A little over half an hour ago, I buried my doggy.
Not one of the silly doggies. Mable passed away a few months ago, and Sherlock is still pottering around the kitchen. No, this was MY doggy. This was Ali, my German Shepherd, my Alsation, the best dog in the whole world, and the undisputed love of my life.
Almost fourteen years ago, we needed a dog. I was living at home and working on the farm, and it was decided that we were getting a new dog, a few years after our last one had died. My mum, being my mum, looked upon this decision as a starting point. From here, the breed would be chosen, we'd start asking around, and then, in a few months time, we'd actually get the dog.
My dad, being my dad, looked upon this decision as a go-ahead to get a dog the very next day.
And so, while my mum was at work, we drove to a house down the road who'd just had a brand new batch of puppies. It was my little sister who picked which one we'd take home — she picked the quietest out of all the yapping pups — and we took the pup home, and I was in love.
It was obvious to everyone that she was going to be mine. We kept her in a shed for the first week or two, because she was filthy and she smelled terrible. But every evening after work I was in that shed, sitting on the ground with her. I couldn't stand to hear her whine. I couldn't stand the thought of her being lonely. I convinced my parents that she should be an indoor dog, and after she'd been washed and didn't smell quite so bad, my folks gave in.
Oh, and her name? I remember this discussion VERY clearly. We were all in the living room one evening. I wanted to call her something awesomely cool. I'm pretty sure I wanted her named either Buffy or Xena. Nobody else agreed with me. But, I argued, I'm the one who's going to be looking after her and feeding her and spending the most time with her. Surely I should be the one to name her?
Apparently not. I'm pretty sure it was Audrey who suggested the name. Remember, this was fourteen years ago, and the TV show Ally McBeal was at the height of its popularity.
"Ally!" Audrey said. "Because she's an Alsation! And also Ally McBeal!"
I was outvoted, but I vowed that day that my doggy's name should forever be spelled... Ali.
(Take THAT, Ally McBeal.)
Ali became a part of the family. Granted, it was the part of the family that slept in the kitchen and to whom my older sister Nadine never REALLY warmed. Every so often she'd look at Ali lying there, and she'd soften, and go over and pet the dog and say nice things. And then the moment Ali nudged against her Nadine would freak out and the dog would wonder what the hell was going on.
But we all loved her. When she was a pup, she used to run at whoever was sitting in the armchair in the kitchen, leap up and stand on their chest/shoulder/head and look around, like she was proudly surveying her territory. A year or two passed, and it never occurred to her that maybe she was too big to keep doing that, so she kept doing it. Many a time my dad would be sitting in the armchair reading the paper, and I'd see Ali readying herself like a sprinter on the block. Suddenly she'd leap, bursting through the newspaper, and dad would cry out in alarm and there'd be a mad scramble of legs and then sudden stillness, and she stood on my father's chest, one paw in his face, looking around at her kingdom. And the only thing we'd hear from dad would be a "Bloody mutt..."
Then, of course, she got too big and too powerful even to do THAT. The amount of times she'd leap onto dad and find herself hurtling over the back of the chair...
Ali had many talents. She was a bit of an actress, appearing in my very first movie, Dead Bodies. She can be seen at the start, jumping up and down at a patio door. I was on the other side of that door, though you can't see me, leaping about like a nutter in order to get her excited. That was her first and only film role. I think she realised she had a choice to make — LA, or Ireland. She chose Ireland.
I wrote the first Skulduggery book with her in my room. Every single evening I'd sit at my computer, writing away, and I'd hear the pat pat pat of her approach, and she'd nudge the door open with her nose, walk in, jump up on my bed, and curl up and watch me. That's how we spent our evenings. She wasn't happy without me and I wasn't happy without her.
After the book got picked up, I went to New York for a week to meet with my American publishers. After a few days I started to miss Ali DREADFULLY. I called home and my mum told me that Ali was spending her nights in my room, waiting for me to come home. When I finally did come home, she got all excited and started bouncing and whirling in circles, and then we went to my room, and she got up on the bed and I leaned in, and she licked my face for fifteen minutes. It was disgusting — by the end of it, my face had a thick layer of saliva coating it — but I didn't want to move. Fifteen minutes. I counted.
I used to take her for long walks around the fields a couple of times a day. Whenever I'd get stuck writing, off we went. I'd sort out problems with the plot as I walked, and Ali would chase birds and rabbits and splash in puddles and come back to me every now and then for a cuddle, then bound off again. Those memories are some of my favourites from when I was living at home. I was happy, I had a future, my family was proud of me, and I had my dog.
In 2008 or thereabouts, I moved out. I bought a house seven minutes away, so every evening I could go back to visit the folks and walk the dog. For a long time after I moved out, Ali would wait outside my old bedroom for me to return. I hate thinking of times like those, times when she was disappointed or she missed me and I wasn't there. She got used to the new arrangement, of course. Now she started looking forward to 5:30, when I'd walk in. Around that time every single day, she'd be waiting at the kitchen door. She'd get so excited to see me, and after we'd played around and she settled down, she went back to the door to wait for my mum to come home. Her ears would perk up and I'd know she heard an engine, and I'd open the front door just as my mum got out of the car and Ali would race out, excited all over again.
About four years ago Ali got cancer. She developed a large tumour on her belly. I was distraught. She had an operation to get rid of it, but the vet told us the cancer was going to come back. He gave her two years, maybe. Two more years with my dog.
These last few years, Ali got old. She got stiff. The long walks became shorter and shorter. She couldn't handle it anymore. And suddenly there were babies in the house, wobbling about. Ali didn't know quite what to make of them. She learned pretty early on to try and stay away if she possibly could. She was great with the kids. She's never been anything other than gentle and loving and lovely.
Yesterday I took her on a short walk, just out to the shed. We reached the shed and she lay down. This wasn't normal. I went over and petted her and she seemed fine. She got up and followed me to the postbox, and lay down again. Then she followed me back inside the house, and went to her mat and lay down.
"Is everything okay?" my mum asked.
"No," I said.
She had perked up this morning, according to the text my mum sent, but by this afternoon she was lying down again. We took her to the vet. She lay in the back of my jeep and he came out, but he didn't even have to examine her to see that the cancer was back. He injected her there and then and I cried. I haven't cried like that in... I don't ever remember crying like that. I'm crying right now. I love my dog and I miss her, and the reason I'm writing this is because she deserves to be remembered.