Everything in life is about balance. A balanced diet; the balance between good and evil; The unequivocal joy our pets give to us, and the exquisite pain we feel when they leave this world.
Flash passed away on Wednesday, 2nd September 2020 after losing his 6 month battle with Cancer.
There are of course many unbalanced things in life as well. Like in a relationship for example.
The relationship I had with my ex is a good example of this.
My thoughts and opinions didn’t matter. He valued anyone else.
But not me.
This meant of course that anything I wanted/needed got shut down almost immediately, whilst anything he needed/wanted we obtained immediately. I would have to come up with a valid argument and reasoning as to why I wanted/needed anything. Including the wire in the only bra I own has come out or we need a bin because the rubbish stinks out of the house when it’s just in a bag hanging on the door knob.
Things we could ‘never afford’ you see.
Of course we could always afford a new paddle, kayak, trainers you know all the essentials.
I knew if I dug my heels in hard enough for long enough I would eventually get a new bra, but it was exhausting and I therefore had to pick my battles wisely.
When it came to wanting a puppy, my resilience to his controlling behaviour was unwavering. I dug my heels in deep and was not giving this fight up.
At some point in early 2008 after a two year battle, I finally managed to talk him into it. Though to be honest I strongly suspect he either agreed to shut me up, or more likely because I had been mentioning getting a puppy for years now and to anyone who would listen including his family. They will have likely questioned him on why we didn’t have a dog yet. So he agreed to it, not because he knew how much it meant to me, but because of how bad he might look if he didn’t.
Our neighbour put us in touch with the rescue centre she volunteered for, and within an hour I found an adorable border collie puppy up for rescue. I got in touch with them and expressed our interest and organised for one of the volunteers to pop by our house to inspect us and our home.
Nervous as hell we deep cleaned the house, and fixed the weakest part in our fence in the garden. We also attempted to puppy proof it, though neither of us really knew what that actually meant so it was a lot of just picking things up and putting them down elsewhere until she arrived.
We went over what questions we thought she might ask and me being the creative type I came up with some random questions she might ask (well questions I know I would definitely ask in her position just for the comedy value), like what's your favourite colour? because puppies only like the colour blue. And do you like Marmite?
But in the end it didn’t matter. It turned out she had decided before she even arrived and her line of questioning was slanted in one exclusive area. The likelihood in her opinion of us having children.
I don’t necessarily blame her in particular for this, the standard thing done in that part of Britain seemed to be leave school, get a job, get married, start a family. Anything outside of this was a gossipy talking point and 'wrong’.
So she asked us how long we had been together, how long we had lived together. She asked if we planned to start a family and our response couldn’t have been more non-committal if we tried. We said we might at some stage far in the future consider thinking about starting a family, possibly.
She did ask other questions like are we fully prepared for the responsibility of dog ownership and how often would the dog be left alone. But they really were formalities.
It was a no.
Because we didn’t answer the starting a family question with no.
‘small children and puppies don’t mix’.
What a load of old tosh. Not all puppies and children mix, that much is true but that doesn’t mean that every puppy hates children and every child unintentionally torments puppies.
If anything I see more pictures of small children fast asleep cuddling up to an equally adorable puppy who is also fast asleep.
But, that was neither here nor there, we didn’t get the green light and we didn’t get the adorable puppy.
My ex was as disappointed as I was, which surprised me, I thought perhaps he was finally on board with this in a real way.
On the suggestion of the same neighbour we decided to take more direct action and actually show up to register at neighbouring rescue centres in the hope that showing up would demonstrate how serious we were.
Our neighbour told us about one in Condover, so we got the address and off we went.
On the way we talked about the practicalities of dog ownership.
Where we would have a dog bed?
What sort of collar and lead did we want to get?
Where would we purchase dog food from and actually what type would we go for? The premium stuff yes, but which was best.
And of course the name.
Now, I already knew we would stumble on the deciding name because it would be like whenever we decided to go out to lunch/dinner. My ex would tell me to decide and every single place I suggested would be an immediate no until I either ran out of places to suggest, or lost my temper and told him to bloody choose at which point I would be put down for having lost my temper. And then he would decide on the first place I suggested. I knew naming our dog would be as equally frustrating and not a conversation I was looking forward to but worth it.
The rescue centre was idyllic, based in the rolling hills of the Midlands in Condover. We parked up and introduced ourselves to the receptionist who went to fetch the owner.
She introduced herself as did we and she began showing us around her centre as she asked us far more sensible questions, like will this be your first pet dog? Have you decided on the breed you're interested in? Are you aware that most of the puppies and dogs that come through are likely to have some issues of abandonment or other such things dependent on their experiences in their first few months/years of life? Do you definitely want a puppy or would you consider old?
As we answered her questions, we also told her about our previous experience with the visit. To our surprise, she wasn’t.
She informed us this was quite normal, quite stupid, but indeed quite normal.
Once the dogs go through her centre and are taken on by the charity they go under the strict guidelines the adopters must adhere to. One of which is no small children, which over the years has become a tad bit warped to no families with small children or young childless couples with more than one bedroom and non committal responses to said question about starting a family one day.
We reached a sort of paddock part of the centre, that smelt of puppies. The noise took some getting used to, lots and lots and lots of barking.
She asked us what breed the puppy had been the one we had wanted to adopt and when we told her it was a border collie she beamed at us and said she had a 6 month old collie.
The collie had only arrived at the sight the previous week, he was very excited but also quite nervous around men. He had had one previous owner, a man who lived alone in a block of flats and worked full time. He had received some complaints from his neighbours about the constant barking and on the urging of his mum had given the puppy up for adoption. She said she had no reason not to believe this story as they seemed quite genuine, but just completely unprepared for the level of exercise both mentally and physically a border collie needs.
She asked us if we’d like to meet him, perhaps take him for a walk and see whether we might want to take him. My ex was already saying but the other person said no to a collie so would we be allowed? To which the owner explained well yes, because this puppy had only just arrived and not gone through the books so it would be her decision and she was perfectly happy with us.
So we looked at one another, shrugged and said sure, let’s meet him. As soon as the owner left to fetch the puppy, I told my ex that we would absolutely be taking this puppy home if I felt he would fit in with us. (secretly I meant me.)
The owner returned with a coiled spring on a lead. As she had mentioned this puppy was nervous around men she handed his lead to me and I asked her what his name was and she said his name is Flash, as soon as she said his name he turned and looked at her then cocked his head slightly to the left.
We started our walk having been given some poo bags just in case and Flash was just this ball of pure energy and goodness. He sniffed and then peed on every blade of grass. Yanked me from once grassy verge to the next. After a few minutes my ex asked me what I thought. Should we take Flash home with us? I looked at him, then back at Flash who was now trotting along the road with his tongue dragging on the floor licking up the previous night’s rain. I grinned and looked at my ex thinking, yep Flash is definitely my spirit animal and he is 100% now our pet dog.
We got back to the centre, told the owner we’d take him and whilst my ex was doing the boring paperwork I was playing with our brand new puppy.
I got in the back of the car, and Flash cuddled up next to me. He didn’t seem to be nervous, he seemed to be quite happy just being stroked on the head as we drove him to his forever home.
The first couple of days we’re exhausting because we had no idea what we we’re doing and every time he moved we thought he needed to go out for a week. Plus of course it was a shock to the system to all that exercise being dragged around the park by a 6 month old collie puppy full of beans.
Four years later my ex initiated us breaking up. It had been a long time coming, but the second he said it I felt nothing but sheer relief. It was finally over.
By his own admission, initiating the breakup was the first adult decision he had made in our relationship and Flash was by far the only good thing to have come out of it.
I knew two things, firstly that I would move to Brighton and that secondly, Flash was coming with me.
In the week preceding the break up we still lived under the same roof and I took Flash out for some spectacularly long walks just to clear my head, work out my game plan and put distance between me and the ex.
My dad picked Flash and I up, about a week after the breakup and we embarked on the next chapter of our lives together.
For the first four years of Flash’s life, my ex saw to it that we hardly took him with us anywhere because it was ‘too much hassle’ and he was ‘too excitable’ so we would go to the pub for lunch and not bring him with us, we would go to dog shows and other such outdoor activities specifically aimed at dogs and not bring him with us. When people came to visit he would chuck Flash outside in the garden until he calmed down.
He wanted Flash to be this super behaved pooch without putting the work in to train him and of course whatever suggestions I had in terms of his training were immediately shut down or he did this new thing of agreeing with me then never doing it. Then using that as proof that my idea was rubbish.
Getting Flash 100% accelerated the final destination of our relationship because he actually often treated Flash in the same way he treated me. Saw only the faults in our behaviour and personality and none of the good bits and when it was just me, I accepted it, but I kicked up a stink constantly at him, about his behaviour towards Flash.
Within 6 months of living with me, Flash had become used to the noises and smells of being out in public, and going into pubs and coffee shops. Playing on the beach and in parks. He got used to having visitors at home. He even got used to public transport.
And for the next 8 years that followed Flash and I were inseparable.
He instinctively knew when I was upset and would come and rest his face on my lap. We would cuddle up on the sofa at night, we would go on adventures together and we would just find comfort in each others presence.
It was the nicest thing in the world to come home work to an excited pooch at the front door, and be able to just take him out for a walk and unwind.
He has only been gone a few days and I already miss him, I miss his wet nose, his excited bum wiggle I even miss his terrible breath.
He was my shadow
He was my daemon/spirit animal
He was my best-friend
He saved me in every way a person can be saved because he taught me that love can be unconditional.
The bond we shared is like nothing I have ever experienced and I literally can’t put into words the emptiness my heart and flat feels now that he has gone.
But knowing that you will outlive your pets is a part of having them in the first place, you have to accept that one day you will have to say goodbye.
And even though the pain I feel right now is palpable, it’s still worth it. Because on balance, the amount of joy that fur baby brought me and everyone around us is worth this pain I feel now.
When talking about our pets dying, they often say crossing the rainbow bridge and I think this is a lovely way of putting it, but for me I like to think that Flash was collected by Tinkerbell, and guided Third star on the right and straight until morning. Where he is now spending all eternity teasing pirates with the Lost Boys and this is where all our dearly departed pets are.
Once the pain subsides we remember all the good times, and Flash certainly gave me a lifetime of those.
For Harry Potter and non Harry Potter fans alike, I'd like you all to join me in putting our wands up for all our dearly departed cherished pets who either crossed the rainbow bridge or got collected by our favourite Fairy.