An open letter to My First Dog

By | December 6, 2016

In Loving Memory of Sarge
A Girl’s Best Friend and Fun Loving Family Dog


Dear Sarge,

You gave me so much I can’t even put into words. It was amazing to grow up with you as my first dog.

I will never forget meeting you for the first time when I was just 11 years old and you were barely 6 weeks.
I couldn’t wait to take you home but the breeder said we had to wait until you were bigger so my parents paid a deposit for you and the wait was on.
It was so exciting to pick you up and I hope as kids we didn’t tire you too much when you were so young and adjusting to life away from your mother and siblings. I remember that first night sleeping downstairs alongside your bed.
Later on we moved you outside and Dad had made a kennel for you with your name painted on it.
It was lovely but we didn’t understand then what we do now. We didn’t get that all you really wanted was to stay inside with the rest of the family. But you showed us by sleeping as close to the house as possible. Your bed ended up being right outside the door.
As time went by you got to spend more and more time inside the house, gradually ending up parked on the sofa most of the time, but when we first got you as a puppy I think we thought of dogs as outdoor animals.

Back in those days people thought that what you needed to keep a dog happy was a big backyard.

If you had a big backyard, great get a dog. If you didn’t have a backyard, no you shouldn’t get a dog. We thought that you would be happy to run around and exercise yourself if I sometimes didn’t want to take you for a walk after school or we went out on the weekend without you. I’m sorry for the times we left you alone in the yard.

We also didn’t know that things would have been a lot easier if we had gotten you neutered much earlier than we did.

We just thought that you sometimes pulled too much on the lead and needed more training. I don’t know why the vet or the people at Dog Obedience didn’t tell us that. We got you neutered later, at the advice of a good friend, and you were a calmer dog although you had also grown up a lot by then.

I’m so glad you were my first dog but when we found out the truth about where you had come from we were horrified.

About 3 years after we bought you from breeders we thought seemed like nice people they were on the news being arrested for cruelty and neglect. Dogs kept in terrible conditions in cages were being seized…it was awful. I’m sorry we supported them. Nowadays we are well informed about so called “puppy mills” but at the time we bought you I think we were just blissfully unaware of how cruel people could be. I am sure we thought breeders must be people who love dogs. If we had known the truth we would not have wanted to buy from people who were exploiting animals, but of course I’m still glad you were my dog.
We also didn’t know that as a purebred Cocker Spaniel you would develop cataracts and be blind later in life but again, I am still glad you were my dog and you learnt to feel your way around by lifting your feet up in front of you, we just had to be a bit careful you didn’t run into the kerb!
We had some great days out getting up to mischief with my friend Jennifer and her puppy Chloe when we were all kids. For all our childhood naughtiness and our teenage antics later…well I’m sure glad you couldn’t tell Mum!

Remember Banjo, Pop’s dog, a cocker spaniel just like you but black? You two used to go crazy playing together.
When I grew up and moved out of home and close to the city to that little cottage you were allowed to sleep on my bed and I used to take you out to cafes and bars and everyone around that neighborhood got to know you. So many fun memories!

There were just so many things I didn’t know about dogs when I was young so I did some things wrong.

I didn’t know much about training dogs and the truth is I’m still learning now. I probably also fed you some things I shouldn’t have back then too but luckily you never got sick. I remember quite a few times you ran into the bathroom and ate the soap and as messy teenagers we’d leave pizza or some other unhealthy food sitting about in the living room and you’d finish it.

The world has changed and there is so much more information available to everyone so we can all do better. The dogs I have now are benefitting from that, from obedience classes and from what you taught me as my first dog.

I remember when I lost you that time.

You had had a bath and you weren’t wearing your collar and then got out the front gate. It was a long night without you but luckily in the morning when the pound opened and I called them someone had already reported that they had found you. She said she saw you on the road and stopped her car and picked you up to keep you safe. That lady’s name was Michelle and I’m forever grateful to her. Now whenever someone loses a pet I feel compelled to help them because I know what it’s like!
When I went travelling overseas I was so upset when I had to say goodbye to you and leave you with my parents because I knew you were getting older. I hope you understood that I loved you but I was young and wanted to see the world. And you were still there when I came home for a visit, still so beautiful and so well groomed…just a little bit greyer. Mum had even taught you how to “shake hands” and she couldn’t wait for me to see and sure enough you let me shake your paw as if to say

“You see, I’m still ok, I’m an old dog now but I’m happy and look I’m still learning new tricks.”

I was so sad the day I found out you had left us headed for “Rainbow Bridge”.

Mum called me and I was at work in Phuket….way back in 2004, it’s a long time ago now but I still remember. You were 16 and a half years old and it was your time but I was still so sad. I’m sorry I wasn’t there with you. I’m grateful to my brother who was looking after you at that time and buried you in his backyard. I’m sure that was a difficult day for him, you were his dog too and he loved you.
By the way, while I’m writing this I may as well let you know that I have forgiven you for taking the stuffing out of “Puppy”. I wasn’t really that upset, I didn’t need Puppy anymore, I had you.
Sarge, you were such a beautiful fun loving, family dog and we all loved you and enjoyed you so much.

I’m sure by now you’ve crossed paths with Mickey at Rainbow Bridge who was sent there, too early, in 2014. Take care of him for me.
Thank you for putting up with the clumsy child who didn’t know better, for sharing all those tricky teenage years with me and for forgiving the young adult who couldn’t wait to set off on her first big adventure.
You taught me so much about unconditional love in a way that only a dog can.

RIP Little Man


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4 thoughts on “An open letter to My First Dog

  1. Darren

    This is a very happy and sad tale at the same time. I love dogs so much but it’s a pity they don’t stay with us forever.

    I have a Shih Tzu who is now 8 and a half years old. I’ve had her since she was 8 weeks. I love her like nothing else. I can’t imagine life without her now.

    I can really relate to everything in your story here about your first dog Sarge. It is a really open, honest and touching story. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    1. Alison

      Hi Darren,

      Thank you for commenting. I enjoyed writing that story, so many memories and Sarge did teach me so much about dogs and life.

      Kind regards,


  2. Sethu

    This brought tears to my eyes. My sister and I always wanted a dog growing up but there wasn’t enough space in our apartment.
    Now that we are grown up and have a bigger space, we’re actually half way through adopting a pug. Can’t wait to bring him home and cherish every moment with him like you did with Sarge.
    I’m currently watching many training videos in YouTube and learning a lot to give him the perfect life.
    Again Thanks for this wonderful article, Alison 🙂

    1. admin

      Thanks Sethu and good on you for adopting. It sounds like you’re already a very dedicated dog parent. I feel like although I cherished my first dog there times I took him for granted. I was just young I suppose. Nowadays with my 3 fur kids I never take anything for granted. You really do get back what you put in when it comes to your relationship with your pets…but just remember nobody is perfect. As long as your intentions are good you won’t go far wrong, especially if you’re doing plenty of research and only using positive reinforcement methods, but when it comes to training we never get it right 100% of the time.

      Thank you for commenting and I wish you a wonderful life with your lovely Pug 🙂 


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