Tuesday 25 June 2019

A Girl's First Love Stays with Her Forever #PethoodStories

Teen girl and her labrador
Me, aged 15 with Toby Jack
{This is a collaborative post}

Every woman remembers their first love. I could say it was my Dad, but I think that's a given. No, my first love arrived into my life when I was 14-years-old and he was gorgeous. The most handsome boy I'd ever seen, this glossy and silky gingery-blond hair, a massive smile and he was content to just be with me. Hardly any demands, just unconditional love. A love that lasted for thirteen years.

We went through some interesting times together, Toby and I. Times when I deserted him for other boys, times when I was too busy to spend as much time with him as he deserved, and times when I slept late in the morning and forgot to get up and walk him (thankfully mum didn't)! But he always forgave me. He was always happy to offer me cuddles and a gorgeous shoulder to cry into when I needed it.

I can't tell you the amount of times that I cried to Toby, he just listened, he never made me feel bad and he never answered back. Of course, that's because he was a dog, a Labrador, but not just any ordinary dog as far as I am concerned. He, for me, is the best dog that ever lived and I don't think any other dog will ever take that place of my first love, of my bestest friend.

I look back at old photos now and I chuckle to myself, he was so placid and my brother and I used to never let up, always looking to have fun with him. Just look at the photos below to see for yourself.

We all went to choose Toby when he was a puppy and he was the runt of the litter, so much smaller than the others, but those cute eyes and his shy personality won us over. We definitely made the right choice as he was a faithful friend to every member of our family over his lifetime.

I haven't even got time to tell you about all the antics Toby and I got up to together. I recall getting grounded when I was 15 for lying quite severely to my parents and the only place I was allowed to go was to walk Toby. So we'd head off to the lake together and meet my friends whilst they were fishing. He loved the long walks and the company, and I loved being able to get out!

When my first serious boyfriend did the dirty on me, you can bet who was there to comfort me. I remember coming home from the pub when I was about 19/20 years old and crying into his fur and he just seemed to know that I needed his comfort. He stayed close to me for days.

I do think that Labradors have the most wonderful temperament as a family pet. Yes, they like a lot of exercise and game playing, but I always felt safe with him. We went for a Labrador as my Mum had one as a young girl; so golden labs are a bit of a tradition for our family. My parents even have another one now, Archie.

Petplan undertook a Pet Census in 2018, sampling 60,000 pets owners from across the UK. It makes for an interesting read showing the most popular dog breeds over time and key statistics, broken up by area of the country. There are some real corkers in there, like 38% of pet owners in the South West put their pets needs above their own and Northern Irish pet owners are the most likely to choose a house with a bigger garden to suit their pets needs. Also, 40% of pet owners in the South East of England say they always buy their pet a Christmas and Birthday gift. Well, no surprise on that one for me, as we always do too!

Petplan pet insurance was a must when we had Toby  as he suffered with his hips and legs (as many Labradors do, sadly) and having dog insurance meant  we were able to get the help he needed without any massive financial worries. It really made the world of difference to our family, as Toby was struck down with a mystery illness or virus (we still do not know to this day) and his back legs became paralysed when he was ten years old. I won't go into all the details but it is a sad story with a miraculous ending.

Basically the local vet had no idea what was wrong and sent my parents up to the Royal Veterinary Hospital at South Mimms, they also had no idea what was wrong but after he'd been there one night, they said my parents needed to either choose to pick Toby up as he was fretting so much, or to let him go.  The hospital said he wasn't in pain, but his legs were paralysed and he'd need constant physio and help to go to the toilet.

Then for around a year my parents nursed Toby. Dad slept on a mattress next to him, Mum gave up her job and massaged him frequently and by some miracle he learnt to walk again. It was wonderful, it was as if he was a puppy again, so full of life and he lived for another couple of years.

This photo here is of a canvas that we had made for my parents after Toby had been poorly and had got better. This still hangs with pride of place over the fireplace in my parents house, even now 25 years later.

I'll never forget Toby, he was my first real pet, my first love and my favourite dog ever. He'll keep that accolade forever, I'm sure.

Please do share with me in the comments your #PethoodStories? Which pet have you had over the years who has made their way into your heart?

Disclosure: This post is in conjunction with Petplan but all thoughts and opinions are my own. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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