I remember being around 11 years old and pining for a dog. I watched Blue Peter religiously every day and their dogs Lucy, Mabel and Meg (a golden retriever and two border collies respectively) were literally what I wanted most in life. I was a very intense child, always dreaming of another life in another world, and always on my own somewhere buried in a book, and I didn’t particularly need the company of other children as I was pretty happy on my own (not much has changed!). When my mum made the decision that we were getting a dog, I was ecstatic. Animals, conversely to humans, were perfect for me as they did not bear the expectation of speech and social conventions, and with them I could just quietly be my strange little self. We tried to rescue, but with three children under the age of 12 there were no suitable dogs for us due to previous trauma and backgrounds, so we settled for a puppy. After a few visits, we arrived at the grounds of a private school where the gamekeeper’s hunting dogs had had a litter. Walking into his garden, we spotted two tiny black bundles of fluff, who came hurtling towards us so fast you could barely make out their features. The girl puppy was already taken and just waiting to be picked up, meaning our only choice was the little boy. We knew it was love at first sight for both parties when he whined loudly as we walked away, and Toby was ours shortly afterwards.
Last week, we had to put down my boy. Although I tried to fight it for a long time, the resounding comments from everyone around me was that it wasn’t fair for him to live a life he did not enjoy. I have never felt a broken heart like it. He was the apple of my eye, and the joy of my life. Although I hope I enriched his days in some way, the overwhelming thought in my mind is that he gave me more than I ever gave him. He was always there to attempt to lick away the many tears on my face during my long and angsty teenage years, he made me giggle a hundred and one times at his silliness, and most of all taught me that ultimately, however much it is ingrained in us that we are the most superior species on this planet, that the bridge between us and the animal kingdom is really very small although our inflated egos try to boast otherwise.
He showed me that animals have personalities, characters and quirks of their own even without sharing verbal communication with us. As humans we are fundamentally incorrect in the way we treat those who we deem to be inferior to ourselves; be it animals, the disabled or infants. The evil we show to those who cannot defend themselves makes me despair.
I will spend my life trying to minimise the human impact on this earth and the suffering that it inflicts on animals, nature and humans alike, because every living creature deserves to be loved and treasured as much as Toby was. Goodnight my beautiful boy, I hope one day I will see you again.