Big Dawgs and Heart Ache

I really want a dog. Really, really want a dog. A recent article on WMW reminded me of just how much. B and I have discussed it, of course, but it’s such a big commitment and obviously we won’t go ahead until we’re confident it’s the right choice for us. In many ways it’s the right time as I’m now writing full time and therefore around every day, and I know we’d offer a very happy home to any pooch, but it would also mean many restrictions to the life we currently lead. Sure, there are dog sitters and kennels, but these random weekends away wouldn’t be possible in the way they are now and would we really want to sacrifice those? Neither of us has parents around the corner who could take care of furry friends when we decide to go away, so even though we’d have the option of dog sitters, it would add a lot of costly logistics.

We’ve been considering a Cockapoo or a Labradoodle due to their good nature and intelligence, plus it would seem to me that it’d be better to have a smaller dog when you live in a city like London. We do have a huge garden, but we share it with three other flats and our mutt couldn’t have free access to it as such. Cockapoos and Labradoodles are still big enough and need enough exercise for it to be fine to take them jogging too, so on balance, they really do seem perfect. Plus they’re stupidly cute too.

However, if I could just choose my absolute dream dog, it’d be a Leonberger. Ideally just like the one my mum had, Puppy. Hands down the most wonderful animal ever and the whole family is still grieving his passing away just a year ago. When we’ve gone to Sweden since he’s gone, I still find it strange to open the front door and not be met by that huge nose pushing the door open, that huge furry lump the size of a pony. Never lived a more loving animal.

I remember once when Monkey would have been around two years old, if that. That age when jumping up and down on the spot is glorious fun. Puppy, as always, had parked himself close by, ever keeping a watchful eye on his flock and especially its smallest member, which at the time was Monkey. Monkey jumped away, bouncing around happily just inches from Puppy’s nose where he was lying on the floor. And of course, he ended up jumping ON Puppy. A little heel landed right on that huge nose. I’m absolutely convinced most other dogs would have momentarily lost control, gone with instinct and bit. Not Puppy. He just sighed and moved his head a little further from the bouncing Monkey.

Sometimes Puppy would go and fetch a shoe. It only upset me the time when he came into the living room carrying one of my Armani wedge sandals. Any other time, it was just the cutest thing. He’d growl, wanting to play, pretending to be ever so dangerous and scary, but that big, bushy tail wagging enthusiastically gave him away every time. Silly, old fool. God, how I loved that dog. He was originally my sister-in-law M’s dog, but when my oldest nephew came along my mum offered to look after him. My brother D and M lived in a two-bed apartment at the time, and also had another two dogs (Chihuauas) as well as a couple of cats, so the living situation with a baby added to the mix became a little overwhelming.

It was meant to be a temporary thing, but along came more babies, and of course my mother had completely fallen in love with Puppy so he became hers. She’d grumble good naturedly, but it was plain to see that she was delighted with the bear she now got to keep. Her world came to revolve around that huge dog, and his world came to revolve around her too. Any time she went to visit us in London, usually for a long weekend, Puppy would go on hunger strike. I suppose animals don’t have the ability to understand that we’ll come back. Mum would call home to check all was OK, but mostly about Puppy, and every time she’d be told that he was totally miserable and didn’t touch his food in protest at her being gone.

Puppy wasn’t a pure bred Leonberger, he also had a bit of German Shepherd in him, which meant his head was less bear-like and he had a longer nose than a typical Leonberger. He was every bit as tall, but not as chunky. Having said that, we’re talking a HUGE DAWG here – he clocked in at 10 stone. That’s the kind of dog you’ll have a bit of trouble controlling if he decides to bolt. Sure enough, there was a little accident when exactly that happened. Out on a walk in winter on snowy and icy roads, my mum had Puppy on the leash and was absentmindedly looking away, not noticing that Puppy had caught sight of a deer on the other side of the road and had just broken into that boundless and powerful gallop of his – the leash was one of those that extends and when it had reached its full length, it send mum flying. Her shock reaction was to keep hold of it, which made her fly after Puppy for a second before she promptly landed face first on the cold ground. Broke two ribs, which she disguised for two days and went about her usual business until she was in so much agony she had to admit defeat.

Perhaps when we move out of London in the future, it’ll be a Leonberger I get. We shall see.

My favourite photo of him is this one, that my mum sent one autumn, of him majestically sitting there among the leaves – I look at it and my heart aches, I just want to go and throw my arms around him and bury my face in that furry neck.



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