These past few weeks have been a pretty sad time. I have just had to bid goodbye to my four-legged companion of these past eleven years. It’s funny how, no matter how much time we’re granted with our beloved pets, it is never enough. Only a real pet-lover will understand me when I say this; it’s one of life’s most unfair deals that our pets’ average lifespan is so much shorter than ours.
You could say that I’ve been luckier than most and that I was blessed to enjoy my dog’s company for over a decade. I still remember the day she arrived home; an over-active two year old “pup” which had been found roaming the streets of Sliema. Looking rather lost and eager for human companionship, she was taken in temporarily by another dog-loving couple before I got to know about her through an email chain and fell in love with the intense way she was looking at the camera.
Following that day I had eleven years of constant adventures, inquisitiveness and (unsuccessful) attempts to keep her from eating every single thing in sight. Mentally she remained a “pup” throughout her whole life. A mixture between a boxer, a labrador and heaven knows what else, I was told that it’s very common with mixed breeds of this sort to never reach full mental maturity and to remain stuck with pup-like exuberance. Just the right pet for me, I was constantly told.
And she really was. Of course, there were days when she made me want to hide in embarrassment. Such as the time when she deftly swooped a huge ħobża biż-żejt (a huge Maltese sandwich with tuna, tomatoes and capers amongst other yummy stuff) right from the hands of a hapless passer-by who was too busy waving his arms around while chatting on his mobile. Or the time I gave her free rein on a pretty abandoned rocky beach, only for her to return with half a fish in her mouth. A fish, I was to learn, that she had scooped out of some fisherman’s bucket of spoils. Or the time she managed to jump across to my neighbours’ roof, leaving a huge puddle for them by way of visiting card.
These little peccadilloes she more than made up for by being absolutely the most good-natured dog I’d ever met. I’m aware that most people tend to make this claim with respect to their dog, but this one seriously didn’t have a mean bone in her body. Never once did I hear a growl of protest, no matter how much we teased her – and we did do that rather mercilessly at times.
For thirteen trouble-free years (at least, I assume the two years before she met me were trouble-free) she lived life with a zest that was pure joy to behold. And the zest remained undiminished even throughout these past months, when sickness and old-age started to do their best to slow her down. They didn’t manage. No matter how sick, she was never too sick to wolf down any interesting morsel of food that was presented to her. And no matter how unsteady her legs got, they were never too unsteady to insist on at least a forty-minute walk. Sheer joy of life spurred her on, even helping her make it down the stairs – with help, but still – so she could get her daily fix of interesting smells and cat watching till the very last.
When the time comes to say goodbye, no matter how you kid yourself that you’re prepared you never are. I wish you coud have stayed just a little bit more, Shanna.
This piece appeared on The TV Guide (The Times of Malta) on August 20.