I may have mentioned, once, or twice, my Best Furry Friend Shadow. I found him on freecycle, I had seen him be rehomed several times and re-advertised. It was my birthday, in 2007, and I had taken the day off work and was just browsing freecycle, as I did, back in those days, quite a lot. This poor dog has been readvertised again, and so I went to see him, and that was that. He was a troubled soul who had been abused and threatened with euthanasia but it was clear to me that he was just misunderstood and maybe just not exercised enough, after all, he was only fifteen months old and still blessed with boundless energy, and a big dog to boot.
So he came to live with me and from that moment my life changed for the better in every way. I had recently stopped smoking and drinking and Shadow gave me something interesting to do to distract me, I had his furry ears to stroke and long walks to go on. I had him neutered to try and contain his excitement around female dogs, but he was, and still is, pretty bouncy. I took him to classes to socialise him and read as much as I could about dogs, becasue he was my first, and I didn’t want to get it all wrong.
Training him is a constant process – even today he retains his fearfulness and general nervousness (not helped by the abuse he received from my current neighbour (reported to the RSPCA). And sometimes I get it wrong, and sometimes I think he is hard work and a handful, but he has been with me through a very difficult period, and has always loved me. I have discovered so many beautiful places, right on my doorstep from walking him, and though he has his faults I am very proud of the road we have travelled together.
The breakup between me and Cub’s father was long and tortourous. Shadow by that time had a rottweiler playmate living with us, and she slept in the ex’s room while Shadow could not settle away from me. I got pregnant and the ex would not leave the house so I had to look for one to move to myself, and Shadow came with me on the hunt. Back then he would sleep on my bed and bring me comfort through my all day pregnancy sickness and the discomfort and pain. I found a new house in the countyside, and I lost my job, falling into a deep dark depression. The rottweiler was living with me most of the time back then, and it was the dogs that kept me going, getting me out of the house in the morning and evening to walk them, though walking was getting more and more difficult.
I had to return the rottweiler to the ex in the end, two dogs at around four stone each was more than I could handle at seven months pregnant. A neighbour offered to help walk him, as she could see I was struggling, but he sat in the road and refused to budge. When I went into labour, the ex rushed round, all enthusiastic, and fell asleep when the pain went on all night too. Shadow stayed with me though. On day two and returning from hospital (only 1cm dilated) the ex decided he was bored of the whole labour thing and went home. That night there was a power cut. It was dark, it was cold, it was Christmas week 2009, I was in labour and Shadow was my greatest comfort. The labour went on over Christmas week, with visits to the hospital (2cm dilated…go home, 3cm dilated…go home). The batteries on my tens had worn out, I was still walking, or should I say, waddling Shadow twice a day in the cold and stopping every few steps while the pain passed.
I would bury my face into his fur and he would let me hug him as the pains came and went, he wasn’t bored of my long labour, and he stayed with me every minute without complaining. Six days after it had started, and after a long dog walk, we were cuddling in bed and my waters finally broke. I called my parents to take me to hospital because god knows where the ex was with my car. My baby was in distress and passing meconium, and I was a crazy woman from lack of rest for the past week. I yelled out in fear as they put an epidural into my spine, and I cried that Shadow was stuck at the house all alone when I wanted him there in the delivery room for comfort and warmth.
The rest was a haze, and I discovered that gas and air made me tipsy, so that passed the time a bit until my gorgeous baby boy put in an appearance at 9.30 the next morning, just as the snow came tumbling down.
I spent the first three weeks at my mum and dads house, while I got settled and recovered a bit. When I was reunited with Shadow I was nervous at first and took all sensible precautions to prevent him accidentally hurting the Cub. Everyone was worried about dog jealousy but Shadow accepted Cub straight away, and I joke about him thinking the Cub is his! He is certainly very protective of him, so much so that managing him when new people are around the Cub has become another training issue. I have even taught him not to pop the Cub’s footballs, and he has never once stolen a toy of his to chew.
Every morning and evening I would put the Cub in my front carrier and across the fields we would go. The front carrier then became the baby backpack, and still a-walking we went. When I fell over one time with the Cub on my back, he helped me back onto my feet. He never leaves me, I always say that I couldn’t lose him even if I tried! Now the Cub runs and climbs and plays with Shadow and has learned the “go away” warning signs.
We are a happy family, The Cub, Shadow and Me. With muddy shoes and a smile on our faces we run happily through the parks, woods and fields, always discovering new things and loving every moment.
I think I might go and give him a hug now!
This post is an entry into the Tots100/Swell UK competition.”