Confession time. Something that only a handful of people know. In fact, only my family know this information.
Two weeks ago we gave away a member of our family.
The year was 2009 and I lived in a remote Aboriginal community as a single woman. This point is important as it was because I was a solo lady that my employer decided that it would be a condition of my employment that I own a dog. Sexist I know now, but at the time I just thought it was the normal thing. So during orientation at the nearest city location, I visited the local RSPCA with a friend and chose a dog who I named Kampa. I named him Kampa because the first night we stayed together was bloody hot and I filled an old bathtub outside as a pseudo pool so that he could cool down. The nameless dog climber eagerly into the water and splashed around like a carefree puppy.
He looked like such as a happy camper. Kamper.
Kamper and I had a short but intense time together. I woke up one morning to find him urinating blood all over the room and drove him some five hours to the closest vet. It was determined that he had consumed rat poison and I decided to put him to sleep. Three months we had. The vet said that given his condition they would have been the best three months of his life.
Two months later it was decided that I should get another dog. A few offers from the community came out, and eventually I was faced with a litter of pups. I chose the black one which was hiding under the table. Then looked up and saw a brindle pup cradled in its owner’s arms. The choice of the litter. And that is how I came to be Punk’s owner. His job was to protect me and my job was to be his companion. A mutually beneficial relationship.
Seven years we had together. This dog had been with me across three states, in the city and out bush. He adapted as needed but always had the protective streak, barking as people passed by our house and never wholly trusting a new visitor to our home. This is why Mr. A’s family hated Punk. They never took the time to get to know him, to build the trust. They just always looked upon him with disdain. That is why they don’t know the truth. We took Punk to a behaviourist vet who diagnosed him and medicated him for anxiety. We worked diligently for the year prior to having a baby on retraining Punk with his triggers. I even nurtured a doll in lieu of a baby to prepare him for the presence of a little one.
Punk rested on my blossoming tummy through the pregnancy and camped out with me in the living room during that final month in the cold winter of 2015. He was visibly relieved when I returned home from the hospital after being with me throughout the labour. How can you tell your best friend that you are ok, that the screams are for a good cause? He gingerly licked and nuzzled the very young Master X as he squirmed in the bouncer, and Punk would sit in front of Master X in a protective way in those early days.
However things began to change and Punk grew wary as Master X became more mobile. He was a trained guard dog and in his older age, found it difficult to acclimatise to this new moving, grabbing, grasping little person. I don’t want to say this, I know that it is not his fault but rather the fault of us as owners, but in response to Master X’s advances, Punk nipped at Master X. Twice.
It was too much with my health and trying to just keep it together.
It was a very difficult decision to make, but Punk is with my mum now, safe, loved and still in our extended family. We can see him whenever we want (we just have to drive the 8 hours) and we have started to FaceTime to stay in contact. I dream about him regularly and yearn for his coarse fur and attentive eyes.
But I know that the choice was the best for him. To go somewhere that does not have potentially dangerous triggers, that can give him the space to guard. And that can love him like we love him.