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You were my best Buddy during the darkest days and you taught me so much about life... I'm going to miss you so very much

Ex- Miss GB Gemma Garrett, from Belfast, is mourning her adored bulldog. In an emotional tribute that will touch the heart of every dog lover, she recalls the fun and friendship they shared

Gemma Garrett out walking her dogs Buddy (left) and Stella (right) at Shaws Bridge
Gemma Garrett out walking her dogs Buddy (left) and Stella (right) at Shaws Bridge

By Gemma Garrett

It was the morning after I hosted Miss Belfast 2010 and I was slightly hungover and was on my way to Ballymena on a journey that would change my life forever. We still didn't have a name for you. I held a little pink pig and blue blanket in anticipation.

I thought of all the cool names I could call you, after rock stars or political leaders, but just couldn't settle on anything. I just wanted you to be my best bud and so it was clear and simply to call you Buddy. You surely did live up to your name.

On the way home I held you awkwardly. You cried and I cried.

I thought what have I done?

Gemma with her dogs
Gemma with her dogs

It was at that exact moment that I realised if I don't care for you, you will die. Sobering responsibility hit me.

I tried to educate myself about your breed. 'Stubborn' was the word that came up time and time again. You surely lived up to your breed.

We spent so much time together as I was working only part-time hours. I carried you like a little baby nestled in the crook of my arm. My family would laugh and say "you will ruin him doing that". This was to be true.

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You ate anything and everything. You had so many toys yet you adored expensive shoes, expensive bags and the odd bottle of fake tan.

God, you were a beautiful bulldog, Buddy.

Everywhere we went people stopped to comment on you. And as you grew you looked so big and mean, yet you were the most playful friendly dog I've ever known.

Of course, it didn't help that you had no idea how big and heavy you were and jumped around on people like you were a Chihuahua.

Then there was the night we waited up until the little hours in the morning on Stella coming home for the first time. I was so worried you would not like another dog in the house because you were so spoilt. But you loved her straight away. There you were welcoming her, sniffing her and licking her so gently. It was the start of the 'gruesome twosome'.

And what a life you went on to lead. You've been on TV, taken part in photo shoots, appeared in the Belfast Telegraph, and starred in a show in the Grand Opera House. You have been loved by so many people.

I will never forget the night I left a glass of red wine down and you slurped it up like it was ice cream. I was so scared and called my vet who talked me through what to do. You were a little tipsy and then I nursed you through a hangover. I felt so guilty. You never went near alcohol again. In fact, if you heard wine being poured you would back away. They say bulldogs are stupid yet us humans get hangovers and always go back and drink again. You were not as stupid as most humans!

Another time I was on holiday with my friend Paddy and I got a call from my mum. "I hope you are having a good time because I will kill you when you are home!" she told me.

I think I knew right away that you had been up to no good. I was right. You had eaten through the door of her kitchen to get to the crisps.

Gifts from well-wishers after her beloved Buddy died
Gifts from well-wishers after her beloved Buddy died

Everything including the door was eaten except a bag of wasabi nuts which you and Stella had obviously tried but were not keen on.

The only thing I could say to my mum was: "Well, who on earth keeps the crisps in the bottom cupboard?

Ah, Buddy, at least you knew I always had your back!

Then there was day you got off your harness in Pets at Home and started doing laps around the place at great speed. All I could hear was the sound of people screaming.

Desperate to stop you, I hastily tied Stella to what I thought was a sturdy post so I could catch you, but that post wasn't as secure as I thought. So I was running after you... and Stella was running after me... with a shelf of pet calendars attached to her. I only caught you when you took a toilet break in the middle of the store. I never went back with you.

I remember my mum and dad calling me when I was on a trip to London. They were looking after you and you had decided that the walk was over half way home. They had to put the phone to your ear and I had to shout at you to get up again and walk home. Oh Buddy, you were just so stubborn. You always did what you wanted when you wanted. Of course, I knew you were getting older and didn't have the energy that you once enjoyed, so on your last holiday just weeks ago I was thrilled when you got a new lease of life.

You were determined to get a taste of a paddleboarding - so much so that you did a kind of pincher movement with the precision of a Navy Seal into the water and proceeded to swim, something you had never done in all the nine years of your life.

I just want to apologise to my friend Sara O'Neill and her fiance, the great surfer Alastair Mennie, who was our instructor, for the Buddy chunks out of your very expensive board.

But then, Buddy, I spent so much time making excuses for you. There was the way you would spit dog treats out in front of people. It was so embarrassing and I had to tell people that you were sick when the truth was you were just very spoilt.

Or that time in the Lock Keeper's Inn in Belfast when you decided to sit up beside a man and eat the sausage off his plate, seizing your moment when you saw that I was preoccupied with Stella. I still remember the embarrassment.

I ended up getting the bill for him and his party.

No matter how badly behaved your could be, I didn't want you getting into any trouble.

Yet for all the misdemeanours, you had such a lovely nature. I remember the day you were attacked by another dog and with your size and strength you could have put up a good fight, but your temperament was not like that. You didn't retaliate at all.

I have so many stories of you, my friend. They are embedded in my heart forever. You got me through the best days, but also through the darkest days in my life. Your were so loyal. We fought and argued, but never for long.

People who are not pet lovers might find what I am about to say strange, but I make no apologies for it. It is - truthfully - how I feel. I have lost loved ones and close friends, but I have never lost anyone who lived this close to me, lived with me and who I cared for and fed and looked after in senior years. The pain is just unbearable. You were family. You were my best Buddy.

I tried everything I could to keep you here, but in the end I was being selfish and cruel. And I know that many, many people do understand what I'm going through. Since I broke the news of your death on Facebook, the messages, flowers and cards I have received are so comforting. The stories of how you brightened people's days when they were low are countless.

You taught me so much Buddy:

Always greet the ones you love with love and bouncing energy;

Play and run around while your body allows you to;

Try not to drink too much red wine

Eat, and eat well;

When people attack, turn the other cheek;

Be stubborn when you really want something;

Enjoy the excitement of a simple walk;

Live in the moment;

Accept compliments;

Drink water;

You are never too old to learn to swim.

Stella and I are heartbroken, Buddy. I held you at the end and told you to wait for me at rainbow bridge, but I know you won't. I will have to chase after you.

I love you. Forever.

Belfast Telegraph


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