On Monday night I said goodbye to the best mate I’ve ever had. A 40kg, 13-year-old German Shepherd whose IQ easily outstripped that of a handful of American Presidents and whose devotion over the last six years had not only made me a better person, but given him an extra purpose in life.
His name was Rocky.
I’d known for a few weeks that it was close. For a dog that followed me everywhere, upstairs, downstairs, outside, inside and to the toilet, to be unable to do that spelt the end. This weekend, after a few weeks of ill health, the look he gave us was a plea. A request that said no matter how much he loved us, no matter how he would guard us until the end, jump on the bed for strokes and treats and generally be a bona-fide legend, that he’d had enough.
My heart is, and will always be, broken into tiny pieces.
On Monday, with my wife, sister-in-law, stepson and father-in-law, I sat on the floor of a vets and held him as an overdose of anesthetic flowed into his bloodstream and gave him peace for the first time in a while. His heart had enlarged, his quality of life wouldn’t improve, and ours would never be the same again. My ribs, that shook all the way from the office on Whitfield Street to the vets in Tunbridge Wells, still ache from the tears I shed.
I was scared of Rocky when I first met him. A previous life of menial jobs and arrests had made me wary of German Shepherds (never Alsatians), but within weeks of meeting my wife in 2007 he was following me round while I edged away from him. He wanted to be my dog, he needed a master, and after realising this one night and not recoiling as I whistled and he bounded, a bond was formed.
And not just a bond, but also a trust, a love that I’m not sure I’ll ever get again. I was his Daddy, he was my boy. He is my boy. He’ll always be my boy. The boy with the big paws and soft ears, the boy whose eyes went milky when he saw me, the boy who went mental when I came home, the boy who trapped my hands with his massive paws, the boy who was never happier than when me and him disappeard into my office. The boy who watched me out of the corner of his eye while I cooked, drank, moved, whatever.
I can’t write much more, I will cry every night for while. His stuff is everywhere. Beds, bones, fur, water, toys, everything. But they can be removed, it is his presence that can’t be removed, it’s his presence that will make my wife cry when she forgets he’s gone and tells me to leave the door for him, his presence that makes me walk the long way in the kitchen with a hot pan instead of stepping over him, his presence that made me weep into Sirloin Steaks last night as I cooked them and knew that the fat would go to waste. Fat that wouldn’t have a nose sniffing it out, fat that wouldn’t be received with a smack of the chops. Fat that was for my boy, our boy, fat that would’ve made the best mate you’ll ever have so happy that it would enrich your life when he swallowed it.
I love you, Rocks, I’ll always love you. Your face will be there whenever I close my eyes, your fur will stick to everything we own and your presence, intelligence and love will always be there to make me a better bloke. The nicknames I called you, from Big Baby Jesus to the Best Boy In Kent and every silly one in between, will be there whenever I trip over a stick or eat a bit of chocolate cake.
Go easy, big boy, until we walk again.
RIP Rocky. October 2000 – June 2013