Shoutout to all the dogs I've loved before.
Updated: Jun 12
In a loving homage to all of the dogs in her life, of the past and present, Trainee Shancy takes the time to talk about the special bond that she has shared with all of them.
"By Shancy Collett-Nanton.
My mother says my first and only love was a dog.
As a 3 feet tall, curly haired and freckled 4 year old, my best friend in the entire world, was my grandads' pedigree black lab Jet.
Jet was already 8 when I met him, and loved spending his days basking in the warm summer sun as it wafted through the French windows of my granparents' living room, but loved chasing tennis balls and chewing on long-ago stolen socks almost as much.
As a child, I would spend many afternoons sat under the oak tree in the garden, perched happily on the drystone wall that my Gramps had lovingly built when they moved into the house at 83 Ashton Drive, and Jet would sit at my side, his head in my lap and I would read him stories from the book I was reading. We went on adventures with Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl and we would lie there until dusk when my nan would call us both in for tea.
It was me and Jet against the world, with the world rushing past us as I rode on his back, and a book in my hands I felt unstoppable.
But time is a cruel mistress, and soon Jets black fur turned grey and I grew too heavy to ride on his back.
As Jet slowed down, the world continued on, and even though I could not understand it fully, the world that me and Jet had built for ourselves was slowly but surely coming to an end. We buried him in the garden, under the raspberry bush we'd eat from when my grandparents weren't looking and where the sun caught in the spider's webs at the base of my grandad's shed, shimmering silver and still I sat there, book in hand and best friend by my side, long after my grandparents had joined him.
At 20, five foot two and freckled, away from home at University, my best friend in the entire world was my (boyfriend's) Pedigree English Bulldog Evee. She fulfilled every bulldog stereotype, she hated walks, hated running and despised peas.
Evee broke all the rules, self-imposed and otherwise. She licked my ears clean if I lay near her, like I was something that needed taking care of, and as I reflect back; I suppose she was right. We watched documentaries together, when the world outside felt too hard to cope with, her head on my lap or on my feet.
We would wrap up empty toilet roll tubes and milk bottles with the lids at Christmas and she'd spend all day tearing into the wrapping paper and wiggle her stumpy tail with delight, like it was the most exciting thing in the whole wide world.
Evee became a mother (accidentally) to our two dwarf hamsters, following their hamster balls up and down the corridor, and releasing them when they got stuck with a gentle nudge of her nose or paw. In the end, we let the hamsters sit beside her and she would stare at them lovingly as if they were the most precious thing in the entire world and reach out the very tip of her tongue to lick their fur.
When the hamsters passed, we had to donate their cage, as Evee stood on her hind legs and whined at the emptiness that she found there.
And though I will always say that I was her favourite (or at the very least, the only one she'd listen to) her best friend in her entire world, was her grandad Tony. They slept beside each other, on the vintage green loungers, Evee on the right, Tony on the left and spent the summers baking in the midday sun and winters snuggled under blankets together, snoring.
Three days before Evee left us, she broke her own self-imposed rules. It was late on a Thursday, and the pavement was glistening wet, the lampposts glimmering their gentle orange glow. I heard her before I saw her, as was often the case, and as she saw me, she did the unexpected, she ran full pelt towards me, her paws tapping the concrete incessantly.
Evee, being a bulldog, was allergic to running and seeing her do so probably should have told me something was amiss at the time. But, as is so often the case, time wasn't something we were blessed with. When we were at the vets, holding her paws in our hands, our faces pressed into her fur, she lifted her head with as much strength she could muster, licked at our salt stained faces, and with a gentle sigh went on one final sleep. Soon the hours turned to days and days turned into weeks, and our house remained stubbornly silent in Evee's absence.
So I came to Paws and Pause. And filled my empty days with dogs, and my mind with calm. And as the earth continued its way around the sun, soon so too was my home.
At 26, still five foot two and freckled, Gilbert sits by my feet as I write this, snoring softly in his sleep. His tiny paws patter along the floorboards where Evee's had before him, his toys littering the same floor. He sits at his grandad's side on the vintage green sofa. He lies out on the balcony in the midday sun, watching the world go by and as his predecessors did before him, he hears stories from my books and barks at elephants in my documentaries.
I used to think, there was no more space in my heart for anymore dogs, but as it turns out, in the same way dogs give love to all they meet, I too always seem to have the space – for just one more."