Updated: Feb 8, 2021
We have always had dogs in our life, and I grew up having dogs under your feet and making the carpet dirty. For me there is something special about having the unconditional, uncomplicated love and friendship of a dog. When humans and relationships sometimes feel complex and challenging there is often joy in the simplicity of your life with a dog.
In the spring of 2016, we brought home a puppy; a huge bundle of Bernese Mountain Dog fun named Gus. He grew to be the gentlest giant with a wonderful temperament and character to match his size. Like a lot of big dogs, he was a little misunderstood by the outside world, but in the safety of our home he was a real friend and true companion to me, my husband and our daughter and would always be right by your side when you needed him most.
In the April of 2020 during the first lockdown, we suddenly lost Gus, aged three, to a twisted gut. In the morning he was fine and by night he was gone; we were broken hearted.
It made me realise how much we take so many things for granted, wrongly assuming things will either always be there or will leave us on our terms and by our timelines. I know that it’s not like losing a loved one, but I had seen him every day of his life and far more than any other human being for months.
There was a huge physical and emotional void in my family and for months I searched for a puppy to try and fill that void. I would hear stories of puppies selling for thousands of pounds and others in search of a dog who had been scammed for deposits when dogs didn’t even exist. Why is it often the things you want most in life that are the hardest to find?
We had a glimmer of hope when Gus’ sister was having puppies but alas that wasn’t to be. But on the same day that we found out that we wouldn’t be able to bring a puppy home a picture of a Golden Retriever rescue dog from Bosnia popped into my Twitter feed.
He was found wondering the streets of Bosnia alone during a thunderstorm, malnourished and injured but rescued by some wonderful kind people who support the work of the ‘Second Chance Golden Retriever Rescue’ charity. We made an application that day and hoped that they might think we were the right family to give him a new home. They contacted us to say that we had been successful in our application and would we be happy to pay for Blake to come across on the ‘happy’ bus from Bosnia to Wales.
A month passed before we could pick him up from Wales. We set off very early, excited and apprehensive in equal measure at what we might find when we got to meet him for the first time. We needn't have worried. Somehow, as soon as he saw us, he knew that we would be looking after him forever and even though frail he came running, tail wagging, to sit at our feet and have his tummy rubbed.
He has a scar on his nose from what looks like a cigarette burn, has had a broken tail and a broken leg and when they found him, he was covered in sores where he had probably been beaten. And yet despite all of the things that humans have done to this dog all he wants to do is give and receive love. He sits at the end of my daughters’ bed when she is fearful of the dark, to help her with her home schooling, to be held and be close.
We often talk of forgiveness, of trust, of compassion, kindness and resilience and sometimes we find it hard to be those things. But Blake, who has had such a brutal start to life, epitomises all of these strengths and has shown me that all of these things are within us all.
When I speak to people about him, I will always say that we rescued each other. He brings our family together, makes us go for walks embracing the glorious countryside that surrounds us, he likes to be involved in our Zoom calls, he’ll happily be dressed up by our daughter when she needs a friend, will play ball when we are bored, and he will lie next to you when you need to feel the warmth of his fur and the connection to something living.
We all need simple, uncomplicated relationships, to feel safe, for someone to give you a future regardless of your past, to feel cared for and to be loved for who we are. We all need our basic human, or animal, needs to be met, but above all, we need to be kind to one another. And sometimes we could all do with a second chance, couldn’t we?