I can only vaguely remember my 18th birthday celebrations. I had left home and was living with friends in a run down $28/pw rental in East Perth.
The dog who made my life better
On the day of my birthday, I journeyed to my family home in the afternoon to prepare for a party that evening. Unfortunately, I hated parties nearly as much then as I do now.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by my mother, father, brother and sister and told that the party preparations were complete and instead, the afternoon would be spent visiting the local pound to get me a dog. I had not had a pet since I was 13 and always liked dogs, so the family had decided that they would get one for me.
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So we went to the pound and I selected a three-month-old cocker spaniel/blue heeler cross. I named her Bianca, after Bianca Jagger, and she stayed by my side for more than 17 years. At the age of nearly 18, she developed an inoperable cyst and I endured the saddest day of my life in having her euthanised.
In the nearly 18 years we were together, we were inseparable. She went just about everywhere with me -- to university, to the office, to friends for dinner and to family events. The only time we were ever apart was when I was out of the state (and she was staying with a loved one) or having sex (when she was left, whining, in the other room).
She was my best friend and may still be.
She loved me unconditionally and, given how I lived in those days -- the hours she spent in the car waiting for me and the hours I worked -- that was no mean feat.
The fact is, I loved her unconditionally. Nothing lights me up like the thought of her ‘smile’, her joy when I came back to the car after a lecture, or her absolute madness when I came back after an overseas trip. She brought me a joy, and still does.
I guess that is what dogs do. They love us unconditionally and bring us joy! The relationship between dogs and human beings is unique and amazing. They make us feel the best we can feel and leave us with beautiful memories.
Over the time that Bianca and I were together, she shared me with a number of girlfriends, initially reluctantly and, as she got to know them, more willingly.
I have beautiful memories sitting with my girlfriend at the time, smoking a joint, while Bianca snuggled up next to me inhaling the fumes and getting as high as I was. It soon became apparent to me that she was, at least on these occasions, more interested in being stoned than she was in being close. She loved dope every bit as much as I did! I point to it as a reason for her longevity.
Human beings can also learn a great deal from dogs. If intelligence is defined as the capacity to adapt to one’s environment, there are few animals smarter than a dog.
While lacking the frontal lobe that makes humans what they are, dogs still have a great deal to teach us and Bianca taught me plenty. Perhaps most importantly, she taught me about the importance of living in the present. While human beings have only recently spruiked the importance of mindfulness, dogs have always demonstrated it.
Bianca taught me about the importance of living in the moment and of sucking the marrow out of it. She also taught me the importance of sleeping when you are tired, unconditional forgiveness, licking faces and getting out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off, unless you want your face licked by your dog.
I have forgotten some of these lessons, specially those relating to living in the present. Writing this piece today has awoken so many memories and for that, I am grateful.
I am grateful for everything Bianca gave me -- and to my family for having the foresight to get me something so fantastic for my 18th birthday.
Bianca was not my first K9 companion. From the age of seven to 13, I had Shadow, who I loved very much.
Bianca was also not my last K9 companion. I have borrowed favourite pets of a number of friends over the years, including Poppy, who I have not seen for some time but still love dearly.
One day I will have another dog of my own. I know I will enjoy the experience and be the better person for it.
Tell us about the dogs in your life!