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The best part of my day

The best part of my day has gone. The best part of any of my days for the last 8 years has been getting home to be greeted by a little dog, Lilah dog. There was a ritual, followed on most occasions . It used to vary, depending on how long I been gone, but the longer I was out the more the ritual was followed, a bark, a stretch and a meeting of heads to snuffle in, followed by a big hug with her front paws draped over my shoulder.

The dog suffix stems from my niece, Sara, who visited my folks when she was small and spent her formative years with Tim dog and Cindy dog, she always placed the dog suffix when talking about either of them. The family have continued this for nearly 30 years.

I met Lilah dog when I got back from Nepal in 2007, the door opened and this missile of muscle hit me, jumped all over me and announced we were to be friends. It was love at first sight for both of us. This trait of homing in on people to demonstrate her affection for them earned her the nickname, by some of the lovebullit and when 16/17 kilos of love came at you, there was pretty much no escape.

After a time she changed from being our dog, to Jan’s dog, to my dog, I had her for the last 8 years. She became my best friend.

Lilah is a Staffy, a much maligned breed by some. I could actually see people’s reaction change towards me when I told them the dog I had was a Staff, rarely in a positive light. Staffs are super friendly, they love people, perhaps not so keen on other dogs, sometimes, but like any breed – they learn from the people they are surrounded by, any dog, if its a problem, has generally been created by the people around it.

A red Staff isn’t too common but she displayed all the traits of the breed, why go round something when you can go through it, why wait to be greeted by someone new when she could just amble over and introduce herself, what was hers was hers and what was yours was hers, simples.

Staffs snuffle and grunt, they belch too and Lilah was world class in that regard. A belch for no particular reason accompanied by a smug look, made all the more smug when I congratulated her on the quality of the belch, which was often, like I said, she was very good at it.

For a small(ish) dog she could make herself very big, particularly on a sofa and I would often find myself pushed to a corner while she stretched out, let sleeping dogs lie – a good adage.

I miss my dog, I miss the company, the muddy paws and the demands to play rope, open doors, provide food a 6pm prompt and a whole host of other things. The wrinkling nose if she was particularly pleased about something used to expose her top teeth, looking like a growl – if you didn’t know and recognise the grin.

The tumour first appeared in late 2017, removed May 2018, they pretty much opened her up like a tin can, a scar a third of the way round her chest, there was a lot of squeaking that first night. I slept downstairs with her and she shoehorned herself into the smallest space to gain as much body contact as she could. The next day she was rolling round on her back on the gravel outside, a dog’s resilience knows no bounds.

When it returned she was past 13 and in no condition to undergo another procedure of that size again, it grew at a pace, more than doubling in size whilst I was in France at Le Mans. Although my mum had warned me I was still shocked when I collected her at the beginning of May. Despite the size it didn’t appear to be bothering her. Her evening walk on the Friday changed that, she was struggling to walk and in obvious discomfort, Friday night she barely slept, her breathing shallow and rapid, the same Saturday. I hand fed her Saturday morning, her already slow pace reduced to something more than a standstill. I pretty much made the decision. Jan came over and agreed, her opinion matters and I was grateful for the support and confirmation.

Nothing can prepare you for the brutality of calling time, I was in a daze, the staff at the surgery were brilliant, we sat in warm sunshine and I held her close, I still can’t recall if I said a final goodbye, and that, I have to say is haunting me.

The nurses offered to help carry her to the car but this became very private time, she’s my dog and I am seeing her away on her last journey. I took her to the crematorium and said my last goodbye, a kiss on the head and a last very brief look, this is not the way I want to remember her, she is the lovebullit and the memories should reflect that