Anybody who owns a pet would agree that pets are not just pets; they are members of the family. And incredibly special members, too. Be it a dog, a cat, a rabbit, a hamster or a monkey (in Ross Geller’s case) to name a few, pets can have a huge impact on humans’ lives. In my lifetime, we have owned a total of four pets in our household: two hamsters and two dogs. My older brother Mikey and I each owned a hamster when we were young; I called mine Fiddles because he was extremely fiddly in the little cardboard box we brought him home in, and Mikey named his Chomper because he almost chomped his way out of his little cardboard box. Unfortunately, Chomper lived for only 9 months, but Fiddles lived for a good three years. I remember going into school the day after he died and crying for almost the entire day because that hamster was my little buddy; he meant a lot to me. I would look forward to seeing him when I came home from school and putting him in his big pink ball to roll around my bedroom in. It was whilst we had these hamsters, or at least Fiddles, that we as a family welcomed our first dog into our home: a beautiful blue Staffy who we called Sky. This month will mark one year since we lost our beloved Sky and, quite frankly, I’m still not over it. I miss her daily; we all do. Although we still have our handsome half-Staffy-half-Sharpei Diesel to keep us going, we still feel pain and sadness when we think about our baby “Skyly”.
Sky was the epitome of a Staffy’s true nature: she was so friendly, so loving, so gentle, so sweet and so happy. She was so friendly to absolutely everybody she met. She was so loving to each and every one of us in the family. She was so gentle when she’d take a treat from our hands. She was so sweet in the way she communicated with us. She was so happy to see us every time we’d come home from wherever we’d been. When she was really young, as soon as I’d walk in the door from school, she would run to me, jump like crazy and her tail would wag like there’s no tomorrow. As she got older, she became unable to come to the door to welcome us home, but you could just see how happy she was when we approached her and cried “HELLO, SKY!” ecstatically. Then, after she’d just passed away, there was a really weird feeling in the air. Every time we came home, it felt instinctive to cry “HELLO, SKY!”, but she was no longer there. Now, we say hello to her urn in a more heart-rending way. Every time we’d take Diesel for a walk, we’d see her harness and lead hanging inside the cupboard next to Diesel’s. They still live there. We still see them daily. It still induces pain. Every time I’d go downstairs at night to grab a glass of water for bed, I’d expect to hear her snoring away on the sofa where she slept for the last few years of her life. I can still hear it so clearly in my mind. Almost a year on, these memories of her still occur daily.
Just like humans, dogs have their own characteristics that make them who they are. While Sky enjoyed a cuddle from us and would kiss us all over our faces in her gentle manner, she also liked her own space. After a lovely cuddle, she’d tell us once she’d had enough; she’d make a cute guzzling sound as if to say “okay, can I sleep now?”. Once we’d come home from the park, she’d head to her spot on the sofa and remain there for as long as she deemed necessary to recuperate. Diesel, on the other hand, cannot have enough cuddles or get any closer. He wants to be with any one of us twenty-four-seven. It’s almost like he has separation anxiety; as soon as we stop stroking him, he indicates that he wants more by tapping us with his paw or manoeuvring his head under our arms. Even after a long walk, he’ll still follow any one of us around the house, but especially my mum (probably because she’s forever running around like a madwoman – love you, mummy). Now, we’ll often find ourselves saying how we miss all the little things about Sky, like “I miss the way her head would lift up, her ears would rise and she’d release a sweet “ruff!” when we come home” or “remember when she was really little and she loved to play catch with her chicken toy in the kitchen?”. It’s so lovely that we can reminisce on all the things that she did that would make us smile, laugh or utter “that’s enough playing now, Sky”.
Unfortunately, Sky had a lot of issues throughout her lifetime. For almost her entire life, she had trouble with her skin; it was always red in soreness and she would want to constantly scratch where it was irritating her. We would apply all sorts of creams to her skin to reduce the irritation. When she was around 5, she was diagnosed with cancer upon being taken to the vet due to our concern about her enlarged lymph nodes. She underwent chemotherapy for a few months, but this changed her drastically. She couldn’t walk, she couldn’t sleep; she wasn’t herself. We decided that it was best that she discontinued the treatment because we couldn’t bear to watch her suffer; we would continue to give her medicine daily, though. This was, consequently, the best course of action; she could walk, she could sleep and she was her happy self again. Then, not long after her cancer diagnosis, she unexpectedly had a seizure one night in my mum and dad’s bedroom. I still remember the scream I heard my mum cry. It woke me abruptly. They thought the worst was happening. Thankfully, it only lasted around 1 minute and, a few minutes after, she came around. The next day, they took her to the vet who diagnosed her with epilepsy for which she was provided more medicine. In the first few months following her diagnosis, her seizures were very frequent; she’d have at least a couple a week. Once her medication kicked in, however, they became less frequent and shorter in duration. Eventually, we (predominantly my amazing mum) had an inkling as to when she was “due” a seizure and we’d prepare with a towel to clean her up afterwards.
Despite all these issues, however, Sky still went about her daily life as her friendly, loving, gentle, sweet and happy self. In spite of it all, she was still always so happy to see us, always so excited to go for a walk and always so content being in our presence.
I still remember the day she passed away like it was yesterday. Dan and I were awoken by my dad opening our bedroom door at around 3am; “Sky’s gone”, he said quickly. “What?!”, I screamed as I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. There I saw her, lying on the kitchen floor, slowly losing her breath. She was still breathing once I’d made it downstairs, but lifelessly. Luckily, I got to say goodbye as I was crying uncontrollably (like I am now). By the time Dan made it down the stairs a few seconds later, she took her last breath in my mum’s arms. It was horrible but, in hindsight, consoling to know that she went in the comfort of her own home. The home that she’d lived in for her almost 13 years of living. She passed away on 23 June 2019; she would have turned 13 on 13 July 2019. Once she’d let go, my mum and dad gently lifted her into her bed in the spot she passed on the kitchen floor. For the first couple of hours after her passing, we all stayed downstairs near her and continued to cry it out. Eventually, as we were so tired, we went back to bed (apart from my mum who stayed on the sofa in the dining room next to the kitchen) and would call the vet in the morning to arrange taking her in. We also called Mikey who moved out a couple of years ago now in the morning to let him know and he quickly made plans to come home to take her to the vet with us. I met him at the bottom of our road to prepare him for what he was about to see; our beautiful, beloved Sky asleep in her bed on the kitchen floor. Though there was no longer any life in her, she still looked so beautiful in her sleep. Early that afternoon, my mum and dad, Mikey, Dan and I took her to the Stone Lion in Wimbledon. My mum, dad and Mikey all went together in my mum’s car to make enough room for Sky in the back while Dan and I followed behind.
Saying our final goodbye to her at the vet was one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do. Knowing we’d never see our beautiful, friendly, gentle, sweet and happy Skyly ever again was unbearable. However, we’d picked a lovely grey urn – similar to the colour of her blue coat – accented with small silver paw prints for her ashes and, now, we have somewhat come to terms with knowing that she is in there, still with us.
Even though we all anticipated that the day would eventually come, especially as she became less active as she got older, you can still never truly prepare for such an event. Like I said at the start, we still have our Diesel to keep us going; we still go for daily dog walks, have a happy, handsome face to come home to and are forever embraced with his cuddles, but our home is not the same. We all still miss Sky on a daily basis. We still look at pictures of her every day. We still talk about her all the time. As our first dog, and with her gorgeous temperament, Sky will always have a special place in our hearts.
I love you, Skyly. Forever and always. ♡