I remember sitting in my pushchair outside the house with my Aunty Emmy (not a real aunt but my godmother) as my mum walked up to the front door.
The door opened and a huge ferocious looking dog was barking and being held back. “That’s your new dog,” Aunty Emmy said. It wasn’t. It was his father. I think she may also have made a remark about my mum being out of her mind. She wasn’t!
Zulu was a gentle, loving, kind dog. I can still remember how it felt to hug him, how his fur felt, how he smelled, how soft and velvety his beautiful black face was.
When he was 5, Zulu started having fits. The vet came and told my mum that he had no hope of getting better and the kindest thing would be to have him put to sleep.
These days I am sure something could have been done for him, but back then there was no choice.
All I remember is seeing my dad cry for the first time in my life. My mum and my older sister were inconsolable.
I watched as my dad and Pop carried Zulu’s body up the garden wrapped in a white sheet. I wasn’t crying. I was confused.
I vividly remember everyone being so upset and I remember seeing them carrying his body away, but I don’t remember what happened next. Perhaps it was because what I found out was more traumatic than my dog being put to sleep.
Our neighbour was out in his garden and he saw me heading up the steps with my beach spade clasped in my hand.
“Where are you off to?” he said.
“My dog went to sleep and they’ve buried him and now I’m going to dig him up so he can wake up.”
He alerted my mum and I was stopped. It had to be explained to me properly that he was dead, he wasn’t coming back, he was asleep forever. Dead.
I still cry if I think about Zulu’s life being cut so short. It is no surprise to me that research by insurance company More Than has found that the death of a pet is akin to losing a close family member because to most of us, that is exactly what they are, a member of the family.