A letter to… my daughter’s dog

‘Over the years of an acrimonious parental separation, you were steadfast in your love’: the letter you always wanted to write

While you are reluctant to accept my leadership, and you only keep me company when your real person is away, I thank you for being the best dog I have ever known.

Tail at only half-mast, you roly-polied your way over to my daughter the moment we sat down with your litter mates. You came to sniff, to take a gentle stroke, and replied with a soft lick of greeting. My daughter was 10, bereft after her mother had silently left in the night, taking her older sister along with her, never offering explanation or regret to the daughter left behind. Such a generous puppy you were, ready to listen, cuddle and play.

I was five when my father was killed, and my mother gave me a black kitten and took care to ensure he slept on my bed. I remembered the warmth and comfort of him when I saw my daughter’s misery. So I set out to find a puppy before the lawyers could put me into long-term debt.

You shed continuously all over the house, chewed shoes and wires and only answered one person’s call. For my daughter, you were perfect. You obeyed commands with alacrity, waited patiently, brought a ball at every opportunity and house-trained almost immediately. My daughter realised that the way to your heart was via your stomach, and insisted on being the one who fed you.

Over the years of an acrimonious parental separation, you were steadfast in your love and appreciation. You gave my daughter your undivided attention, the security of knowing there was always at least someone who would listen to her and a sense of control over a part of her life. I credit you with a big role in developing a stable, thoughtful and kind young woman, who will go far.

My daughter is about to leave for university, while you have developed the severe hip dysplasia we knew was coming. Your end is inevitable, unavoidable and imminent. We are doing all we can to make your life as comfortable as possible. We owe you that, and so much more. I believe you know you are loved deeply and unconditionally, and you will let us know when it is time to go.

So, thank you for your generosity, patience, reliability and everything you have done. As my daughter steps out into the world, your spirit will go with her for the rest of her life.

Read also about how dogs learn words.