The story of how my childhood pet shaped my life begins before I was born, in 1984.
My mum and dad, were newly married, living in the North Island of New Zealand. One day, as they were driving into town, they heard an ad on the radio about a puppy that had been rescued and desperately needed a forever home. My parents were planning on starting their family very soon, and decided that getting a puppy would be the perfect way to begin creating a loving family environment. They contacted the radio station straight away.
That very same day, they took a tiny black and tan Labrador Shepherd puppy home with them. They named her Becky. Little did they know the great and positive impact that this decision would have on their own lives and the lives of their children.
It didn’t take long for Becky to win them over and become an important member of the family. She was soon heading out with my dad to check on the fences on the farm and move the goats to new grass—dad on the quad bike and Becky running happily alongside through the paddocks.
At the very end of 1986, I arrived. Mum, Dad, Becky and I all lived together in an old Bedford bus while we were building our first family home. Dad’s days were spent concreting, building, roofing, sanding, and so on, while Mum looked after me. Becky was always there—she would check in on everyone and loved sitting on the hilltop overlooking the construction and the property, keeping everyone safe.
Once I was big enough, Becky and I would spend every day together—checking on the goats with Dad and exploring the ever-changing construction site which would soon be our home. She was so caring and kind and Mum and Dad never had a thing to worry about.
Soon after, my brother was born and we all moved into the finished house. He was smitten with Becky and they became the best of friends. He would tell her all his secrets and fall asleep snuggling her in the beanbag. The three of us grew and explored together, learning about the bonds of friendship and love that can only be experienced between kids and their pets.
After a big move from the North to the South Island of New Zealand, my little sister soon joined the party. Becky welcomed her and protected her, just as she had done with my brother and I. We had plenty of space to play in our new home—we would walk the Queen Charlotte Track, swim at the beach, and make the most of every day in our quiet, friendly community. Becky always right there with us.
Talking to my family now about her, the silliest of stories crop up and bring a smile to my face: The time we dressed her and my uncle up; coming home to find the bean bag torn to shreds and beans all over the living room and Becky trying to act innocent; cooking way too much food when friends came over and not wanting Mum to know we were being wasteful—Becky had some yummy lunches!
I think having Becky in our lives, right from the very start, has made all three of us children the biggest animal lovers. Such a special bond is formed between animals and children; they are forever loyal, loving, playful, and trusting. Becky taught us, as impressionable kids, so many things that we are grateful for today and we all—Mum and Dad included—hold a special place in our hearts for her. Saying goodbye to our very first best friend when she passed away peacefully at the age of 14, was one of the hardest days we went through, but her name still comes up regularly, and we all fondly remember her, almost 20 years later.
Becky lived the fullest of lives in one of the most beautiful places in the world and was always a healthy and happy dog. I think both Mum and Dad are chuffed that their spontaneous decision, way back in 1984, has led to their three children adoring animals, and we all feel so lucky to have had so many wonderful years with her. Our childhood memories are filled with that sweet black and tan face of hers.
Nowadays, living in India, I have been able to share my love for animals with those who need it the most. With so many dogs living on the streets—mistreated, malnourished, and abused—it is almost impossible NOT to want to help. I fall in love over and over again, meeting piles of puppies in the market and the sweet strays that inhabit the chowks (street corners). I can’t help giving scruffy dogs on the streets some love and attention.
My husband and I help by fostering two street dogs and a stray cat. They have become our world and India wouldn’t be the same for us without them. With so much sadness out there for so many animals, we want our three to have the best lives possible. They bring us so much laughter and joy, we feel lucky to have become a part of their world.
We dream of being able to have our own tribe of street/rescue animals one day in the near future, but for now we are more than willing to help out wherever we can and bring awareness to those who need it most. These beautiful, loyal beings need love and attention—and in return, you will receive more affection than you ever dreamed possible. I cannot imagine my life without purring, snuggly cats and loyal, playful dogs. The affinity that develops between kids and their pets—or rather, between pets and their kids—is one of life’s most precious gifts, and I would love for my children to be able to experience this indescribable bond too.