I've always had pets; a cat who outdated me and would glower at me above my crib, my first. Shortly followed by big dogs, then little dogs, more cats, fish, birds and guinea pigs, rabbits, mice. I'm sure in my 25 years of life we've had just about every animal aside from snakes we could have fit in our suburban block.
But every animal lover knows that a pet is never just a pet; he or she is family. A sibling, a child, a best friend. There is a reason that dogs are considered to be 'Man's best friend' and the truth of that can be seen as far back as the Palaeolithic period in Europe (or the Holocene in Australia). Whilst cats were occasionally treated as godly or like deities, dogs have always been right beside us. We brought them on ships to new lands, they hunted and gathered beside us, they protected us from threats and most importantly of all they loved us unconditionally and showed us every day.
There are famous examples worldwide or love and loyalty to people as shown by dogs: Hatchi in Japan, Red Dog in Australia, Balto in North America. Each has been passed down and retold over the years, fantasised and reimagines. But what has always stayed the same is how much those dogs have been remembered and will never been forgotten. Loved.
This is Rueben.
His names is misspelt here on purpose, as having grown up with him I always thought it was spelt differently. Even when I learnt I was mistaken it never changed in my mind because he was my Rueben and that was how I spelt his name.
Rueben was born in my house in the year 2000. He was the son of my other dog, Holly, and one fourth of the unintended pregnancy that occurred during the Sydney Olympics. Whilst his siblings went to live with friends and family members, Rueben (Olly as he was first known) never left. I remember it, when he was the last one left, and how I'd already claimed him. There was never any question of if he would stay with us - he just belonged.
For the next 9 years mother and son lived with us. We had so many adventures and laughs together, so many good times. I've got hundreds of silly photos, memories and stories I could tell about all the good times we all had.
In 2009 poor Holly's heart gave out and we had to let her go. It was horrible and sad, but she had been unwell for a little while. In the end it was her time.
We eventually got past it, we added new members to the family like Alice the Staffy and Anubis the lazy ex-racing Greyhound.
For all his worth and size, Anubis (named for the God of Judgement and Underworld in Ancient Egyptian culture), was perhaps the most unexpected pet. He was afraid of floorboards, loud noises, vacuum cleaners and so much more. He wasn't energetic or necessarily excitable even if he was always happy to see you at the end of the day.
If anyone ever tells you that a Greyhound is a vicious or agressive dog - don't believe them. They've got long legs and they're fast so they race them but different trainers have different methods for getting them to run, as most Australians will know after a recent expose into the industry. But remember dogs aren't evil, they are primal like humanity once was and the have known us ever since. Believe me when I say what happened last night was by no means an act of aggression. Anyone who thinks otherwise can go through me.
Last night I came home from work late, the first one to as my mother was visiting my Nana in her new home (but that is another post for another time). I did what I would usually do, I put on some music and wandered around whilst I got dinner ready for all the animals. I called for Rueben but he never came but at 14 and somewhat deaf this wasn't unusual. Anubis and Alice didn't bark when I went outside, and then there was that moment when I knew, deep down that something was very wrong.
I turned a corner, stepped into the patio light and screamed.
Nothing will ever remove that image from my mind no matter how much I keep wishing it was a nightmare. It was already too late, and no amounting of thinking if only I'd just been home an hour earlier will bring him back.
I called my brother, he came, and others soon after. While I waited I cried, devastated, and I shouted at Anubis as if he could reply though I know he understood. He knew he had made a very big mistake, so did Alice, I have never seen them look so depressed.
Rueben was cleaned up so we could say goodbye and covered up to be taken to the vet. His wounds weren't fatal but as such a little old dog the shock killed him, and chances are even if I had got home in time I couldn't have saved him from that.
It is never easy to lose a beloved pet, friend and family member. Especially not when it comes in such a sudden and traumatic way as this - it will take me some time to move past this and to stop replaying images in my mind. But I will never forget about him, never love Anubis any less for his horrible mistake, or hold off from any pets in the future. It hurts like hell to lose Rueben - but he was 14, I knew it was coming eventually. We had a almost 15 full years together and he was my constant best friend, my partner in crime and my adventure sidekick. I wouldn't trade any one of those memories.
If you have a pet - go and hug it for me. Tell him or her you love them. You never know when it will be the last time.
Eventually I will forget about last night. What I hope I never forget is the night before when we were sitting on the couch together watching a movie for what I couldn't have known was the last time. I hugged him, kissed him, told him I loved him and that's all that matters.
November 12th 2000 - June 29th 2015