He was tiny. He was the runt of the litter. He was the last of twelve, and as he was finally born it was clear he wasn’t breathing. George grabbed him and wiped the mucus from his mouth, giving him a few pats in an attempt to get him breathing. All to no avail. He passed the runt of this litter to his mum to say goodbye.
Denny licked him and he mewled. He was alive, tears of sadness turned to tears of joy. He wriggled towards a teat but the others were already greedily feeding. He wasn’t strong enough to get them out of the way.
“We’re going to give this one some help,” said George.
A few weeks later the twelve pups were all doing fine. They had almost all been allocated homes now , except two. The runt and his older sister. I couldn’t bear to think of this tiny creature suffering so said, “Yes, he’s mine,” I even managed to find a home for his sister. Holding him as he wriggled to get back to his mum I named him. DAX.
Within a few more weeks Dax was running with the rest of his brothers and sisters. He was every bit as fast as them and every bit as wild. He was also mine. I had taken over feeding him when he couldn’t get to his mum at mealtimes, and I was in love.
At three months Dax came home with me. Rules were laid down. I was to be responsible for his training. I was to clear up after him. I was not to allow him upstairs, and definitely not in my bedroom.
Over the following months Dax grew, and grew. Within no time he was larger than any of the rest of the litter. Most of them had stayed ion the village and we often met them when walking. From a tiny runt he was becoming a huge lummox of a dog. We played in the fields, ran in the local lanes, cuddled in the sun and fought over sticks, balls and toys. We grew together and of course he slept on my bed. Rules are for breaking!
The years passed and I moved away to study and work, leaving Dax. I couldn’t take him to the big city. He did visit once but became too stressed, barking at anyone and anything he didn’t recognise. He was a country dog. We had to live separately. Leaving him was difficult, but it was better for him. He was a country dog.
Whenever I visited Dax would treat me the same, as if I’d never been away. His love didn’t falter. Many a time I’d arrive at the family home to be almost knocked over by this mammoth of a dog.
Then came the day. I got a phone call. Dax hadn’t been well. ‘He wasn’t himself’ I was told. Dad had taken him to the vets only to get that piece of advice all us pet-owners dread. “It’d be best for him.” Mum told me dad had done the kindest thing possible and now Dax was dead. I cried.
Sharing my life with Dax, and all my ‘children’ since has been wonderful, but their life-spans are too short and the final goodbye hurts so much and is always accompanied by copious tears. But I’ll never give up the years of love and tenderness. And perhaps one day we’ll all be reunited and can again gambol together in fields of long grass and fight over sticks, balls and toys.