A story about a dog who is better than a human

Six years ago my wife, Joanne, decided that she wanted a dog. She said it would be good for our children and that she has always missed having a dog since she lived at home with her parents. I did not want a dog.

All I could see was money, lots of money, time and hassle from owning a dog and I really was not sure. I was working from home a couple of days a week at the time, way before the pandemic population discovered it, and I was concerned about how much noise a dog would make while I was on calls etc. At the time it was looked down upon to have a dog barking in the background while you were working, but she persevered and said that we could visit the dog she had found online, and I could then decide if the £650(!) asking price was worth it.

So, we went on a shopping trip to Southampton, about 80 miles away, which involved my son and I looking at lots of watches and generally having a nice day. I suspect now that this was to get me in a good mood early on and then we drove to visit the breeder and see the hugely expensive dog.

Day one

When we arrived my mind said that we should still not buy a dog. We were sat down and the breeder put the dog on my lap (a pre-planned move?) and my heart had paid the £650 in a millisecond. Jo knew this would happen, she absolutely knew it. She knows I am a softie and for the first time in our marriage I saw a calculating side to her personality that ensured she got the dog she wanted. I am joking of course, but it literally did take a mere moment for me to know I wanted a dog, and more specifically this dog.

We called him Murray, after Andy Murray, and the name stuck well to his looks and his personality.

My worries about noise when working were quickly muted. He has barked about 10 times in 6 years and is audibly a very quiet dog. He is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and so his main (only?) purpose in life is to love, and Murray has done that so wonderfully it hurts to see him how he is today.

For my daughter Murray has been a rock, a gentle consoling rock in the times when she has really needed him. He sleeps at the end of her bed, he panics if she has to go somewhere in the middle of a walk and he will not move at all until he sees her again. In more serious times he has been absolutely pivotal, but that is not my story to tell.

For Joanne, when she has had a very stressful day at work in the hospital, he is the calming influence who gets excited when she comes home and who immediately cuddles her for as long as she needs him to. Murray is like an animated teddy bear who knows when you need love and who is always there to dish it out in just the right way. When he is not with our daughter he is with Jo and after 6 years that makes him a constant and vital part of the family.

For me he has been such good company over the past 2 years where I have mostly had to work from home. He can literally sit next to me and sleep or stare for 6 hours at a time. I stop every hour or so to cuddle him and he fills up my lunch with a walk no matter the weather. Lockdown has not been easy for anyone and while I know I have had it better than many, without Murray it would have been so much worse.

That £650 does not matter any more, it is a ‘tiny’ amount of money when I consider what he has brought to us.

Roughly 15 months ago Murray hurt his leg on a walk by the sea and his limping got worse over the next few days. We took him to the vets and they advised that he had done his cruciate ligament, but that he also had a grade 4 heart murmur. This had come from nowhere because the standard heart check 6 months before showed no murmur at all. In effect, he advised that Murray’s time had come and on the phone a few days later he agreed that he should be euthanised when I asked the question.

We were of course heartbroken, but thought a second opinion would be worth getting. We did that and they advised that it was too early to make that choice, but long story short after £1,000’s spent (thankfully Murray is insured) on multiple heart scans, a leg operation, a variety of medications and blood tests etc he is still with us.

He is, however, starting to decline now and the symptoms are increasing. We have had two moments so far where we thought his time had come and we remain acutely focused on no suffering at all for him, but it feels as if we are in the end phase now.

For a man who did not want a dog and who was more worried about the expense and hassle, he has completely changed my view and we will always have dogs for the rest of our lives. Tom added the following in the comments a while back which sums it all up for me now- ‘A friend once told me that they live short lives so we can love more of them in our relatively long lives.’

Dogs truly are better than humans. They exhibit the kindness, empathy and love we as a species can only dream of. They have their moments of course; naughtiness, furniture destruction and noise, but they are at their core just wonderful animals. And to me, Murray is the most wonderful of all.

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