When my best friend died, I held him in my arms as he lay with his head on my lap and the vet injected him with a lethal fluid. I curled my body around him and whispered ‘good boy, good boy’ against his soft face. His eyes glazed, but didn’t close and it was all over in about sixteen seconds. My breath was lost with his. I seemed to leave the room with him and didn’t want to come back to a world without him. And when I uncurled, it was to a cold, hard floor and my bones ached.
On the way home, I thought of nothing but him. I wanted to remember every last detail about who he was and this is what I thought:
How he snuggled his nose into the blanket with multiple miniscule nods before he succumbed to sleep.
The way he changed direction suddenly to fool his pursuer on a chase.
His curly-ears, my name for how his ears hung when he was particularly happy.
His doe eyes.
His constant attempts at levitation of food from our plates.
His high 5.
His whale song – my name for the sound that he made when he wanted something – he rarely barked.
His hug – when he would put both front paws on your shoulders and lean in.
His trotty front feet when he became excited.
His smile – he really did smile.
His lovely smell – he didn’t smell of dog – but something warm and close.
His love of kisses – especially between his eyes and on his head.
His stretches – he made the most out of every one.
The way he audibly breathed in when taking a treat ever so gently from your hand.
His Dalmatian markings – a Bindi on his face, an exclamation mark on his head and black kohl around his eyes. His straight line spots, and his quincunxes.
His skinny tail and how it wagged – slow meant ‘inquisitive’ and fast meant ‘very happy indeed’.
The little pink bit at the end of his nose which felt like velvet and needed sun protection cream in the summer.
The softness of his cost, the silkiness of his ear.
How he hated his nails being cut.
His love of sleeps, especially next to, or on top of, one of us.
His jump ups at “walkies” and how he loved tummy rubs.
His rolls in the grass, his sunbathing and his reluctance to go out in the rain.
His health and safety issues – he’d bark at other dogs when they went in the water – couldn’t they see it was dangerous!
His tolerance of Yoda when he arrived as a smelly stray.
His disregard for Molly’s tellings off with his ‘whatever’ look.
Woofing tunefully in his sleep, his back legs pushing the air to the finish line in an imaginary race.
His yaw yaws – my name for his verbal yawns.
His paddle up the bed just to be closer to you.
His quick expectant look when you stopped stroking too soon, and then a shove and a paw slap if you didn’t respond.
His special blanket, chewed to a quarter of its original size, and how he asked you to pass it with a stare and a yaw-yaw.
His pink lips.
How he’d cover his eyes with his paws when he slept.
The way he would squint and turn away as the dirt flew up in chunks when the other dogs kicked the ground to scent mark.
The way he would drink half bowl water furiously before going for a walk – ‘hydrations is important’ he would silently say.
And how he loved to streak through the long grass in the early summer and then roll and crouch to hide from you and jump out when you got close.
All these things made him… him. Not just a dog, not just an animal, not even just a human, but HIM. DJ. A friend. A true, blessed companion. An irreplaceable part of my heart. Love personified, given, received. Happiness in warm ball of fur. A loving being, a true friend. But NEVER, never, just a dog.