I had already resolved to call you Alfie. I had already decided that you would be bristly; a terrier of some unknown description; compact.
It was three years since my old dog died. The dog I’d had since I was 13 – through every horrible, blissful, crazy moment – my best friend for 18 years. I didn’t want to think about you until I knew I could love you as much.
On the day that I realised I could, you found me on the Internet. A friend had shared your story on Facebook and you were suddenly looking at me, one ear up, one down (as it always is with you).The weird thing was that you were exactly as I had imagined, even weirder was the fact that your name, the one I had decided to give you, was already yours.
I called them straight away. You and I were always meant to be. You were somewhere in Whyalla being fostered after being saved from death row. Four weeks later I met you for the first time in the Kmart carpark in Port Pirie on a Saturday afternoon in November.
I cried when I saw you. Your eyes were old, you wanted to love and be loved. You came to me straight away and I didn’t realise it at the time but this has proved to be rare for you.
You slept the whole way home except for when we stopped to get a sandwich in Port Wakefield and you nearly died of fright crossing the road.
I’m still getting to know you. You’re only a year old but I think a lot has happened to you. I worry when you cower in corners at strange noises and wonder why you shiver so much. You are selective in the humans you like and I wonder who the people who scare you remind you of. When a truck passes us on a walk you freak out – you are scared of other dogs; and cats; and motorbikes; going to the vets; birds; being left alone while I get a coffee; my new car; horses when they breathe in your face and the raincoat I bought you so you wouldn’t get cold.
Despite being prone to being a nervous wreck you are also sometimes cocky. I’ve noticed recently that you seem to want to take on the neighbours staffies which, incidentally, I would strongly advise you against. Then there was that thing last weekend when I took you to meet my friend and you pooed on her rug completely unashamedly. You also tried to take on Pete, the flightly 16.3 hh thoroughbred, at the stable. Just a small tip – please don’t again if you value your life at all.
You are a deep sleeper. You grunt and snuffle and snore. Each night I put you to sleep in your bed in the laundry and once in there you never, ever move. You are the first dog I’ve known that I’ve actually had to wake up each morning. When I do you resist like a teenager and only greet the day once prodded and cajoled.
Sometimes you act like a kid. You chase the ball and wrestle with my blanket on the couch casting weird shapes and making me laugh. In those moments I catch a glimpse of you before what happened happened and the dog you should be.
I’m reminded of this again when I get home each day and I sit on the couch and you dive-bomb me with all the love you have and there is nothing I can do other than hold you and whisper that everything will be ok. You burrow your head under my chin and hold me in your tiny paws until you can’t get any closer and it’s only after I have held you for a while that you start to stop the shaking and accept that I am yours.
The thing is that I do love you more than you will ever know. We found each other at the perfect point in time and I will never leave you. Instead know that I am there for you when you worry, when you think too much about things and when you imagine your past is your future. I wish I could convince you that your future is here so the shivering and the fear could stop.
In return you give me something to come home to. I’m grateful that you don’t mind me crying into your fur when I’m upset or using you as a personal heater when I stay up late to watch Rage or that I make you clean up food I’ve dropped on the floor. Mostly you make this home feel full, the two of us, and I know that I have you, unconditionally, my bristlepig, my best mate, my little Alfie.
Note – Alfie and I met through the wonderful people at SA Dog Rescue – he is just one of thousands of abandoned dogs that need loving homes in SA each year. If you’re thinking of getting a dog get one of these.