When thinking about where to go for a coffee and some writing time on this lazy Saturday morning in March, I knew I needed somewhere with good coffee (obviously!), a place you could sit outside to enjoy the awesome end-of-summer weather and, most importantly, a place that allows dogs. And so, as I sit here at the Mugg ‘n Bean in Lonehill (which fulfills all of these criteria), with Chuckles next to me, I am struck by how much my life (and my requirements for an ideal coffee shop) have changed over the last few years.
Not only have my requirements for a coffee shop changed, but similarly my requirements for a weekend break or a holiday. I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you that one of the items on The List was a trip to the coast for a long weekend – for some long walks on the beach, fresh air, sun, sea, ocean spray… and just to feel the sand beneath your paws! Yes, you read that right… paws! Because on The List was to take Chuckles on another beach holiday!
I first took Chuckles to the beach about two years ago, when my dear friend Penny invited Chuckles and I to join her and her family in Zinkwazi Beach. I had no idea how Chuckles would react to the beach and the waves (particularly given that he took a few years to learn how to swim!), but surprisingly he had absolutely no fear and cavorted in the shallows as if he’d grown up on the beach (as opposed to being a Sandton dog!).
And so I wanted to have Chuckles experience that again – I knew that seeing him so happy and carefree would bring me as much (if not more) happiness as it did him. I’m like any mom that way – just wanting to see their child happy, having fun, fearless and carefree, and enjoying even simple experiences to the full.
After endless searches for pet-friendly accommodation (which is a lot harder to find than you may think), Chuckles and I headed for Salt Rock on the north coast at the end of February. And immediately after checking in at our beautiful apartment, we headed down to the beach in the late afternoon to feel the sea sand between our toes and breathe in the sea air as soon as possible. And again, my heart just melted at the sight of my boy running through the sand and the waves. (He didn’t venture in to the sea very far…in fact, he didn’t venture in at all, he only got wet when the waves came closer to him than he’d been expecting and he couldn’t get away fast enough 🙂 ) I don’t think it was a coincidence that these first photos I took of him that evening shows his footprints having formed the pattern of a heart, with him in the middle.
Whenever I’m trying to explain to someone how much my precious Chuckles means to me, I always say that he lives in the centre of my heart – it’s the best way I know to explain it. And as I said at the outset, I still can’t believe how much my life has changed since it was blessed with Chuckles.
You would, by now, have seen many photos of Chuckles – both on this blog and on my Facebook page. So you’ll know that he’s a maltese (albeit a ‘giant maltese’ as I call him..the biggest maltese most people have ever seen. Hee hee, when he was a puppy, I feared he was going to grow into the Dulux dog when he didn’t stop growing 🙂 ). A few months ago, my dad asked me how I came to choose Chuckles, given that I had never had an affinity for small dogs. And my response was simple and immediate: “Dad, I didn’t choose Chuckles. He chose me.”
Let me take you back to an ordinary Saturday morning in March 2012. It was just over a month since I’d come out of hospital, and I was trying desperately to put my life together again. So that Saturday morning saw me doing normal Saturday morning chores at the Morningside shopping centre, when I bumped into one of my best mates, Nicky. After hellos and hugs, she told me about these gorgeous puppies she had seen in the petshop downstairs and asked me to come with her and have a look. Now, for the record, I HATE petshops – they break my heart. And I would normally find a reason to say no – but I found myself saying yes (thinking to myself “just humour her, she’s your friend, just go”). So Nicky and I headed down to the petshop and as I walked inside, there was a cage front and centre, with this little bundle of cream fur inside and which I found myself making a beeline for. (Evidently there were some spaniels in the window, which is what Nicky actually wanted to show me as I’ve always loved spaniels, but I didn’t even see them).
I wasn’t looking for a dog, had no plans to get a dog, and yet when I picked up this bundle of fur and snuggled him in my arms, I just knew I was going to be taking him home with me. I was too smitten to be logical about any aspect of this experience, and unbeknownst to me Nicky was checking his paws, checking his eyes and checking for various other signs of health (Thanks Nicks!) while I was falling in love. (The one thing I do remember is that while I was cuddling the bundle of fluff, a little girl of about five or six came up and wanted to stroke him in my arms and was in the process of calling her parents over to tell them that she wanted him. And Nicky, in her inimitable fashion, told the little girl to “Back off. We have a credit card, you don’t”. Hahahahah – I still giggle about that moment now.)
So, moving forward, precious Chuckles joined my world on that day in March – a day which started out as ordinary and turned into being extraordinary and the day that my life changed forever for the better.
I can’t begin to explain everything that Chuckles means to me and I could never hope to convey it fully. I know, though, that I feel about him the way others would feel about their human children. He is my child – the centre of my world and my heart. And he is the happiest dog you’ve ever met – people always comment on that. He doesn’t have an angry bone in his body and loves everyone and everything. And heaven help anyone who refers to him as “just a dog” – he’s not “just” anything – he’s everything to me!
And if anyone didn’t know how much he means to me, they would certainly be able to guess it if they met me and saw my tattoo. I have Chuckles’s pawprint tattooed on my shoulder – and it’s not just a generic pawprint, but his actual pawprint. It’s my favourite tattoo and an indication of how much he has impacted and changed my life. On my journey of healing, Chuckles has done more for me than any medication and therapy could have. And I know this is true for many people (I think Discovery should start offering benefits and subsidies for having dogs in your life, the same way they subsidise you going to the gym – it makes you healthier!).
So, if you want to call me a crazy dog lady – go ahead, I’ll be honoured, because that just means that it’s evident how much I love Chuckles and what an integral part of my life he is. I’d prefer, however, that you are merely grateful for the love he continually gives me, and the joy he brings to my life. I wish moments of that kind of joy for all of you – they are priceless!
**Postscript: this morning (which is a few days after writing this post, but before it was ready to be published) I had a bit of a rough morning. I was lying in bed and was just incredibly sad because of a number of things that have happened over the past few days. And as I lay there and cried, Chuckles came across to me and gently licked the tears off my face as they rolled down my cheeks. There are no words to describe love like that.