The face of a dog haunted my thoughts today. I dreamed of him last night. It was Fluffy, a dog that once lived, almost a decade ago now, at my in-laws, a shih-tzu cross that was found wandering around their post office. They brought him home, called him Benji. To me he was Fluffy, with his thick white coat.
Fluffy was a good natured dog, but he had a couple of problems. He couldn't control his bowels when he got excited. In the car, in the bath he'd pop out some brown stuff. It stuck to his coat and we would have to cut the smelly matted hair off. He also developed a skin problem, probably an allergy to something in the yard, which lead to his skin turning red and much of his hair falling out. The vet's cortisone injections helped, but he needed better care.
One day, while B and I were away on holidays, he escaped from the yard (not for the first time) and was taken to the pound. The family decided that they couldn't look after him any longer. I hope he found a good home and someone to love him, but I fear that, with his poor condition. he may have been put to sleep. I only hope that the pound was true to it's "no killing" policy.
Last night in my dream I was playing with our dog Kita. There was a line of soft toys in the room with a dog sitting there staring at me. I looked again and it was Fluffy. As I saw him I realised that he had been there for at least three days straight and I had just ignored him, spending all my time with Kita. I hadn't fed or played with Fluffy in all that time. He didn't bark, didn't cry, just stared with at me wanting love. I felt so horribly guilty. Then the alarm woke me up. but I couldn't get his face out of my mind.
It's not the first time I have dreamed of abandoned pets. I have had a few dreams where I rediscover long forgotten and neglected aquariums, although their occupants are still happily alive (and let's face it, fish don't need to be loved, just looked after). I have long kept fish, with varying degrees of success, but I haven't had much luck with dogs.
Kita is actually the first dog I have ever owned for myself and I like to think that he is very well cared for. Certainly, he is well loved and he has responded by being extraordinarily well behaved. We did look for a breed that was likely to suit us and it shows.
Unfortunately, the other dogs I have been associated with were generally not so well chosen. There was my parent's dog Sam from prior to my birth. He bit me and had to be put to sleep, a herding dog unable to cope with suburban life. Sox, a corgie, run over outside of our house. My brother David kept convincing my parents to buy him dogs that didn't work out with our unfenced land. He never took enough responsibility for looking after them, the task often falling reluctantly to me. Sandy kept escaping and was destructive and ended up being taken away. Snoopy, a Rhodesian Ridgeback cross, also had to be given away, after I moved away to university. But I will never forget the night shortly before I left, when the caravan I slept in was being shaken by 90 km/h wind gusts. Big Snoopy was frightened and I let him inside. We lay there on the bed with his head on chest. I was very sad to hear that he was gone.
Finally, the bad luck was broken when my family stopped giving their dogs names beginning with 'S'. I remember pulling up in the train at Rockhampton's station on my first trip back from uni. David had a puppy in his arms, a female german shepherd dog called Tiffany. Tiffany was a wonderful dog, loyal to my Mum, almost never wandering off (except when influenced by one of her puppies from a local dog). She absolutely loved the water and would stand in a puddle if she saw one. Her only problems were losing her teeth from chewing stones and a fear of storms (she tore a hole in the back door). I loved visiting Tiffany and was very sad when she died of old age in 2005.
Meanwhile I had moved to Sydney and in with my future in-laws. They had two dogs, Fluffy and Bobby. Bobby was a tiny Australian Silky Terrier with a bad attitude and bad teeth. Despite having his balls removed he was still a highly dominant dog who would growl and attack if you moved him on the bed or competed with him for the heater. He was very loyal and I recall the day that he came straight over to comfort me when I injured my ankle. One night he was cold and shaking. We took him to the vet, who diagnosed blood poisoning from an infection. Despite blood transfusions he died a couple of days later at the vet's clinic while we were on the way back from the city to see him.
To keep Bobby company after Fluffy went away my brother-in-law bought another dog, a female cavalier king charles named Meiji (yes, a guy's name). She is a fantastic and intelligent dog who still lives with them, now joined by a male cavalier called Monty, sweet natured but a little dull. We chose Monty for Michael, or actually Monty chose us at the breeders.
But we no longer live at the in-laws. We wanted a dog, but we wanted a good dog, a dog that we could look after until the day it dies. A dog we would hopefully never have to give away. We wanted to do it right this time. We had given up when we saw Kita in a pet store, a happy accident. So far we have no regrets. He is everything we wanted and I hope that he is as happy as we think he is because he deserves it. All dogs deserve love and happiness. I hope that Fluffy found it, wherever he went.