On the 26th of May, I took my best friend to the vets for the last goodbye.
I found Eva on a classifieds website over a decade ago. She was one and a half years old, and belonged to an old man who couldn’t keep her anymore. He had a heart condition that meant it was impossible for him to exercise her, so he knew it would be best if she went to another home. She had been given to him as a puppy after being rejected by her mother, with the belief that she wouldn’t make it as she was the runt and very poorly. His dedication and nuturing meant that she survived and grew into a bouncy, boistrous adolescent. As soon as I saw her picture, I knew it was meant to be. I’m very sad I don’t still have the photos from the advert.
Things were a little awkward in the beginning; she had never been trained to walk on a leash, so when I took her outside the apartment, she would scream and thrash to try and pull it free from her collar. She was also quite underweight and needed to be fed up to a decent size. People looked upon me with disgust, as though I was the cause of the situation, which was tough in the beginning, but I was determined to fix her and make her better. Of course, being that Eva had no interest in edible treats whatsoever, that made things quite a challenge as the only thing I could motivate her with was a tennis ball. I eventually figured out that using a head harness instead of clipping the lead to her collar immediately banished the screaming and we went from there. It took another year of constant messy carpets and large meals before she was the weight she needed to be.
Right from the start, we were inseperable. Everywhere I went, she went, otherwise tantrums would arise, and even though it was annoying sometimes, I have to admit I kind of liked it. It felt good to be wanted so badly. It felt good to be loved unconditionally by someone who needed every iota of my attention. It didn’t matter that I was different. Eva came to me just before I began my transition, when I was somewhere in between male and female and weighed almost 30 stone, a time when I hated myself and the way I looked. Before she came along, I was reclusive and rarely left the house; she gave me a reason to get outside and breathe some fresh air. None of my hang-ups meant anything to her. I was her new master, and she depended on me for everything and in return, what I got was unwavering loyalty and selfless protection.
Within the first few months of her being mine, she protected me from several suspicious persons while out walking late in the centre of town. She made me feel safe and like I could go anywhere at any time without needing to worry that I was in danger. She would growl and her head would go down whenever someone approached that I felt was unsafe; she just seemed to ‘know’ without my even needing to say a thing to her. That aside, she regularly got compliments about how beautiful she was whenever we went to the park or if I walked her down the street. She knew she was photogenic and she loved the attention, as she was, despite her guarding me, an incredibly social dog who was excited to make new friends and greet new people.
I have so many special memories of her that it’s difficult to choose just one. So many fun times, so many hilarious mishaps and some catastrophes. She was so wreckless that she would charge headlong down hills after the ball, regardless of consequences. One time she managed to follow the ball through a chainlink fence and down a 15 feet drop onto a main road where the traffic had to stop to let her fetch it before wandering along the roadside in search of us. I’ve never run so fast in my life! But when I got to the gate at the bottom, expecting the worst, she came running to me expectantly with the ball in her mouth as if nothing had even happened!
One time, I made the mistake of leaving the kitchen window of our house open during the hot summer. We woke the next morning to find that some pots and pans that had been on the draining board had been knocked to the ground and there were grubby handprints all over the window sill. The latch on the back door was undone, but the lock was in tact. A burglar had climbed through the window during the night and come face to face with Eva’s barking, unaware that she was shut in her crate in the living room, and had been so terrified that he had attempted to escape through the back door and climbed back out of the window. Nothing had been taken.
Eva was a chronic mail-eater, and even in her old age, we had to be careful about keeping her away from the front door if we were expecting post. For all her life, she had an ongoing vendetta with the postman. Nothing I did would persuade her otherwise. My wife has several books that she received in the post which have been imprinted with Eva’s toothmarks.
No matter how many years went by, she was always up for adventure, come rain or shine. Of course, this story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning her little brother.
God forbid any other dog should attempt to have a go at Dolphie when Eva was around. Only she was allowed to boss him about! But they adored each other, and when separated would actively look for each other around the house. He relied on her for guidance and always looked to her to figure out what was going on, because she was the leader and she knew the household better than he did. She always beat him at fetch.
Around the time of Dolphie’s passing, we began to notice that something wasn’t right with Eva. She started to fall down and trip over while walking, and then one day, we noticed she was dragging one of her back legs. I knew what it was straight away; I had seen the same thing happen to a friend’s German Shepherd. We carried on anyway, kept going to the park, kept going for walks, kept playing fetch… Until that wasn’t possible anymore. Degenerative Myelopathy took away my best friend’s ability to run and leap and play. Her mind was still active and she wanted to fetch, she wanted to go out, but she couldn’t anymore. Her legs grew weak and her feet grew blistered. She couldn’t climb the stairs, then she couldn’t climb the front door step. I had to lift her out onto the grass and stand with her to help her go to the bathroom. It was humiliating for a dog of such vivacity to be reduced to stumbling and collapsing when her mind was so ready to race.
Carrying my best friend up the stairs at night so that she could sleep at the foot of our bed was the time I realised that it wasn’t fair to let this continue.
My heart was still broken by the loss of Dolphie. It took a long period of denial to pass before I was strong enough to say that this couldn’t go on. It was different with Dolphie; cancer took him from us, we didn’t have a choice. This time, I had to choose. I’ve never had responsibility of this magnitude, and I didn’t even think about it when I became a dog owner. I never considered that one day I would have to make such a decision. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life to date. She didn’t want to say goodbye to me and she would have hung on right to the bitter end if I had allowed her to, but I was a better person than that and I wouldn’t let her suffer. Dolphie would be waiting for her on the other side.
So that’s what I chose to do. One final visit to the vets.
Eva will always be a part of me, no matter what I do or where I go. She changed me at a time when I needed to change. She taught me to love myself. She made me get out and be a better person.
On mornings when I wake to the sun shining, moments before I open my eyes, moments before I am fully conscious, sometimes I hear the sound of paws running up the stairs and wagging tails bumping against the bedroom door.
I know that one day, I will open my eyes and see them waiting for me.
In loving memory of Eva
Always my protector