I miss you and our non-verbal conversations. Things like ‘I want to go walkies now’ when you do a downward facing dog stretch and give me that ‘we go!?’ look. Or when you see I’m going shopping (the shopping bags usually give me away) and you give me that ‘can I come and stay in the car’ head tilt, or when you know I am going to be out for longer than an hour and you jump in my bed for a snuggle and a long nap, before I even close the front door.
For twelve years Buddy was a big part of our lives and I desperately miss him.
In April 2002, my eldest, who just became a teenager, announced she wants a dog. My whole family are animal lovers and growing up we always had a pet — actually I don’t remember a time when we didn’t have a house pet. So naturally I did the same with my girls. By that time, but not at the same time, my daughters had fish, a couple of birds, a pair of Albino rats (who within weeks became 18 then 28 — which I have to say was a very practical lesson in sex education) and of course Rachel Karen Green the mad hamster.
So when my eldest ‘dramatically’ told me her life is incomplete without a dog, I knew it was time to graduate the girls to a bigger animal and more responsibilities. To be honest (even though I had cats before) I was relieved she said dog and not cat — the idea of a litterbox in a flat with heating in the winter was not exciting at all.
It didn’t take much to convince them it’s better to give a home to a homeless dog rather than buy a new puppy. We did our research and settled on a Jack Russell for a breed; both the size and temperaments suited our family. So we went to Battersea Dogs and Cats home.
At the home, after the initial interview and filling the necessary adoption papers, we were shown Mia, a black bitch who was very timid, not eager to engage and spent the whole assessment time under the table shaking. Sadly we had to say no to her, as she clearly was traumatised and I wasn’t sure the girls were ready for that. Next we met Buddy who attempted to escape the room by jumping at the door handle. From the second he walked in he won our hearts. He was cheeky, flirty and happy, and we all instantly fell in love with him. He was just a lovely, lovely dog. So delightful, I kept thinking to myself how is he homeless?
On the journey home, we went over duties and the ground rules one more time — just to make sure we’re all on the same page – and agreed on the following:
1) The girls arethe main carers and I will help with everything particularly major stuff such as vet visits.
2) Buddy will only sleep in his bed and will not be allowed in any of our beds.
3) He will not be given peoples’ food, especially when we are at the table.
4) His basket will stay in the living room and that will become ‘his main room’ but of course he is free to go everywhere in the house.
5) And finally, he will be rewarded ONLY with dog treats.
Ten minutes later we were home, I opened the front door and Buddy charged right in, investigating each room in the house, he stopped at my room, went in and jumped in the bed. Then looked at us as if to say ‘come on jump in, there is room for everyone’!
That was the first rule break and the rest quickly followed.
It didn’t take long for my bed to become his daytime nap corner. And even though he never slept with me in it, he was always in my bed. He took all his naps and stayed in my bed more than in his until very recently, when it became too difficult for him to jump on it.
That wasn’t all. On the same day the first rule was broken, Buddy broke a second rule. That evening, at the dinner table he begged and begged and begged until we gave in to him, some did it out of pity and the rest did it just to shut him up.
Hate to admit it, but in a little under two weeks all the rules were broken.
From the start he preferred walking with me and that quickly became the norm, two weeks after adopting him the girls announced they can’t balance their Buddy duties with school and after school activities – and they had a point. So within a fortnight from adopting him, Buddy became my full responsibility and I became his sole carer.
When we picked Buddy, we had no idea how old he really was, nor were we clear on how he became homeless. Battersea was vague on both, but it was expected. Most animals at the home were abandoned by their owners. So we decided to make our own history and had twelve incredible years of love, fun and making beautiful memories.
First we officially renamed him Budweiser Sweetface Idris-Yousif. Budweiser because he was a very wise buddy and Sweetface, speaks for itself – - look at that sweet lovely face! The vet estimated (looking at his teeth) that he was about 2 years old and not as advertised 6 to 18 months old. I honestly didn’t care what age he was, and was just delighted he was healthy and all of us were adjusting well to each other.
Like most healthy energetic dogs, he was inquisitive, said hello to every dog specially the smaller breeds, enjoyed meeting people and lapped up all the attention they give him. He immensely loved his walks and his daily routine. In time we became almost inseparable. He was extremely sensitive and hated being left on his own for long periods, anything over two hours and he would cry. With the exception of my eldest daughter, he would cry even if there was someone else with him in the house –– so it’s a good thing I mostly work from home.
But unlike most dogs, Buddy hardly barked, did not like dogs’ paraphernalia and playing with dog toys, and he hated dog treats. He would not fetch a ball (he might catch a stick but don’t hold your breath), will never ever drink from a puddle or a creek only from his bowl and loved all human food – as long as it’s not spicy and he adored all things chicken. The smell and presence of chicken drove him insane with joy. He was a beggar of the worst kind, relentless and stubborn and never gave up. He hated dog chews and looked at them with disgust but loved raw carrots and Granny Smith apples – the cruncher the better. He was a very private dog. When out, he would cock his leg and do a number one anywhere but always looked for a tucked away semi-private place to do a number two. He loved hugs and cuddles and was mad for belly rubs. Throughout his live he was not a sickly dog and was never ill until eighteen months ago when we discovered he was born with a defective heart and though the years that damaged his liver.
No one will believe this but Buddy loved EastEnders and knew when it was on. At first we thought as a dog he was just a creature of habit and since the show aired more or less around the same time he liked hanging out with us at that time. After getting Sky+ we began recording and watching the show at different times and he would come when he hears the theme tune, how bizarre!
I know everyone thinks their kid is cleverer than other kids, the same with dog owners we all think our dog is the best and cleverest, but Buddy was very clever. He always knew when not to ask to come with me, knew when I had a bad day or something was the matter. The first time he went to my parents’ house after my dad passed away, he spent the whole visit looking for him in every room, and when he was convinced dad wasn’t there he sat watching the front door waiting for him and did not want to leave before he came – he did that for two month. My dad was the person who looked after him whenever I travelled or was out of town – and they developed their own special bond.
Buddy was a singer and enjoyed howling (though I never quite worked out if it was singing or crying). But I am glad we have many videos of him singing his heart out. His singing wasn’t too shabby either and won him second place in the borough dogs’ talent show – he was beat to second place by the late Baroness Ritchie’s singing dog.
When we used to walk in Kensington Park, we gave each path its name, The Albert Memorial path (you can guess where that is), Bike Road, Tourists Way, Ducks Road by the pond and Buddy’s favourite trail Squirrel Lane where the Jack Russell in him comes to life. He would chase the poor creatures and in occasions he would even catch one.
I can fill pages and pages with his antics and cheek. Those of you who meet him understand why he left such a big gap in my life. Many advised me to get another dog and give them my love and attention. But I won’t for some time. People think I rescued Buddy from homelessness but what they don’t know is he saved form depression, disperse and who knows what else. Walking and talking (yes I did talk to him) was what helped me get though losing my home, a business, my father, and helped me endure many personal pains that could have had a bigger negative impact on my life. Walking with him daily is what kept me sane when all around me was pure madness – he helped me be a better mother to my girls and a stronger daughter and sister when my dad passed away.
Who knows in a few years I might be ready for another dog but for now I will mourn, remember and give Buddy the respect he deserves.