I guess I should start by telling you he’s not actually mine.
It’s quite liberating to love something that doesn’t belong to you, as if it's your own, without the guilt or fear of being found out. You know, the sort of story line you’d expect on a soap or audience participated sitcom.
His name is Basil, and I never thought it possible to have such a human experience with a non-human before. He jumped up into my life/face about two years ago, when dear friends decided it was time for them to grace their home with a canine presence.
And thank goodness they did, I can’t help but think that without him we would have a meter long 30 kg fox red Labrador shaped hole in our lives.
Growing up I never really had pets. It’s worth mentioning my brief ownership of a hamster I called Fanta, his already short life span was made shorter by my brother following his generous serving of Kellogg’s Frosties and Dairy Milk chocolate (purely innocent of course.) I remember coming home from School and finding Fanta slumped over his bloated white tummy on a floor of fresh sawdust and cereal remnants. It looked to me like he was smiling, as though in a content Frosties and chocolate induced coma. At least he passed happy.
It’s strange really, loving a pet that isn’t your own and it’s tough you know, a long-distance relationship. I live 70 miles away in the bustling city of Bristol, while Basil and his owners live in the beautiful Devon countryside. Perfect for Basil's river plunges and ball chasing and retrieving, chasing and retrieving, chasing and retrieving.
I stayed with the household for three weeks to break up the solitude of lockdown and I knew Basil's company would be more rewarding than my own. Besides, there was not an inch left of my flat to clean or reorganise. So for three weeks, I grew even closer to the four-legged legend that had me in more fits of laughter than any Netflix comedy series.
Being in his company is like hanging out with a really funny, really valued friend. And although he is unable to respond vocally to any of my lengthy conversations with him, his never-quite-outgrown-high-definition ‘puppy dog eyes’ share the words he can’t speak.
Plus, Basil can always make you laugh, irrelevant of your emotional state. For a guaranteed belly laugh, simply sit on the sofa or armchair and within moments Basil will jump up beside you. Basil will mount inelegantly onto your lap and sit there for a brief moment, looking proud of his accomplishment. All the while whatever you were watching on the television has been replaced by a screen of golden fur. Basil will then flop fully and clumsily down on to you as though in his mind he sees himself as the size of the yappy Jack Russell he so coolly ignored on his walk earlier that afternoon.
The soul soothing three weeks I spent getting even closer to my pooch pal will be a memory instilled in my mind keepsake for years to come. I especially loved taking him for walks and indulging in dog chat with passers-by and fellow dog walkers. I even found myself comparing Bas to other pooches, internally judging them because they didn’t possess the same dog demeanor as Basil. I mean, he even walks like a champion.
‘Isn't he gorgeous!,’ little old ladies would coo as their cockapoos woo’d over Basil's golden fur, long legs and ruthlessness for eating whatever foliage was in his vicinity.
‘Yes he is,’ I’d say back, like a proud dog proprietor, swinging a bag of poop like I owned this dog.
Before I met Bas, I never defined myself as a cat or a dog person. Firstly, I’d never really taken the time out to consider the preference and secondly, I’d never spent enough time with an animal to make a decision that seems to change another person’s perspective of you depending on your answer.
Nonetheless, if someone asked me now, I’d say I’m a Basil person. And I’d go on to tell the enquirer that if I were to ever get a dog, it would have to be just like Basil. Basil to me is perfection in a pooch.
And the best part is, he is not the most obedient dog out there (golden fur yes, golden behaviour? Not quite.) But he brings so much joy and personality to a room without ever needing to tell a joke and his rebelliousness is outweighed by his hilarity and playfulness. And besides, Basil knows when you’ve asked him to do something enough, he is always aware of when you really mean it. Sometimes that’s at the third request, sometimes fourth, sometimes fifth, but hey, who’s counting. Bas certainly isn’t.
Now I’m back in Bristol, Basil's face takes up space on my camera roll and lock screen wallpaper, just as he takes up space on the sofa. I never knew it possible to love an animal so dearly, especially when they don't actually belong to you. So if anyone knows of a 30 kg red fox Labrador, who brings nothing but merriment, has no awareness of space, dimension or weight, who eats twigs as though treats, who attempts a game of fetch with a tree branch the size of a fence panel, who gives better snuggles than any human you have ever embraced, please, send him my way.