has to be said.) The first night we had him, we were prepared. A cage (voluminous) with blankets, pillows. Comfortable. Would he go in the cage to sleep? Not in the slightest. But in he had to go. And proceeded to cry, keeping the whole house awake. So I slept in the kitchen beside the new pup. For days. As that kept him quiet. I thought it would be just while he was getting used to his new home. Up to the night before he died, he was never further than a few feet from where I slept.

I mean, we’d researched the breed and theoretically knew what to expect. Strong, wilful, intelligent, loyal. He was certainly all those. And Staffy puppies do like to chew. And by goodness chew he did. He used to take books off the bookshelf, and chomp them. But he was highly selective. Turns out the only books he ever did this to were mine. I mean, he actually managed to pull a single book from among many others based on the fact it was mine. Good taste, obviously.

And if you ever see toys described as ‘indestructible’, you can bet it has never been given to a Staffy. The one toy that lasted longest was his beloved football, a solid (and I mean solid) plastic globe. He only went through two of those in his lifetime. I remember playing with him as a puppy with it in a local field, when a happy toddler came bouncing over to kick it to him. I shouted for him to not to (I had just kicked the ball, which is why I wasn’t that close) to the look of consternation of the parent. When the child pulled his foot back and tried to hoof the ball, the ensuing cries and wails made it obvious why I was shouting. It was indeed a solid plastic globe. In the rain, in the snow, in the sun, Tycho and I would be in the back garden, kicking his ball. If I dallied putting my shoes on, he would tell the whole street I was late.

But oh, the puppy field. Where locals take there puppies for safe training. There is a carpark, and they lock the gates at dusk. Many nights, the person who locked the gate would look on in disbelief as I tried to catch this little black bundle of energy. Tycho would always stay just out of my reach, then sit. I’d approach, he’d scarper. And sit. Could take hours and the chap got used to it, telling me it was funny as it looked like I was as stubborn as the animal.

I never taught him any tricks, but the others did. For me I was there to chase him, play the strength/resistance games, kick his ball. And take him for walks. When V used to take the children to school, he’d go for the walk. Half way. Then refuse (and stories of her having to carry him…) But I’d be too thran for that caper, and we’d go on walks. This was the first inkling of his high degree of order and routine. Or, you know, doggy-OCD. He’d happily walk his traditional routes, but vary those? You’d end up with a solid mass on the ground, seemingly heavier than the frame that was looking up at you. But if you chose the right route, that wouldn’t happen.

In the end, it wasn’t so much that I was the only one who could walk him, it was more no one else quite understood some of this. But mostly I was the only one who could walk him. And not for the want of everyone else trying, I have to say. They wanted to take him, but he’d refused. But me? He’d not refuse me, and off we’d go. It also annoyed others when they walked with us, as they had to go not only at our pace, but our direction.

He loved a good explore through woodland. He loved the beach. About the only thing he didn’t really like was water. No rivers or streams for him, if the water came up above his ankles. As the years wore on, his speed decreased. But we’d still do as many Sundays as we could in Wandlebury. Same route, every week. Just Tycho, the trees and I. (The Sunday after he died, I walked our route on my own. It…wasn’t easy. But I am not avoiding it because of all the memories, rather it is a celebration wander of everything he gave to us.)

I could fill this with anecdote after anecdote about him. He wasn’t just woven into our family life, he was part of our family life. Everyone who met him loved him, and was surprised as ‘they never considered Staffys before’. He was a character and a loyal companion.

So whatever celestial forest you are snuffling around and exploring, wait for me old buddy, I’ll catch you up soon enough.

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