A Dog’s Life

By Stuart Garrett, December 2021
man with dog

As I sit here next to my loyal friend with a blanket over him, protecting him from the loud bangs of the fireworks outside, I struggle with an internal discomfort of a feeling of helplessness. I have grappled with this feeling of guilt for not providing the absolute best my friend deserves. He deserves a reflection of the type of dog he is, and as far as dogs go, I couldn’t ask for a better one. He is loving, friendly, protective, obedient, and great with my two-year-old son. I feel incredibly lucky to have him.

He was a Christmas present for my partner five years ago, the best present, albeit admittedly an impulsive one. He’s half Labrador and half English Springer Spaniel. We called him Remington, Remmy, for short, due to his father being a working gun dog.

With the struggles of intermittent lockdowns provided by the COVID-19 outbreak, finances and time management took a hit for us. Add a newborn baby into the mix, and we experienced, like many, many others, some testing times.

I always ensure that Remmy is provided with the daily minimum—a walk or two per day as well as a ball throw at a local field or beach, which he loves. He simply adores being outside and in the countryside, which taught me to love it too. It’s gotten to a point now that I actually name “walking” as one of my hobbies, which, if you knew me, would be completely out of character before I met Remmy.

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I felt that I was being forced, by this animal, to walk across muddy paths in the cold, wet, wind, or sticky heat. Of course, unbeknownst to me, this was helping me in ways I couldn’t see at the time. I used to call it a “chore” until I realized my mental health was improving massively.

If our walk gets pushed back past our normal time, Remmy will rest his chin on my lap and let out gentle whimpers until I give in and get his lead. He walks a few paces in front and looks behind every now and then as if to say, “isn’t this great.” He’s helping me just by doing what comes naturally to him.

During the most challenging times of being a pet parent, I never even considered giving Remmy up.

We, as humans, think of all these other obstacles in our lives: work, relationships, and social commitments—what will make us happier, what will make us look or smell better, and so on. The dog only has one: his family—his pack.

I realize now that wanting to provide the best for my dog is already being fulfilled just by simply being with him. I sometimes imagine if I had to give him up and give him to another family, his whole life, everything he knows and loves would just disappear without any kind of closure on his part. This is why we’re committed to Remmy as much as he is committed to us, as a pack should be.

As we come to the festive period and the inevitability of dogs being gifted as presents, I would encourage new-to-be owners to think, “what does your dog expect?” The answer? Your dog expects you. You are their family. You are all they know. Show your new family member that they are just that, and the return of loyalty and love coming back to you and your family will be unmatched.

Photo: AdobeStock

Stuart Garrett is a family man, a lover of animals, sports, and the outdoors. He is a qualified engineer and ex-member of the British Armed Forces of which he served for 10 years. His spare time is usually filled spending time with his son and partner.