Maybe I don’t need to write this. It’s probably too long and no one will read it. Maybe it’s too much for one dog, but I need to and he wasn’t just one dog.
How do you condense into words 14 years of friendship, loyalty and love? You can’t, I can’t.
Besides the fact that the more I think about it, Alfie wasn’t just in my life for 14 years, he was the 15 years leading up to that moment I picked him up and took him home.
I had always wanted a dog since I can remember - we had dogs, but I wanted my own, that was mine to shape as I wanted. Not that I could have ever shaped Alf, he was fully formed, perfectly imperfect. He was 15 years of every wish from blowing out a candle, stirring a christmas cake and shooting stars; to birthday lists, christmas lists, circling adverts in local papers and well thought letters to my parents in wobbly handwriting; wishing for a dog that I could have on my bed and walk proudly along the street. He didn’t have to be well trained (he wasn’t), he didn’t have to be able to play fetch (he didn’t), I just wanted him to be my best friend (and he was. In every way possible).
We ended as we started. A car journey and him in my arms.
We went to the edge of Wales to get him, my Grandad, Mum and me. We went to look at two Sealyham Terriers (an endangered breed) and we left with Alf. I couldn’t decide at first, they were both cute; one with a patch on his ear - quiet and sweet, the other a maniac with badger patches over both eyes; who tackled his brother behind the sofa, found a chew treat too big for him, barked at his reflection in the TV cabinet and chewed my Grandad’s shoe. My Grandad suggested the maniac had character. We left with the maniac - which we always reminded Grandad was his fault. Never take a Yorkershireman’s advice (but always secretly do). I chose him because despite being a bit of a maniac, he was the only one not distracted by his mother and siblings when put back in his pen. He sat at the back as the others played, whining to be taken out again, his little eyes watching me as we walked away from the pen to see his Uncles and Aunts. I knew I couldn’t leave him and he happily left in my arms, without looking back. The newly named ‘Alfie’ fell asleep in my arms for most of the long ride home, stopping only occasionally to look out the window and sniff the bag of food the breeder had given us. I gazed at him the whole way, not believing my wish had finally come true.
On an aside, whilst wandering the backseat, he tried to crane his little neck down to the food. Unfortunately for me and fortunate for Alfie, Grandad had to break suddenly, and whilst just out of my reach, my tiny little ball of fluff fell head first into the bag of food, where he frantically tried to grab as much as his little mouth could swallow, before I hoicked him out. Best moment of his little life, no doubt.
Alfie was born on April Fools Day, by the way. He was my funny little April Fool. I think that sums up his character perfectly.
He came home and settled in wonderfully. I could describe his whole life to you but I won’t right now. It had its ups and downs, like all lives. All I will say is that he filled a part of my life that I always felt was empty - he became my shadow and now, shadowless, I feel lost and untethered from the ground, like a drawing on a page that you have yet to add the shading or shadow to. All the moments we shared are running through my mind like a montage and a part of me is scared it will end and I will forget him. I hope if I ever get to the end of my life, and unfortunately lose my mind in some way, that Alfie is the thing I deliriously imagine in front of me, when all else is gone. Maybe that’s over dramatic, but he was there whenever I needed comfort and that time will be when I need him most.
So on Wednesday 7th September 2022 I took my boy in my arms again and carried him to the car. My legs felt like lead and I was worried they wouldn’t carry me there. Alfie had lymphoma and he was starting to show too many signs of discomfort, and we couldn’t put him through it any longer. We had a short drive to the vets, but he always enjoyed a car ride - he used to like sitting in the front seat and also enjoyed just sitting in the car when I washed it. He sniffed the air from the windows and occasionally looked over to me as I stroked him. Our noses touched for a moment. Making me think of a game we used to play, a lot like “Last One To Blink” - except the first to shove their nose into the other and make the other back away, wins. I think I won once, but he always won.
The vet was lovely and he made things easier. He took Alf away to put a tube in his leg and then he came back, and led us to their back garden where Alf was waiting on a bed with the nurse.
I tried in the last couple of weeks to tell Alf how much I loved him, every moment I got. But you can never say those things enough. We always want just one more day. No matter how much you try to look at them and just soak them in, it’s never enough. So I said what I needed to say again, or tried to, without sobbing, but the air kept escaping my lungs. Then they did what they had to, and he lay down next to me and laid his head on my leg, just like he did whenever we watched TV. His hair was so soft from being groomed the week or two before - he looked handsome as always. I kissed his head and stroked his ears like I always did before he went to bed. I don’t want to forget that, the way his fur felt, the way his ears moved as I ran my fingers round them. Those ears used to fly in high winds, which was hilarious, or whenever he went at “mach speed”, flopping back onto his head - making him streamlined. I will miss those ears.
I came home with his collar, it’s now sitting on a box on my window sill. I kept all his collars in that box since he was a puppy. Sentimental and silly I know, but I guess I am really. I say good morning and goodnight to it, as I always did. I don’t want to stop. Not yet.
When my Grandad died, I said at his funeral that it felt like something had broken and, ironically, the only person who could fix it was my Grandad. The man who was a wiz at DIY and could fix anything. The same thing applies to Alfie. Now, at a time of my life where certain things aren’t going well, Alfie aside (these things alway come in threes), and I feel low, I don’t have my boy to comfort me and cheer me up. He always knew how to cheer me up. I am a private person and find being emotionally open difficult - Alfie was my emotional outlet. Whenever I was upset and hiding in a corner of my room, he would come and sit next to me till I stopped crying, then when he deemed I had cried it all out; he would lie down and roll just out of my reach, building up to a bark, looking at me out of the corner of his eye, asking for his tummy to be rubbed; not giving up until I did. Subtly forcing me to move out of my corner and smile. He wasn’t stupid. The day my Grandad was terminally diagnosed with leukaemia, I cried and Alfie sat next to me on my bed, he sat so close he was almost in my lap. He let me cry into his fur and he never rolled away. God, I will miss that dog.
There are so many things I will miss - the way he looked around corners at me, reminded me whenever it was food time (even in later years - whenever tablet time was. He thought it was a treat. Pillock.), the way he sat on the poof next to me to watch old films, the way his little curly tail would wrap around the extension lead, the way he would put his leg against my back when he slept on my bed and it would shake me awake, the way he would look around indignantly like it wasn’t his fault he fell off the poof in his sleep, the fact he would stargaze with me and so, so many other things. Alfie put up with me listening to hours of Roxy Music, playing new songs on my guitar (he always had first listen), telling him about how much I hated working in retail, watching hours of old films and jumping out of his skin whenever I cried in anguish when Humphrey Bogart died, and most of all he had to be without me when I went to train with the Royal Navy for 6 months. He is what I thought of when on parade and missing home. I changed my mind about my career and left to do music. I have never seen him as excited to see me when I came home - he whined happily which he never did and wiggled like a little otter. His face was a picture of panic when I left the house to get something, not realising I was coming back in 5 minutes. My twin had been at uni and hadn’t seen him in ages, but he was still more excited to see me when he realised I was still there. She’s still a bit miffed about that. He put up with so much and I appreciated every damn second of loyalty he gave me. Lassie and Ol’ Yeller can take a flying leap because Alfie ‘Zippor Welsh Caper’ Mahon was everything I needed.
The night before we said goodbye, we went out for his night time pee, the stars were out and it was beautiful. I had forgotten about our star gazing moments from when I was younger. At the time I was trying to work out what I wanted to do in life, and was struggling. I would go and lay on the edge of the pond and look up at the night sky. Alfie would wait patiently under the light at the corner of the house, contemplating life in general. Before finally deciding it was bedtime; he would walk over and stick his nose in my ear, letting me know it was time to stop my silly artistic type philosophising and get him his bedtime treat. Not that I believe in fate but it felt fitting that we should have one last chance to look at the stars - me and my boy.
I should end this. I know I should. Thank you for reading about my boy and humouring my grief ridden ramblings about a dog. Tears are tumbling down my cheeks. I think it helped, I’m not a hundred percent sure though.
All it boils down to is - I lost my best friend and I don’t feel the same. As a girl not known for being particularly maternal, I will be honest, he was my baby and walking away from that vets without him in my arms killed me. I will miss him everyday.
I saw a shooting star yesterday and I had no need for it, all I could wish for was to have him back. As much as I wish that would happen, I know it won’t, unfortunately, so if anyone wants to wish on a shooting star, there is one going for free. Have it on me and Alfie.
Goodnight Alf Palf, I love you lots mate. Sleep well puppy.