I don’t like Bill Simmons’ writing, but this article – a tribute to his dead dog – made me well up. Because it made me think of my first and only dog, Judy.
I was weeks old when my dad brought Judy home. Understandably, my mum wasn’t impressed with having a puppy, what with newborn me to look after. My dad thought the dog would be good company. For me, for my mum? I don’t know, but it was a stupid idea regardless. But how could you send back a puppy?
Judy was a mongrel. A jet-black, long-haired, chubby little thing. She loved food (and was an expert at stealing it, ready to strike the second your back was turned) and football. She interrupted so many games by taking off with the ball. She’d push the ball with her nose and – impressively –somehow manage to trap it under her body while running. Her ball control was incredible; if she wanted to keep the ball she could, it was no easy task to retrieve it.
She was one of those dogs who thought someone coming home was the greatest thing to ever happen. When I came home from school she’d sprint to the front door, panting and jumping on me. She’d be so happy to see me, until the next person came home and she’d quickly abandon me, racing to the door once again.
Like most dogs she loved the park. When she wasn’t stealing footballs she loved a good tree branch. Branch size was no obstacle. In fact, if I didn’t think it was crazy to think this way, I’d say she saw the size as a challenge. We would walk through the park apologising to other walkers for what was about to happen, as Judy would run into their path, dragging half of a tree with her.
We moved home when both of us were eight. Judy would still rush to the door when I arrived home, but she was less prone to wild bursts of energy. She’d had to content herself with a communal back garden instead of a park, but that seemed to suit her fine.
One day our building had to be evacuated because of a gas leak. After being rushed into the street by firemen, my aunt realised one of us was missing. Judy had hidden when the firemen came into the house (she never did like men in headgear). My aunt demanded that someone rescue the dog or she was going back in herself.
As Judy got older she developed a sensitive stomach. She shat on the floor a few times. We must have shouted at her for it. One night when we were out she’d emptied her guts up and down the hall. She must’ve thought she’d get into trouble and tried to cover her deed up. By eating it. We came home and were confused how there were shitty liquid stains on the carpet but no solids. I felt sick when we figured out the truth. My stomach’s turning just thinking about it.
We moved house again when Judy and I were 16. Judy was getting on, and now had two flights of stairs to contend with after always living on the ground floor. She would still greet us all when we came home, we just had out coats and shoes off by the time she arrived.
She got slower and slower on the stairs, and after a few months had to be carried up them most of the time. Her stomach got worse. She shat on the carpet quite a few times, but we all felt too bad for her to care.
One day I came home from school, took my jacket and my shoes off, and Judy still hadn’t arrived. I waited. Nothing. She’d been at the vets that day. I walked into the living room and saw my mum in the kitchen, cooking dinner as usual. Nothing seemed immediately wrong. Maybe Judy had to stay at the vets, I thought. Mum, where’s Judy? My mum flinched slightly and I saw light reflect from tears in her eyes. Judy was dead.
The vet had said that to continue her life would be cruel. She had been put down that afternoon. On returning home, my mum (being a mum) tried to follow routine, to be strong for the kids. This was a Tuesday, a day that I would come home for an hour, get fed and leave again for basketball practice. My mum instructed me to go to practice as normal. What good would changing my plans do? An hour later I was on a bus to Easterhouse, staring out the window with tears in my eyes.
Judy’s been dead 16 years now, gone as long as she was alive. I almost never think of her, but my parents still keep her lead on a hook by the back door. 16 years later, in a house she never saw, she’s still waits for us all to come home.