I first met the dog I would live with, travel with and love for 17 years in a small NCDL rescue centre, now Dogs Trust in Ballymena. My best friend, whom I was living with at the time had recently rehomed a dog from there and as we were both big dog lovers and now in our own digs, she promised me she would let me have my own dog too.
So the week before my 22nd birthday we decided to take the hour and a half trip up to the centre and have a look. I knew what I had in mind as I always loved lurchers with their sleek coats and slender aerodynamic bodies. This would be my chance to have one of my own. When we got there we walked around the pens looking at all the potential in those many pairs of brown eyes.
There were many lurchers, mainly greyhound crosses with soft eyes and a variety of coat colours and textures, nuzzling and licking our fingers through the wire. My friend could see I was falling in love and so excited, I was like a kid in a sweet shop. She agreed they were all quite beautiful but maybe a little large, as were living in a terraced house with only a small front and back garden, with 1 dog already.
I felt a little disappointed that she wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as myself for these beautiful and unwanted creatures but she encouraged me to keep looking, which is what we did. We stopped at every pen and squinted into the shadow to see who sat there or hid in the back.
On the last row I was losing my enthusiasm and wanted to go back to the lurchers, there were so many it would take me a while to choose one anyway. I walked around the corner and was met at the first pen door by this black jack-in-the-box. He bounced up and down the whole time we stood there but what I could see of this black blur was that he had the same shape of face as my lovely lurchers but that was all I could see. He was also a little smaller.
We asked one of the staff could they bring him out and asked about his story. The lady had a huge smile on her face and said in no uncertain terms that Jacko was her favourite as she slipped a lead over his head and brought him out.
He was in no way a shy dog, he greeted us with his whole body wagging and feet doing a jig and trying to kiss us amid all this crazy welcome dance he was performing. He was sleek jet black with a white stripe on his chest and he looked like a mini lurcher. Jacko as they had called him had been born in the centre to a white whippet mum, they presumed dad was a collie as he had a fluffy undercoat to the outer shiny flat coat and he was now larger than his mum had been. All his siblings had been rehomed, as had he, but he had been returned for being too much to handle by his previous owners.
It was love at first sight. His big brown eyes shone with mischief, love for everyone he met and a pure love of life and I wanted him to be mine. We took him for a walk which involved him pogo jumping half the walk in his enthusiastic way but I knew in my heart this boy was meant to be with me. I was his second chance.
We went through all the necessary paperwork and homechecks and the following weekend of my birthday we went to collect my boy who I renamed Solo, so as not to confuse him completely of his old name which I didn’t care for. He was more like a Han Solo my new ebony boy.
We soon found out he was a chewing expert, carpets, curtains and seat belts were his forte’, barking was another habit which took a long time to master but he had the company of my friends lovely dog Trouble to get him over his transition from kennels to home life.
Soon we moved to Oxfordshire to follow my career with horses and Solo’s first flight in a plane. I spent the whole flight imagining him escaping from his crate and bounding out the door as soon as the baggage handlers opened it and being mortified as images of us all trying to catch him as he chased planes on the runway haunted me! He didn’t I hasten to add but that was the kind of thing he could do.
The move to living in a more open environment with lots of exercise across big grass fields and spending all day with me while I worked in a large yard suited him down to the ground. He made lots of doggy and horsey friends although he always erred on the cautious side to any newcomer on 4 legs. Newcomers on 2 legs were met with his by now well known pogo stick impression and trying to kiss their face while they were still upright. His other trade mark was to gently put their wrist in his mouth, like a doggy handshake. This he only did with his true friends.
He was great with other dogs, he also showed an inbuilt ability for herding when needed and he helped me with many a shy or scared dog, encouraging them with his gentle ways that everything would be fine. He loved the water and the beach and chasing balls and especially if all 3 were combined. Then we could barely get him back to the car!
I couldn’t sum up his whole life in this one small blog but I wanted to let the world know that this funny, intelligent, kind and wonderful dog had existed in this world, if only to help me through life and remind me to keep my sense of humour and patience on many occasions.
For 17 years he was my shadow, my best friend, my confidante and my teacher. He taught me to never judge a book by it’s cover and that every dog deserves a second chance and has the potential to change your life for the better. They come into our lives like a guardian angel to teach us about ourselves and how to treat others, with kindness, with humour and with unconditional love.
And when they leave this world we know they have touched our lives and our hearts like no other creature ever could.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of my ebony boy who will live forever in my heart.
For Solo x