I recently lost my gorgeous pooch, who’d been with us for 17 years.
Dennis’ life began with us after our previous dog, Harry, died. We had gone to the kennels after school, as mum was needed to do the paperwork and pick up his ashes. As a distraction, the kennel owner took my brother and I to see a new litter, only 5 days old.
We were instantly hooked. As a 9 year old girl and 11 year old boy, a brand new litter of puppies was just what we needed to get over our childhood dalmatian. 8 weeks later we brought home this gorgeous, howling bundle of joy.
After many a discussion, we decided on the name Dennis. People used to say “Oh, like Dennis the Menace?” No. Like Dennis Berkamp. We had an Arsenal supporter in the family.
Puppy training came and went and was strictly ignored by Dennis. He failed puppy school in style, and we were told we would never let him off a lead as he was a hound and would forever follow his nose. And they were right. The (many) times we tried, involved searching high and low in the local fields for hours, and our mischievous pup would only return when he was ready. But he was always back, tail wagging, tongue hanging out, covered in mud.
We used to laugh (we weren’t laughing at the time) that Dennis was the worst behaved dog in the world. We had to install a cage on the back of the door as he used to shred the post. Our poor, tormented postman used to leave post on the hedge outside (rain or shine) for fear of being chased by our hound. We had to hide plastic bags as he liked to shred them around the garden. He once ate all the meat my dad had prepared for a barbecue, before it had been cooked. Most of my soft toys were missing eyes and noses as he liked to pluck them out.
When he decided he’d had enough of our spacious garden, he would try and escape. He was actually incredibly good at it, and we had numerous calls from neighbours, farmers, and random people who had picked up our cheeky dog and wanted to return him. He was even hit by a car on one of his adventures, but in typical style, he carried on, with his endless lives. My dad put chicken wire up over all the weak spots in the garden, but it turns out he had teeth of steel and could chew through it. We turned to reinforced fencing and 6 foot walls.
Our pup was an absolute monkey and like no other dog I’ve met. He was an independent soul, happy to spend his time alone, running up and down the garden or lounging in the sun. He lived life entirely on his own terms. But when we needed him, he was there to make our days a little bit brighter.
Home doesn’t feel like home unless you can come in to a dog that acts like he hasn’t seen you in years. No matter what, whether you’d been gone a day or a week, Dennis would be there, barking and jumping, making you feel like the most special person in the world. Is a house really a home without a dog?
How is it that dogs seem to know when you’re down? Dennis wasn’t allowed upstairs, but whenever I’d had a terrible day, he’d be up in my room, nosing at me, like he knew I just needed a hug.
About a year ago, he got a lot slower, he started to struggle up and down the steps in the house and could no longer get in the car. A few months ago he decided he’d had enough of walks and did a really great impression of being dead whenever he was asleep. The time had finally come when we had to say our final farewells and Dennis was taken to the vet for the last time.
When I was younger, I was so against animals being put down. But seeing our happy pup the way he was in his last few weeks, it all made sense. He had lived such a long life, but great things can’t last forever. Seeing him in pain and struggling to get up was one of the hardest things I’ve had to watch. Dennis was a member of the family, and watching him struggle broke my heart. We did the right thing, which is sometimes the most painful.
Dennis had become completely blind in his last few months, and when out for a walk, he careered straight into a man. After hearing that Dennis was 17, he said to my mum, he must have lived a truly great life, as even when his body was failing him, he refused to leave us. And I couldn’t help but think, what a truly lovely outlook to have.
So a farewell to you my pup. I hope wherever you are, you have postmen to chase, gardens to escape from, and all the raw barbecue meat you could imagine.
I don’t think we will ever find a dog quite like Dennis, and I hope we don’t. He won’t ever be replaced. But maybe one day we’ll find another hound out there to join our home and to make our hearts hurt a little less.