A Girl's Best Friend

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I know what you're thinking. Diamonds are a girl's best friend, right? Not in my eyes. No, the title of this post is a reworking of the well-known phrase "man's best friend". Recently I have become borderline obsessed about getting a dog. The fact that I am living with my mum, who doesn't want one, just makes me want one even more because, of course, you always want what you can't have.

The first and only dog I've ever had was a dopey Cocker Spaniel called Ben. He was in a litter that my uncle's dog, Heidi, had in November 1990. I had been on at my mum to get a dog since we'd lost our cat Katy. Probably before then to be honest, but it was only when we found out that Heidi was expecting that she finally caved.
I still remember going to pick him up from my uncle's house in Norfolk in the January close to my mum's birthday. I was six years old and so excited! As mum was driving, I was in charge of looking after the new member of our family on the journey home. He was so tiny so I sat him carefully on my lap all wrapped up in a blanket like a baby. Then when we got home I carried the little bundle in, holding him close to me.
You've seen Lady and the Tramp? In case you haven't I'll explain that it is about a couple who, coincidentally, get a puppy Cocker Spaniel. They leave her to sleep, swaddled in blankets, in a box downstairs. To cut a long story short, it didn't work for them and it didn't work for us either. Just like the film, Ben howled and howled. For us it wasn't about feeling that we were being cruel leaving him alone. We knew if we'd given it a chance he would have gotten used to it. No, it was the worry that he would disturb our neighbours. For this reason he very quickly got his own way and was allowed into my mum's room to sleep.

I have so many lovely memories of Ben in the years we had him. When he was still quite small, he learned to climb the stairs. While he quickly became quite adept at getting up, coming back down was an entirely different matter so I would have to go and shuffle down the stairs on my bum with him on my lap. Also while he was still a pup, he was quite content to use Katy's old cat flap to go out to the garden. It suited us as we didn't have to keep opening and closing the door. Until one day the came through the cat flap and took it with him. 
We quickly realised that he was a bit of an oddball. Male dogs cock their legs up a tree to relieve themselves, correct? Not Ben! No, he decided that it was easier to lean against the tree and cock his leg in the air. You've got to admit there's some logic to that! Then there was the time that I went to investigate where he was when he had become suspiciously quiet one day. I found him looking rather sheepish with the lid of my little plastic swing bin stuck on his head. I had to stop laughing before I could remove it.
Then there was his apparent immunity to chocolate. Don't get me wrong. We didn't go around willingly giving him chocolate. We know it's extremely dangerous for doggies. However, before Ben's arrival, we'd always had chocolate decorations hanging on our Christmas tree. The first year that we had him we didn't think anything of it and decorated the tree as normal. In the following days we kept finding bits of tin foil all over the floor and couldn't figure out where it had come from. Until, that is, I went to get a chocolate off the tree and couldn't find them. When we weren't around he had been climbing up and carefully removing them. The tree stayed intact and we wouldn't have been any the wiser.
Another year we had been given a box of chocolate biscuits. Knowing what he was like, we put them right to the back of the kitchen counter and went out leaving him to do whatever he did when we went out. When we came back there was tin foil and ripped up cardboard everywhere. He had eaten all the biscuits. Every. Single. One. I don't know how he wasn't seriously ill!
He liked to be in our company as much as possible. Mum would take him to work with her and in every workshop there would be a box for him so that he could make himself comfortable wherever she went. In fact he was so determined to be near her that when something shorted out underground and he got a shock every time he walked through the doorway of one workshop, he would walk the long way round to use another entrance. It was only by him doing this that she realised there was a problem and reported it. He was an absolute darling when I was ill too as he would come and lie on the bed to keep me company. And that wasn't something he usually did. Mum was his favourite. She gave him treats. I didn't. Meanie! 
In the later years he became deaf. At first we thought he just had selective hearing, but then we noticed he wouldn't go as far at the park. He wanted to have us in sight as he couldn't hear us calling him. We also caught him out one day. He was always allowed on the living room furniture, but the sofa bed in the dining room was out of bounds. We had our suspicions that he would go on it when we were out and one day we came home to find him fast asleep on it. We think that he did it all the time, but on this occasion the combination of deafness and old age meant he didn't hear us come back. As soon as he woke up and saw us, he was off it in a shot.

Not long before we lost him I was back for a weekend for Paris. He got up on the sofa and snuggled up next to me. It's like he knew what was coming and wanted to say goodbye. It broke my heart, but I'm grateful for the memory. I don't know how I would've coped if I'd been home when his time came. 
It's been more than ten years since Ben crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I don't know what's changed recently to make me want another so much, but I keep picturing a faithful friend in my life. Waking up with him curled up on the bed next to me, getting up and taking him for a nice long walk whatever the weather. I even half-joked about us getting an office dog at work to relieve stress. I can see him curled up underneath my desk, keeping my feet warm and taking him for a walk in my lunch break. 

I know that it's not practical at the moment and it would scupper my holidays abroad as I could never put a dog in kennels, but I am surprised by how strong this longing for a furbaby is. One day I will have another and he will be my squishy, but for now I'll have to settle with looking at photos of my cousin's dog and watching cute videos on YouTube.
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