They say that “a dog is man’s best friend.” As someone who has always had a pet dog in the family since the age of two, I would definitely agree with this statement. As a family, the Berries have now had six dogs: two cocker spaniels (Danny and Storm), two springer spaniels (Rosie and Pixie) and two German Shepherds (Freddie and Max.)
I’ve always loved my dogs but I truly came to appreciate them when I was eighteen. When my parents bought Pixie and Max into our family, I was 17 and a half. I loved having puppies in the house so much that on the lunch breaks that I had to stay for (when I had a fifth period) I would make the three to five minute drive to see them. Obviously I had friends but most of them were acquaintances and I think deep down we all knew it. Our timetables were also different and some days forty minutes alone in the sixth form study area or just on the miserable grounds of John Cleveland College itself was too long to be alone studying. As year 13 progressed I brutally learned who my real friends were and I removed the fakers from my life. I threw myself into my jobs, working six days a week for my dream 2 month stay in Australia. The best part of those 5 weeks was my dogs searching for me in the unit after their morning walk with my dad and bounding up to cheerily whilst they ignored my colleagues. Even a year later before I moved to the USA and my family were on holiday, I spent my last week in England with my Nan and my dogs. Life is too short to spend time with people who don’t appreciate you so why bother? I’d had enough of people crying wolf as my departure grew closer and then not wanting to hang out before I left.
I’ve always felt that, similarly to a child, a dog can make a house a home. The dynamic of a household with a dog is very different to one without a dog. Not a bad one, just a different one. I think having pets at a young age teaches a child not only responsibility but how to love as well. And obviously when they die you learn what heartbreak is too. You learn how much someone who can only really speak through actions can impact your life.
A Dog without a Bone.
It wasn’t until summer 2015 that I fully appreciated my guard dog’s hatred for everyone who resided outside of my family home. I’d got to the point where being touched by people I don’t know was the last thing I wanted and knowing Max would go bananas if he saw that gave me great comfort. For a long time after my arrival back in the UK I was like a dog without a bone. My best friend Taylor was suddenly 4000 miles away and 6 hours behind me. I saw many of my UK friends and hung out with most but nowhere near as much as I thought we would over our lengthy summer break. Any excess emotion I had I spent on my dogs and I couldn’t have been more grateful for their presence. One of my worst fears is a stranger breaking into my home. The mere thought terrifies me. I pray to god I’ll never have to experience it. I let my dogs have free reign of the house when I’m alone. I trust Max and Pixie and I’d rather wake up to poo in the kitchen than a stranger with a knife to my throat!
One day I was having lunch with the dogs in the kitchen on my lunch break whilst my family were on holiday in Bulgaria. Whilst eating my sandwich I thought I saw the front door open and close. Looking back now it was paranoia but in that moment my heart stopped. I raced to the door to inspect but saw nothing. Shaken by my own thoughts, I vowed to never leave it unlocked when I was home ever again.
A few days later Pixie started barking in the dead of the night on two separate occasions and one of the porch sensor lights turned on. Her barking startled me out of my sleep and I hurried down the stairs. I was terrified. I left my bedroom door open so the dogs could get to me. One morning I woke up to Max lying beside my bed on the floor. We don’t allow our dogs upstairs in our house for hygiene reasons but being alone I dropped that rule. I don’t let them in the beds- that’s really unhygienic! I thought waking up to Max guarding me was the sweetest thing. He obviously slept better knowing I was safe. When I ironed in his least favourite room so that I could watch Gossip Girl on a bigger TV screen, he slept in the most uncomfortable positions such as his head on the treadmill or between the legs or the ironing board to guard me. The level of commitment overwhelmed me. It got to the point that when I walked around in a circle, Max would follow me.
I Don’t Need A Man.
During that week whilst my parents were away, I got stood up by the only flame in my heart twice. After the second time I decided it wasn’t worth it and decided to focus on myself and do my best to let it go. Max sensed that I was disheartened and would sit quietly with me all over the house, resting his head on my lap or just letting me know that he was there. I looked at him and said “will any man ever love me as much as you do Maxie?” Obviously he didn’t respond (that’s my favourite thing about pets) but his calmness and loving eyes made me realise I don’t need a man to be happy or fulfilled in life. It was society’s greatest myth; Cinderella Syndrome as Radhika and I refer to it.
When Push Comes To Shove.
At the end of the day, a dog with love you like no human ever will. Not more or less, they’ll love you differently. To them you are their world and they’re not going to care if you skipped your morning shower or felt too lazy to put your eyeliner on. They’ll love you no matter what! I’ve always been wiser beyond my years (in words rather than actions 😉 ) and I’ve got to the point where I value my time a great deal more than I used to. Quality over quantity any day! I know that, when push comes to shove, I don’t need a man. Because with a knight with fur for armour to watch out for me with a level of love and protection like no other, every day is a good day.