For the past two years I have been involved in a torrid love affair. My husband of twenty-four years brought him into our lives. I hold him totally responsible. The object of my affections is utterly adorable. He has large, liquid chocolate, brown eyes, soft, pointy ears, almost the size of his head, a wrinkly nose and a backside which closely resembles two ripe peaches packed tightly into a velvet bag. Oh, and he’s French. Well, technically, his father is from a long line of distinguished American studs and his mother is a beautiful French who now resides in Aylesbury. My love for him is such that I have decided to come clean, to shout it from the rooftops, declare it loud and proud in an open letter. So here goes:
My Darling Wilson,
I remember vividly the day we met. It was a warm summers day and I was standing, nervously, in the living room of a breeder in Aylesbury. Outside, in the dusty yard, two muscular French Bulldogs stood on their hind legs, peering through the window and eyeing me suspiciously. Suddenly the door swung open and you strode in, small but perfectly formed, with an air of cockiness that belied your diminutive stature. You fixed me with those all-knowing eyes and studied me, as if trying to read my body language. I crouched down and offered you my hand. You stepped forward, put your stubby snout against my skin and sniffed me noisily. Then you put your wide front paws onto my knee and reached up to nuzzle my left ear. The sensation was one of being tickled with a slightly damp feather duster. Then you, ever so gently, nipped my ear lobe. That was the moment we fell in love.
I had brought my sister, a veterinary nurse, along with me to give you a quick check over. She was happy that you were in good health and that you could breathe easily. She warned me again that puppies of your colouring (blue with red brindle), sometimes had character flaws and behavioural problems, but her concerns fell on deaf ears, I was already hopelessly smitten. Her prediction turned out to be somewhat incorrect as your character is very typical of all French Bulldogs, so I’m glad I ignored her!
A week later, my husband parted with a rather large sum of money and we prepared to take you home. The breeder was a vehement believer in natural, holistic medicine and told us that vets were money-grabbing monsters who pumped innocent animals full of drugs for no good reason. I was so glad I hadn’t revealed that I worked at a veterinary surgery! She gave me a hand written list, along with your paperwork, which gave detailed instructions on how to care for you properly. I was touched that she trusted me with one of her precious babies. Some of her natural remedies I still use today, however I feel they should be used alongside conventional, preventative treatments, such as vaccinations and parasite medicines.
We said our goodbyes, then you and I settled down into the back seat of the car, with an old towel and a full roll of kitchen paper in case of “accidents”. We had only travelled fifteen minutes down the road when you went very quiet and visibly paled. Seconds later you lost your breakfast, depositing a large, slimy pile of raw meat onto the towel. Did I mention, the breeder had you on a raw diet? Again, in my opinion, not the best thing for a dogs digestive well-being, but many people swear by it. I cleaned you up as best I could, while you licked my hands in apology. To this day, you get car sick, even on short journeys, but at least we are always prepared for the inevitable.
At home, we introduced you to our other two dogs, Milo, an old, wise Jack Russell and Elsie, a youthful, neurotic Staffordshire Bull Terrier. You ran straight up to Milo and cheekily robbed him of the yellow bone he had been chewing. Running across the lawn, you took cover with your loot on the patio and watched the other dogs, who were now playing tug with a rope toy. Suddenly, you launched into the air and, barging into the centre of the dog bundle, you seized the middle of the rope in your tiny jaws and held on until, finally, the other two got tired and let go. In that short exchange you had established yourself as the pack leader.
We named you Wilson, after my favourite film, Castaway. Tom Hanks survives a plane crash, only to end up stranded for years on a remote, uninhabited island. His only companion is a football with a hand print for a face, which he calls Wilson. You really need to have seen it to understand the relevance. Once you had let everyone know where you had placed yourself in the pack, you tucked your tired little body under one of the kitchen units and promptly fell asleep. Very late that evening I settled you into your crate beside my bed and tried to sleep too. You scratched frantically at the sides of the crate. You cried like a new-born baby, a heart-wrenching, pitiful cry, impossible to ignore. Eventually I broke. In desperation I scooped you up in my arms and instantly you stopped crying. You wedged your little flat head into the crook of my neck and sighed a huge snort. When I woke up you were facing me, head on my pillow, waiting. You looked right into my eyes, into my soul and claimed my heart as your own. You seemed to be saying, “Hey, we shared a moment last night. Now we are joined together forever, you and me”. Since that first night you have slept in our bed, in the middle, usually starting off in my husbands arms, but, always one for sharing the love, finishing up nestled into my back a la big spoon.
Toilet training progressed quite well for a few days, until you became unwell. I was trying to wean you off the raw diet onto a more user-friendly dry puppy food. You had been a bit quiet all day, then, as I was getting ready for bed, you began acting strangely, running frantically from room to room, finally crouching in the bathroom and squirting out a hot puddle of rancid, liquid poop. We spent a long and stressful night together, you vomiting and squirting and me trying desperately to save the carpets and bedding. I assumed it was caused by changing your food, but when you still weren’t well the following day, I took you to see the vet. Tests came back as positive for campylobacter, a nasty bug, often found in raw meat. You had probably been harbouring it before I brought you home. A course of antibiotics soon fixed the problem, and within a week you were fully recovered, although you then developed a fixation with eating poop whenever you got the chance. You didn’t mind if it was Milo’s, Elsie’s, or indeed, your own. Although disgusting, even this, most stomach-churning of habits didn’t diminish my love for you.
Eventually, like all horrid puppy behaviour, you grew out of it. Sadly, your love for chewing anything and everything has stubbornly remained an issue. You nibble furtively on the wooden bannisters, the handles of my oak dresser, the stair carpet, shoes and slippers and your favourite, human toes! I recently found tooth marks in the UPVC frame of our conservatory. You hate going for walks. If I get your harness and lead out you flatten yourself against a wall, as if trying to become invisible. Once I have pulled you outside you dig in your paws and try to back-pedal inside again but if I persist you give in and walk, except you sort of canter in one direction only, with the sole purpose of getting back home in as short a time as possible. You don’t enjoy sniffing or marking lamp posts like other dogs, you simply stride in front, never allowing me to deviate from the normal route. Only once we are back indoors, and your harness has been put away, do you relax. On the odd occasion that you walk with Milo and Elsie, you are guarded around other dogs and will sometimes get defensive if one approaches us. You much prefer a game of fetch in the garden. You can perform amazing gymnastic feats in pursuit of the ball.
Often, while the other two are out on a walk we get some quality time playing together in the garden. However, what you like best is snuggling. Whether it’s lying across the back of the sofa, your head tucked into the back of my neck, or sitting on my chest and nibbling my ears, you need to be in the closest proximity to me as possible. If I go to the bathroom, you sit and watch, if I shut the door, you wait patiently outside. We love to watch television together, especially The Dog Whisperer. When a dog appears on screen, you dive under the coffee table to the tv and bark a gruff warning. You greet visitors to the house with a “high two”, a leap which invariably lands around the groin area and elicits a hefty groan from the owner of, now slightly damaged crown jewels! If a particular guest is unwelcome by you, or, conversely, if you are very relaxed, you are prone to bouts of violent and terrible flatulence. The odour is indescribable. You are fed kibble specifically designed for French Bulldogs, but I’m afraid the bold claims on the packaging about reducing wind are sadly untrue in your case.
Despite and also because of the way you are, beloved Wilson, you will forever have a place in my heart. I dread the day we have to say goodbye, just thinking about it brings a lump to my throat and intense pain to my chest. You are, thankfully a healthy and happy dog but a canine life is short, compared to a human life so inevitably we humans have to suffer the loss of our best friends more than once in a lifetime, so I try to cherish every day with all of you and to remember, when I’m picking up the poop on a frosty morning, or hoovering up the hair, or cleaning vomit off the bed, that you are only here for a little while and that I must treasure each and every moment as if it were the last.
Thank you for bringing so much joy and laughter into my life. I promise to care for you, unconditionally for as long as you honour me with your presence. You are my little Prince.
Love Michelle. xx