Belfast Telegraph

I feel Dave's pain as I've also forged that bond of trust, loyalty, love and true companionship

By Alex Kane

When Dave took George to the Cave Hill last Sunday - the place they have walked each other for the past 15 years - George will have known it was his last walk.

He will have sensed the sadness. He will have seen the heartbreak in Dave's eyes.

He will have been aware of the oddly different tone in Dave's voice. He will have known that this was the last time they would see this place together.

He will have felt every nuance of Dave's body language and accepted that the bond that had tied them together for all those years was coming to a close. Dogs know these things. Not every dog and owner (although that isn't the right word, of course) have that relationship.

But when it happens it is one of the purest, most fulfilling and truly wonderful relationships you can have. It's about trust, loyalty, companionship, unquestioning friendship and yes, love.

For many of us, our dog is a full, equal member of the family; one who shares all of the highs and lows and knows when to bark with joy, or just stand silently, waiting for a hand to run across the back. I've been blessed to have shared significant periods of my life with two dogs - Toby and Bo.

Toby turned up out of the blue when I was on holiday in Galway in 1969. After two weeks, when all efforts to track down his owner had failed, the police let us take him home. He had probably been dumped from a car.

As someone who had lived in an orphanage, I had sensed his terror; and we became as close as brothers. I still remember cradling him in my arms and weeping when he died 10 years later.

Bo was a 'rescue' dog, who had been beaten and bullied by his previous owners. He was big, clumsy and clinically bonkers, yet always managed to provide exactly the right sort of comfort during some awful days of miscarriage and depression.

Maybe it's because I didn't have siblings or maybe it was to do with knowing what it was like to have been terrified when very young; but Toby, Bo and I understood each other.

About six months after we 'adopted' Toby, I had one of those dark, dark dreams I have had for most of my life; the sort of dream in which I whimper and wake screaming. After that, Toby slept at the foot of my bed for the rest of his life - even when I was away at university.

Bo always knew when I needed him. And when he had his massive stroke on New Year's Day 2016 he knew that I would crawl into his kennel and lie with him until he slipped away. Again, I wept, loudly and without embarrassment.

The human/dog bond goes back tens of thousands of years. My own feeling that it takes a particular dog and a particular human to forge the bond: and once forged it lasts until death, then lives on through memory.

It's a truly wonderful thing to behold. My best wishes to Dave. I know exactly how he's feeling.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph