You know those fears that settle in the pit of your stomach, and never go away? The ones that you dread, and try to convince yourself will never happen? The ones you bury deep inside and ignore the very possibility of them happening? Well, those fears happened.
This time last week, I was in paradise. Three days in the sunshine with my best friend, sipping on wine and reading books. It was amazing. I was sunburnt and full of good food, and looking forward to coming home and sleeping in my own bed.
I’m not the greatest at flying, but as I listened to my murder podcasts on the plane and tried to sleep in the worst’s most uncomfortable seat, I stared at my phone wallpaper and thought “only a few more hours’ till I get to see this face:
Stanley Noakes. The best dog ever. He is gentle and kind and always there with a wagging tail. And I just knew that the second I walked through my front door at 3am he would haul himself out of his bed and run towards me.
We landed, exchanged chit-chat, and got in the car. Then my parents turned around and said two words:
I knew it was Stanley immediately. My mum explained that he’d collapsed on his morning walk, fine one second, gone the next. They’d rushed him to the vets, but there was nothing that could be done. It was his time.
On the two hour journey from the airport, I didn’t quite believe it. In fact, I was holding onto the faint hope that my parents were playing the worst joke ever on me until I got home, walked through the too-silent hallway and clocked the empty space in the sitting room where his bed used to be. That’s when it hit me.
The seven days since has been a mixture of feeling so so sad, and then bursting into tears at the strangest things. When we get home and my dad accidentally says “Stan who’s this?” before realising that he’s not there. Seeing another dog/a dog poo bin, the garden bare of toys, getting up to let him out for a wee. And then there’s the waking up and remembering that this is the first Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday without him.
But that’s too sad for me to think about now. So instead I’m going to talk about how brilliant Stanley was. I had wanted a dog since I was tiny, and my mum and dad always said no. One of my friend’s gorgeous Labrador had recently had puppies; all beautiful playful bundles of love. But there was one that stood out. I still quite can’t put my finger on why; it was just one of those life’s moments when there was an instant connection. He was the runt of the litter, the one all the other puppies jumped on, and from the second I saw him I knew that he was meant for us.
Obviously, I was convinced that my parents would veto the whole idea. My mum stayed strong and said no, but when I ran out to my dad in the garden and begged and pleaded for this one particular puppy, he said a fateful word:
That was it. The whole family visited the puppies and fell just as in love with him as I was, and he was ours.
I know everyone thinks their dog is perfect, but Stanley was perfect for us. Even as a puppy he was unfailingly kind, gentle and chilled. He didn’t bark, he always loved a cuddle, he only chewed through the hoover cord once. He loved walks, and the park, and one particular toy that was so chewed it looked like rubbish. He adored sausages and cheese, and was a dreadful thief. The amount of times he had to go the vets because he stole something was ridiculous. By rights, he shouldn’t have got to 12. He had epilepsy, was on powerful medication from the age of 2 to control the horrible fits he frequently had, he had awful arthritis, and he couldn’t walk very far any more. Every moment with him was a gift. And although him passing is the worst, I am so so grateful for him.
He is (was) the best. I miss him.