I don't think anyone would question, why I decided to start writing about Bodie. But it has been suggested by some to explain where the motivation came from.
This is Storm, my Kennel Club registered Alaskan Malamute.
I got Storm in 2010, I had split up from an ex, who despite me being the sole caregiver of our dog (golden retriever), as we lived separately, unfortunately he took the dog with him. So like all my animals, Storm did not come from a traditional source! He was my rebound dog! I found myself alone in the house and I felt quite vulnerable. I came across Storm whilst scrolling through the internet. He was a private advert, he was 2 and a half years old, he just looked like a massive ball of fluff! Three days later I drove to Bridge End, with my friends Coral and David in my Fiat Panda, to meet his owners. It was love at first sight, as soon as they opened the door and this barrel of hair came at me.
At the time, I worked as a self employed dog trainer, I had group training classes, 1:1 behavioural classes running, I was also involved with the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme and preparing clients for Bronze, Silver and Gold awards. The owners explained to me that he didn't get on well with cats, he was dodgy with dogs and he was too large for their small apartment, she was also pregnant.
They decided that I was a good enough home for Storm and they dropped him off a week later. It was another one of those moments where I thought 'what have I just done?'. I'll just explain the first 24 hours with him so you can get the kind of gist of how the last 10 years have gone.
The previous owners dropped him off in the afternoon, Storm immediately pushed past me (at a hefty 60kg, it was enough to knock me off my feet), ran into the back garden. I had a rabbit hutch outside, in the back garden (empty fortunately), he bashed his head through the hutch breaking the metal grill. The previous owners then left me with him. He was bounding around the garden doing zoomies in and out of the house, so I jumped on the sofa to get out of his way. He then ran straight up stairs and had a pooh in my bedroom! He had only just arrived, why in gods name could he not do it outside...where he had just been?!?
In my infinite wisdom, previous to Storm, when I had a lovely dopey Golden Retriever, I had bought fertilised chicken eggs off of eBay, I also had bought an expensive incubator. These chickens had hatched, in the cupboard they went! Save the chicks! I rang my brother up, Adam, and he said he would have them, unfortunately I had to get rid of them quicker than I was expecting!
I woke up in the morning excited to start training the beasty. What I actually came down to was spaghetti, penne and fusilli pasta strewn all over the floor. That is NOT where I left it, he had broken into my top cupboard in the kitchen and taken all the pasta out. There Storm was, bright as a daisy chewing on dry pasta. I took him out for a walk to kick start his digestive system, I thought a walk might calm him down. No. My arms were fully extended and I was holding on for the love of god, whilst he was trying to destroy a Yorkshire Terrier walking in the opposite direction. What is this dog?
The next 10 years were full of adventures, naughty mishaps and repeatedly apologising for my dog's behaviour. I have so many stories about the trouble we got into, whether we were in the UK or in France, when I look back, or I tell people, they are amusing but at the time I wanted the ground to swallow me up. He was not conventionally a well behaved dog, but he was full of love and joy.
In July 2020 we came to the difficult decision to put him down, it was a really hard decision, at 13 years old and a giant dog breed, he had reached a decent age. I had to decide whether I was mourning over the loss of the Storm in front of me, or the Storm that I had already lost. He was weak, he wasn't interested in going for walks, or adventures in the car, just trying to get up in the car was tiring enough for him and he would often give up, he would fall down and need help getting back up, that's not the dog that I know, he was such an independent and proud dog that he would have hated having to rely on us for help. It was his time. Saying goodbye to him was really hard. I text Louisa a lot as she had recently lost a dog and she was a real rock. Who were we keeping Storm alive for? Us or him? I think we knew the answer.
I emailed Daventry Veterinary Clinic and in the morning they asked us when we wanted to do it giving us plenty of options. I asked for ASAP, now that I had made the decision, I didn't want to feel like he was on death row waiting around. They said they could do it in the afternoon, I agreed. I sat outside in the back garden with him that morning and cried into his neck. It's difficult to explain the smell of a Malamute, but it's sweeter than most dog breeds, they tend to be very clean and like a cat will groom themselves. So I nuzzled my nose deep in his fur so I could smell him one last time. We got him in the car and arrived at the vet, they were very good, they let us say goodbye, Storm was laid down outside in the car park. I think he had already given in. They went inside to sedate him, we weren't allowed to go in with him due to Covid rules, they came back out to ask if we wanted to go in after he was sedated for the final injection. I asked whether he would know we were there and they said 'he was unconscious'. I decided not to go in, there would be no benefit to either party, Storm wouldn't know we were there, and I think watching his heart stop would probably have given me nightmares for weeks to come. The vet was very good and made what felt like emotionally an impossible task to do, possible. They came out with his collar and told us that he was gone. I cried all day. I have continued to cry on and off for weeks.
No one really tells you how hard it is to say good bye to a dog. I have come from a none pet household when I was growing up and other than losing the odd hamster/rabbit, this was a completely different ball game. After all, 'it's just a dog'. But he was our world and our daily activities were built with him in mind. Leaving the house was a military operation; Was the fridge bungee-roped up before we left? Was the baby gate closed? Was the door deadlocked so he didn't open the night latch? Was the bin empty? Were the sides cleared? Were the remote controls out of the way? Had he got his Kong? Was the bark collar on? Had we left the dog walker with enough chews so she could leave the house unscathed?
He walked by my side, regardless of how he was feeling, he would never question it. Whether it was 1am in the morning or 4pm in the afternoon. I always felt very safe, he was very loyal and made it known if someone unfamiliar was too close to our bubble. The house feels very empty now. Although the cat is pottering around, I can not even begin to explain how quiet the house is and how much I am missing Storm. He was full of life with a big personality, he was cheeky, he was hard work, but he was also my best friend. I will cherish all the beautiful memories that we had together. He wasn't the same dog towards the end, we were both holding on to the hope that he would come bounding in with sock he had stolen from the washing line. We are very privileged as humans to be able to make the call when the time comes to stop the suffering. Malamutes are renowned for being bold, powerful, brave and independent. Sometimes you have to take a step back and decide what is right for the animal, rather than what is right for your own emotional needs. I know the day will come, when I have to say goodbye to Bodie, so I wanted to put together a working memory of her twilight years so I always have something to look back on.