This is my dog Roy.
Theoretically he belongs to us as a family, but he is my dog. During the eight long months that constituted my cancer treatment – through three surgeries, 16 weeks of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation, Roy was right there, beside me. Just to clarify, dogs aren’t allowed into chemo wards (although seriously, they should be). But every moment that I was at home, feeling like I was dying (because, you know, I was actually being poisoned by chemicals and then irradiated), feeling sad and desperate and at the absolute end of my tether, Roy was there. If I was in bed, he was under it, lying there silently. Some days he seemed to sense that I needed more and would quietly hop into bed next to me while I was asleep. I would wake to him lying next to me, head on paws, keeping watch. If I went to the loo (and I did that a lot), he would sit outside and wait patiently, then follow me to wherever I was going next, which was usually the bed or the couch. If I was on the couch he would settle himself next to me, occasionally nuzzling my hand but never demanding anything.
Roy came to our family when I was six months pregnant with our son. We wanted some company for our other little dog, Miffy who I love dearly too, but because she’s a dog and not a kid I can freely admit that I love Roy more. (If she could read I probably wouldn’t be so comfortable with such an admission). Anyway, one ridiculously hot Saturday in February we went to the local RSPCA to see if they had any small dogs who might be a good friend for Miffy. Roy was sitting quietly in a cage next to a shi-tzu with the most gigantic underbite, who yapped and drooled incessantly. That shit-zu really needed some pointers on getting liberated from the slammer. Anyway, silent, thoughtful Roy, who at that point was going by the dreadful moniker Moodle Poodle (the name given to him by his carers at the shelter) made easy friends with Miffy, and came home with us that day.
We don’t know how old Roy is, as he was a stray picked up by the RSPCA, and on death row when we met him. Vets can tell a fair bit from a dog’s teeth, and ours estimated Roy was five when we got him. He was collarless and unchipped when found by the RSPCA, and his life before us is a complete mystery. I often look into his eyes and wonder who he used to live with, and how on earth he ended up a stray. I wonder if he loves me so much because he’d had love, then lost it, then found it again in us, or had he never had love at all in those unknown five years? Sometimes it makes me very sad to think that I missed out on five years of Roy – he is 11 now and although not showing any signs of slowing down yet, I know he won’t live for too many years longer. But the fact that I’ve had any time at all with Roy makes me happy, and when I look into those eyes I know he feels the same way.