So I know this might be a bit of an different post for our laundry blog but for those of you who have or have ever had a loved family pet, then hopefully you can appreciate why I felt compelled to share the story of my amazing dog and best friend Caesar.
It was a beautiful QLD Autumn day in 2000 when I, together with my three siblings and mum turned up at the property excited at the prospect of getting our first family puppy… Like a school ground at recess, there was a mischievous troop of energetic pups bouncing around their mother, some fighting for top dog, others just trying to work out what the lawn mower was….
My youngest sister found in her arms a cute little fella with paws three times bigger than you would expect for a 6 week old. The owner brought out one of his brothers saying that this was the dog we were earmarked to have but he was held for a family who had called the day before and was now no longer available. This news didn’t bother my sister at all as it was love at first sight between her and the big pawed, floppy eared pup, so we ended up taking that little guy home with us. Little did we know at the time that the ‘family’ who had called earlier and allocated the previous puppy, was actually us and we were never originally going to get our little guy but the universe intervened and thus, as fate had always intended, Caesar became part of our family.
I remember the first day at home in our front yard, he was so clever finding the garden bed to ‘conduct his daily business’ right off the bat. Making sure he spent about 3min in each of our laps before jumping up and enthusiastically going to the next person, round and round in circles for over an hour. This was to be one of the most amazing things about our Caesar, the fact that he loved us all so equally and unconditionally with so much awe in his eyes that it seemed we were always a family.
Part dog, part prancing deer and part little boy Caesar bound through his puppy years giving us so much joy… ridiculously smart and equally empathetic. At one point we counted over 50 specific ‘tricks’ he knew and many not even being taught but worked out himself! A gentle giant who grew to 45kg but still never actually fitting into those lion-like paws… our lion, fierce protector yet such a gentle giant. Protector, companion, playmate, always keen for a tug of war or a chase of the tennis ball always waiting with bated breath for one of his two favourite sentences;
“Caesar…. you wanna TREAT?” or “Caesar…. you wanna go for a WALK?”
Each would spring him into frenzy, either randomly performing tricks or smashing apart the garage to find his collar and lead to bring it to your hands, just to make sure you followed through on your promise!
The years went by for all of us, through school/university and work, boyfriends/girlfriends, marriage, moving house and for three siblings even moving out of home, yet no matter how long we were away for he would always greet us with such love, affection and longing. It didnt matter if it was half a day excitedly waiting at the gate for 3:15pm on the dot when the kids came home from school or being several months between visits from living interstate…
We have always been a very close family, with the marvels of modern technology, being away for long periods is not so bad with constant texts, calls and Facetime but for Caesar the longing for seeing my little buddy built every single week till I just really missed my puppy and needed to come home to see him. That’s exactly what he had become… Home…. the solid centre of our family, the one we loved consistently as with all families (especially crazy Greek ones) we would fight, argue or down right piss each other off but with Caesar, it was nothing but love and adoration.
Over the past few years, with each visit it was clear that our little puppy had somewhere along the line become an older dog…. Chasing tennis balls as fast as a bullet around the park became carefully throwing a soft ball in the back yard; vigorously digging holes at the beach large enough for me to sit in became slow walks along the beach in the cool of the afternoon; the intense workout that was tug-of-war became pats and scratches as his gums would start to bleed with too much force… my strong mate who could once pull me, a grown 30+ year old man over 80kg, was now over 70 ‘dog years’ himself. The dreaded reality of his mortality hit me like a freight train…
Last week I got the call that I had feared for the past year or so and with the simple phrase “Caesar is not doing very well, you should think about coming home” I knew my world would soon never be the same. We all made it to our family home in time to spend some really great last few days together, all sharing our happy stories of how he’d touched each of our lives… our little man, wrought with arthritis, so lethargic to even move from his bed, still managed a wag of the tail, shake of a hand and lick on the cheek, so happy to see each of us home. In reality, he was hanging on for all of us to get there, as he would never leave us without making sure we were all ok, as he always had done through some of the toughest trials in each of our lives.
Together as a family we carefully took him to the vet, and Caesar, surrounded by those who loved him and who he had loved his whole life… content, comfortable, calm we all tearfully said our goodbyes. Despite being so tired, he managed to lift his head once more and kiss each of us as if to say I’m ok, I love you too and I am ready to go… and with that, after nearly 16 years of being the centre of our world, the greatest dog, companion, guardian and friend any family could ever wish for, was gone…
This act of love, in letting him go, was perhaps the hardest thing I have ever had to do besides seeing him in so much pain his last few days. It has been a week now and the emptiness still feels like it could never be filled… but slowly I’ve started to remember all the amazing memories of a life that has brought so much joy to my world.
What is it about pets that give us so much in our lives that we would openly risk these feelings knowing that we will outlive them many times over? Is it that they give us affection and love no matter what we say or do? Is it that, unlike with lovers, friends or family we know that their love will be unconditional, never judging, never wavering?
I don’t have the answers to these questions but for me what I can say is that my life is all the richer for Caesar having been such as special part of it and even though I may outlive him for another 50 years (one can hope) I will never forget my little buddy and if I was able to actually say something to him that he would truly understand, it would be nothing more than THANK YOU, thank you for giving us joy and unwavering love, thank you for protecting our family and thank you for choosing us to spend your life with. Until I see you again one day my gentle giant; run, jump, bark play and EAT for you deserve it!
In the meantime, I will look out for you in my dreams……