My Dogs Continue to Walk With Me Years After I Had to Say Goodbye.
Through inspiration from a celebrity, I found a way to keep my beloved dogs close to me for all my life through the magic of body art.
Okay, firstly if you are a dog lover, you are likely to feel teary through this tale of mine. Secondly, to fully understand how two simple tattoos gave me peace, I must first take you back in time and tell you the full story.
All my life I wanted a dog. It was what I wished to find every Christmas under the tree, or to have a stray dog befriend me and it force my family to adopt him/her. It was all I wanted, but my parents refused until I was old enough to take the full responsibility behind owning a dog. This seemed so cruel to me, but one family holiday my dad shot himself in the foot with a promise to me. He promised me, I could finally get my dog if I didn't spend any money on holiday.
He thought he had this in the bag as I am a shopaholic when given the opportunity. However, he underestimated how badly I truly wanted a dog of my own. For two weeks it did not matter what trinket of item my dad waved in my face in hopes to tempt me into breaking, I refused. Instead, I was buying things my dog was going to need when we got home. This included a collar, bowls and even a bed. My dad knew he was screwed and me and my mum started planning what dog we were going to get.
We toyed with adopting, but we also wanted the joys of a puppy and to watch it grow and learn with us. We settled on the idea of a Labrador, as they were good family dogs. To our surprise, the week we got home the local paper was advertising Chocolate Labrador puppies ready for their forever homes. The breeder of the pups invited us over and we got the opportunity to meet the mum and dad of the litter. But we also got to see the parents of the dad. We could see, these pups were coming from a healthy line of dogs.
We were taken to where the puppies were all ready for choosing. We were told, not to choose the puppy that was pushing forward as it was a sign of dominance and to avoid the puppy who holds back as they can be signs of timidness. That may sound harsh, but this was our first dog, so we were aiming to avoid any obvious problems. However, problems soon arose as we entered the room. There were instead 8 small pups all peering over the small wall containing them wagging their tales like crazy at us.
How were we to choose? They all looked so good. My mum told me to just climb in with the puppies and start choosing. I was so excited stepping in to their pen, at 16 I was finally getting my dog. But I just had no idea which to choose, they all were the same in looks and behaviour. I sat down and started to interact with the pups and was still clueless which to choose. Then a pup climbed into my lap and got comfy. With that, my mum told me, that's the one, she has chosen you.
Needless to say I was so happy and we named the pup Brandie, after a suggestion from my grandad. After a couple of years I was getting busier and Brandie was spending more time on her own during the day. This really didn't bother Brandie as she kinda loved being able to chill in her space. But, it was an excuse for us to get another pooch to keep her company. This time I knew what I wanted, I wanted a white Siberian Husky.
In a matter of weeks I got lucky and a pup was ready for homing about 50 miles from where we lived. I begged my older brother to drive me, to which he reluctantly agreed. Shortly after leaving we hit major traffic. He wanted for us to turn around, but I was determined once again and insisted we went that evening. This paid off, as when we arrived the breeder confirmed two other people were coming the next day and were interested in the white puppy also. Unlucky for them, I got their first and she was mine.
We named her Kira and Brandie welcomed her, as Brandie loved to mother puppies. Our pair were set and we did everything with these dogs, including taking them on holiday with us. However, during Kira's first holiday I was shopping in a city with my parents and my brother rang us. Kira was having a seizure where we were staying. Instantly we headed back and my brother found a local vet and got Kira there. She was out of sorts for a couple of days but went back to her normal self.
When we got home we had tests done and it was confirmed, she was epileptic. This meant she had to have daily medication and every few months blood taken and a check-up. This made me think, my determination to get to her breeders was fate. I was not going to give up on one of my dogs and we did everything that was needed to keep Kira healthy. The problem with epilepsy is finding the right medication that works for the patient.
This resulted in every 2 weeks around 1/2am in the morning Kira having a series of seizures during the night. She would always salivate during her seizures and would often urinate. While this was scary to begin with, it soon became normal for us. When her seizure would end she would be extremely disorientated as to what had just happened to her. I found a trick of laying behind her as her seizure would end and hugging her as she came around. This always helped her calm down and resulted in the bond between us being unmatched, I was her comfort and security.
As her visits to the vet continued through the month her medication had to be increased and I was even prescribed valium for her once her seizures ended. Thankfully, as she approached four years old her medication balance was found and we would only suffer seizures every 6 months instead. Thinking all was good to go, we felt normality for a couple of years until nature attacked Kira once again.
This time, she had cushioning of the womb, which is deadly for female dogs. This is easily sorted by giving the dog a hysterectomy, but Kira's epilepsy had always been the reason the vet avoided neutering her. If she had a seizure during surgery it would be unlikely she would have survive. With no choice, we consented to the surgery and had the longest day of our lives. I remember we were in the car when I got the phone call. We were all so emotional from the news that she was okay and my dad had to pull over to gather himself.
Some may consider that an overreaction, but you must keep in perspective the long journey we had been on with this dog at this point. I think for anyone to go through the amount with did with Kira, it would be inhuman not to be emotional. But tragically we were not out of the woods by a long-shot. Around the same time our Labrador Brandie had to have her back legs rebuilt.
This was a common problem in Labrador, who are prone to problems with their knees. But after surgery and hydrotherapy, she was back on her feet. However, the troubles with Kira were now set on us to come to an end. As if my poor dog had not been through enough. She was diagnosed with a condition that is extremely rare, but always fatal. We noticed a smell coming from her paws and we took her to our vet. Our vet was not sure what it was but took blood samples and referred us to a specialist vets.
The specialist told us Kira had a rare genetic condition where her immune system was basically attacking her. The vet was pushing for us to have Kira put to sleep right there, but Kira herself was normal and happy. So we maintained our stance we took during the rest of her problems. While she was fighting, we were fighting. We were given some pain medication to aid her and given advice how to clean her paws to avoid them getting worse.
This meant we had her for another Christmas, but it wasn't long after that Kira told me she was done. She was laying more and eating less, she was telling me she was done. I got a massive lump in my throat as I called the vets to book for Kira to be put to sleep. When the vet loaded my file the receptionist noticed it was my 30th birthday in two days and she put me on hold for moment. When she came back she told me she had spoken with the vet and they had arranged for some stronger pain medication for Kira. I asked why as Kira was telling me she was done.
She told me, I was allowed this one time to be selfish. I was allowed to hold onto her for a couple more days so she was with me for my birthday. We arranged for the following day for the vet to come to our house and put her to rest. This all meant so much to me, as she was not a fan of the vet given the amount of times she was there. For my actual birthday I simply led on my bed with Kira and I edited together a video for our vet to thank them for everything they did for her.
The following day I just stayed with Kira until the vet arrived. When he arrived he gave her a check and said he was sorry he couldn't help her more. He prepared the injection and I just sat there looking Kira in the eyes and rubbing her head. This was when he started the procedure and as I rubbed her head she let out a final breath and I knew she was gone. It did not matter I was a man who just hit 30, in that moment I was 5. I broke into tears, as I knew I now could. All I wanted to do was see her out with a smile and love and I succeeded in holding it together. I did not want her leaving this world seeing me upset.
As strange as it sounds, at 30 years old, this was my first true lost. I had not had to go through losing even a grandparent at this point. I did not know how to deal with it and cope with it being my choice for her to leave. I knew it was the right thing for her, but it still does not alleviate the guilt that it was me who picked up the phone and made the appointment. But it was from a surprising force I found a way to cope with the loss.
I was watching UK morning television when the former glamour model now turned bodybuilder Jodie Marsh inspired me. She was on the show talking about tattoos and discussing her full sleeve she had. Her sleeve was dedicated to the love and respect she had for her grandfather. She even explained some of the elements making up her sleeve may not make sense to everyone, but it was for her to remember her grandfather and not for others to understand.
I thought the idea was really sweet, but my inspiration hit with her next revelation. The tattoo ink actually held her grandfather's ashes within it. So he was actually with her now in the form of a tattoo. This just inspired me and I decided to get a tattoo and have some of Kira's ashes in the ink. I found a simple design that I liked and altered it. Then I found a local tattoo artists who was able to do what I wanted and forever ink me with a tattoo that contained some of Kira.
I had her tattoo placed on back of my right calf muscle and much like Jodie, I did not care if anyone understood my tattoo as it was for me. It aided in me finding peace with her passing, as I am not an overly religious person. So when it comes to death and what comes after I can not say I believe in anything in particular. But this tattoo meant that Kira will forever be close to me. Sadly about 15 months later, we lost our Labrador due to her age catching up on her. So I replicated what I did for Kira but on the back of my left calf for Brandie.
While this idea may not appeal to everyone, I would easily recommend that if you have a loved one that was cremated and you have access to the ashes, this is a great way to remember them. You do not even need a large amount of the ashes, normally a teaspoon is more than enough. I will never regret doing it as even if I can not see my dogs, I know they are still walking alongside me. It gives me true peace just knowing they are forever close to me, and I think this shows the power a tattoo can truly have on your life.