By Lorna Ko
Eleven years ago, in 2006, my sister Cheryl called to tell me that her local pet shop had a Chow Chow puppy inside. Being a huge dog lover and having grown up with dogs I could not resist popping in to take a peek at an unusual dog breed like the Chow.
I walked into the pet shop and was instantly greeted by a cacophony of animal sounds and a plethora of strange smells. There were birds, mice, rats, hamsters, chinchillas, kittens, fish, and, at the very back, the puppy section.
I walked to the back and was aghast to see around 20 puppies crammed into cages, three or four to a cage, and all different types of breeds mixed together. My family has always had rescue dogs so it was strange to see puppies for sale in this way.
The noise was deafening– all the puppies were either barking, whining, or crying, apart from one. Inside a tiny cramped Perspex cage on top of a shelf was a single puppy. She was white all over– apart from a black badger face– and was the only puppy not making a sound. I looked into her eyes and something in my brain whispered the name ‘Maisey’.
“Do you want to hold her? She’s a Parsons Jack Russell so she won’t grow that big.” The owner, a short rotund man, had crept up behind me and now stood watching with hope in his beady little eyes.
I nodded. Moving surprisingly fast for someone his size, he opened the cage and placed the puppy into my arms. She tilted her head up and looked into my soul with her chocolate brown eyes and that was it, Maisey was mine. I could never put her back in that cage.
I then hastily went around the shop holding Maisey in my arms choosing puppy pads, bowls, food, toys, treats, a bed and blanket, and a collar, harness, and lead.
“She needs her second set of injections so I’ll give you a ten percent discount” said the owner, his eyes gleaming at the large pile of supplies I had chosen. It was the best money I had ever spent.
I somehow got Maisey home along with the giant pile of shopping and put her new bed and blanket next to my bed. After getting used to her new home and chewing on my slippers and coat sleeves, followed by some dinner, we were both ready for bed.
“Come on Maisey, get into your nice new bed. You’re home now” I cajoled pointing to the bed and blanket. She looked at me once then leapt onto my bed, turned around three times then plopped down and sighed. She would sleep on my bed every night for the next ten years.
Maisey became my best friend. We would go everywhere together and were always happiest curled up on my sofa whilst I would either read or watch TV. She grew to be a giant Parsons Jack Russell and weighed 23kg so my Vet thought there may have been some collie in her too!
After a few years of blissful companionship, I met my now ex-partner. I became pregnant in 2009 and as soon as I brought my baby son home Maisey became his second mum. She would watch him and guard him and I never once felt worried about leaving him with Maisey alone.
When my son was three months old I became a single parent and this was a very hard time. I suffered from the lack of sleep all new parents go through combined with the knowledge I had no one to help me in the middle of the night, no one to offer to change a nappy or to make me a cup of tea.
Maisey became even more important than before. They say having a pet makes you feel less stressed and I found this to be so true. Walking around my local park with my son in his pram and Maisey by my side I began to see light at the end of the sleep deprivation tunnel.
The years rolled by and Maisey was my constant best friend through the hard times and the good. Maisey was the kind of dog who just made you smile and feel loved. She was like my first child.
At Christmas in 2015 Maisey had an accident in the kitchen. She’d always been house trained so it was very out of character but I put it down to impending old age– she was nearing ten, maybe she had just had too much festive food?
One afternoon a few weeks later Maisey collapsed in my conservatory and had a seizure. I rushed her to my Vet and they started some tests to see what might be the cause. Unfortunately, the fits started happening more and more frequently and poor Maisey became incontinent so we started trying different combinations of epilepsy medications and Alzheimer supplements to see if we could find a balance where she would be OK.
We tried everything from prescription drugs to herbal supplements but one day after a particularly violent seizure my Vet told me she thought Maisey had a brain tumour and as by now she was starting to walk in circles it was time to think about letting Maisey go. It was the hardest news I had ever had to hear. My best friend and companion of ten years was too sick to carry on and my heart broke into two that day.
The day then came in April 2016 when my Vet suggested I have a special last day with Maisey. I took her to our favourite park where she managed to walk around a little, then I took her home and cooked her a steak dinner, which I fed to her by hand. It was a lovely sunny day so she lay down in the sun in my garden for a little while afterwards before I had to take her for her final journey.
My wonderful friend Anne had driven over to mine all the way from Essex so I wouldn’t have to be alone at the Vets and I will always be grateful for this. I took Maisey into the consulting room and they had put a mattress with a fluffy blanket on top so I laid her down and held her in my arms talking gently into her ear as the Vet put her to sleep. It was only because I loved Maisey so much that I managed to talk to her normally as she passed because I wanted her to hear my normal voice and not my heartbroken crying voice as she went on her journey. It took all my strength but I did it because I loved Maisey like no other dog. She was the special one – the pet that comes into your life as your soul mate and the pain of losing her was so great I vowed then and there I could never have another dog because I could not go through the pain of losing another dog after losing my Maisey.
The weeks rolled by and I had Maisey cremated. Her ashes still sit in a box on a shelf in my home as I cannot bear to be apart from her, and her collar sits next to my bed. Her harness and lead are still under the stairs and I have a lock of her fur in a heart shaped locket as a reminder of our ten wonderful years.
After your dog passes a lot of people start asking when you will get another one. My mum in particular was adamant I should get a new dog straight away to fill the void Maisey had left in my life and in our home but I was determined I could never have another dog.
Last year in September my ex-partner asked if I could look after his dog Pedro for two weeks whilst he was away with work. Pedro is a dark grey shaggy haired little Shitzhu with a very gentle and friendly nature and my son loves him so I immediately agreed.
I took Maisey’s bowls out of the cupboard and filled them with water and food. I got the poo bags out of the cupboard along with some of Maisey’s old toys. Knowing Pedro would only be staying for a couple of weeks meant I could do all this without feeling the worry of getting attached to another dog.
Pedro turned up a few days later and immediately made himself at home. He is a true lap dog and as soon as you sit down he jumps up for a cuddle. My son was so happy to have a dog in the house again as we’d both missed the tapping of Maisey’s claws on my wooden floors and our regular routine of opening the garden door every morning.
Going back out on dog walks was also another great activity to rediscover and, although at first I couldn’t bring myself to go to my special park where I went with Maisey, we soon found some new walks along the river, which we all loved.
Two weeks flashed by and my ex-partner asked if we could keep Pedro on for a little longer. We were secretly very pleased at this and said it wasn’t a problem.
12 months later and Pedro is now registered at my Vets, has full pet insurance and a dog tag engraved with his name and my number on it. Somehow this shaggy little Shihtzu that moved into our home has now moved into our hearts and he has taught me that of course you can love another dog again.
Each dog that comes into our lives is special and although parting from those dogs is the hardest experience to go through you can’t stop yourself from loving other dogs because you’re afraid of the pain when they go. You have to cherish every single day with your four legged best friends and celebrate their lives and the love you give each other.
Here’s a poem I wrote for Maisey after she passed which I hope will help anyone else out there who has lost a dog:
Just one more…
It’s 5 in the morning and I suddenly wake,
I reach out my hand to find your place,
Only to find… empty space…
Every night for the last ten years,
You’ve been by my side, now I’m in tears.
Just one more stroke, just one more pat on the head
Just one more time to hear you curl up on the bed
Just one more walk around the park
Just one more time to hear you bark
Just one more bowl of water and food
Just one more toy all bitten and chewed
Just one more sigh, just one more belly rub
Just one more muddy run and wash in the tub
Just one more greeting with my shoe
Just one more biscuit, just one more chew
Just one more cuddle, just one more day…
Maisey I miss you more than words can say…
In loving memory of the best dog Maisey, 2006-2016.
Lorna Ko is a TV Presenter & Journalist based in West London.