Remembering Bear

Most promises aren't really promises. They’re an emergency reaction to a difficult situation, usually involving a wife, an uncompleted task and the need to string together a vaguely comprehensible series of words in order to buy time for the mysterious magical pixie fairies to complete the job. (Incidentally this approach has yet to work. Who stole my magical mysterious fairy pixies?) But sometimes a promise is a promise. Almost 15 years ago I met this little golden ball of fur. She was alone in the corner of her wooden crate at the back of the shelter, shaking and shivering and scared out of her mind. Alone because she’d had worms. Alone because 3 people had brought her back. Alone because I hadn't come to collect her yet. Except -  we were there to get my wife a dog, because she was in a lot of pain [the wife, not the dog, soon to result in major back surgery] and she needed cheering up. Plus my wife has had a dog all her life, my wife loves dogs, I love my wife, and I had to make up for all the times the magical mysterious fairy pixies had failed to do what they promised (b*tches). We were not there for me. I didn't like dogs, I was scared of dogs. We were not there for me.

Then the owner of the shelter put this scared little scrawny ball of fur in my arms, and she was home. And my wife kept telling me I didn't have to hold the dog if I didn't want to, I could put the dog down if I wanted to, no really, put the dog down, hey, I want to see the dog, PUT – THE – DOG – DOWN. And she kept telling me that we didn't have to take this dog simply because it was the first one we’d seen. Silly woman. Eventually I did need to put the dog down because we had to sign some papers that said – this is my wife’s dog, and I promise to take good care of her. (the dog, not the wife). We knew she was my wife’s dog because she got to name her. I was going to name her Chevron, but the owner of the dog overruled me and said her name was Chelsea.

So Chelsea came home with us in the car. Sat on my knee in the passenger seat, puking. I mean PUKING, I mean 1 litre of vomit per minute per ounce of dog puking. The entire front of my blue shirt was soaked through yellow and green, and Wendy was scared out of her mind. I’d bought her a dog and it was throwing up on me and look what it had done to me and I was going to hate it. Silly woman. This scared frightened ball of fur was home, and I was holding her tight and never letting her go. And I kept telling her, I promised, that everything was going to be alright, and I was going to look after her for the rest of her life. But still Wendy was scared. Silly woman. We stopped halfway home at a petrol station so I could clean up. Wendy went off to get some paper towels, and Chelsea looked up, then back to me, not bothered at all.  I cleaned up then went to throw out the towels and started to walk away. Chelsea SCREAMED. This tiny little puppy screamed and screamed until I came back, but as soon as I sat in the car and picked her up she stopped, she snuggled. She was my dog. She was home.

Almost 15 years later I kept my promise to her. She was an Old Bear, tired through drugs and pain, but still wagging, still snuggling, still patrolling, albeit on 3 legs, still telling the birds to get the hell out of her airspace, still wanting to come with, still stopping to sniff the air, sniff the flowers, and people watch as everyone went by. But she had an evil cancer in her leg, one which was spreading, one which was going to cause her agony, much more sooner than later. So when she was still happy Bear, when she was still her waggy Bearness, we sat with her in her garden one last time. She went for a last walk round the perimeter, then curled up with us in the centre of her tartan rug. And as my wife gently held her she looked at me and asked me if she was going to be alright and I told her yes, because I made her a promise that I would always look after her. I got one last hand lick, then she went to sleep, peacefully and quickly. After taking a moment to shoot one last evil look at the vet. There’s no happy ending to this story. There can’t be, because any day without a Bear in it is wrong. Anytime she’s not there to greet me when I come home, and latterly when I arrive home and she’s too deaf to hear me come in, then she looks up from her snuggle sack at the back door 5 minutes later and tries to wag her buried tail, then gives me a look that says “hey, I’m an Old Bear, d’ya think you could get yo ass over here so I can say hello to you?” So tonight I ask you to raise a glass of something, preferably Scottish, to the best thing that could have been given to me for the last 15 years. A toast to life lived, loved and left. Then tomorrow, if you can, find yourself a sand dune and run through the long grass Chelsea will be there with you.

Nick Jones 21st Sept 2012

All Photos © Copyright Chelynnah Whippets and/or their respective photographers and may not be used without permission

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