Today, June 20th, is an exceptional day. It is Teo’s 16th birthday.
Every other year we would celebrate this day with extra cuddles and a bunch of treats, if not an entire home-made chicken liver cake. It would be like every other birthday – special.
But this year is different.
This year, the coming of June 20th stings nearly as much as May 31st -the day we had to say goodbye to Teo forever.-
In honour of his birthday today, I would like to celebrate and share some of my favourite memories of him, for Teo was the most remarkable dog and our bundle of joy.
And I knew that from the first time I met him: in my room, a few days before I turned six.
I was told he was my birthday present, but I couldn’t believe it. I would often take care of other people’s dogs because I always wanted one myself, so I assumed that this was the case, that he was just a dog we would watch over for a while.
When I was reassured that he was in fact mine, I was not really able to process the news. For around two days, I would find it hard to even remember his name, despite it only being three letters long.
For the rest of his first day with us, Teo would be shy and protest against being in his new home. He would go as far as bite my blinds, probably out of frustration, and, later in the night, he would poop on my white carpet while making direct eye contact with me – what I like to call our first proper bonding experience.
Ever since then, we became inseparable. We would go almost everywhere together.
When I was eight and told we would be moving to Switzerland, I immediately left the kitchen to start working on my packing list. At the top of that list was Teo, because he was my number one priority.
While I was excited to move, it didn’t come without its own hardships. But every day, Teo guided me through this significant change in my life and kept me company when I struggled overcoming the language barrier, culture clash and struggled making friends.
He was a stabiliser – a constant presence in my life – that kept me at bay. Like a lighthouse, he would keep me hopeful when my life, like a boat, was met with destruction or dangerous waves.
Teo was so loyal and loving. He often absorbed one’s emotions because he would hate the idea of someone suffering alone, and he would still try to make you smile regardless of whether you were in a good mood or not, and there was not a time he failed.
He was also incredibly funny. One of the things Teo was known for was finding unique places to sleep. Sometimes he would sleep in a suitcase, on magazines, other times on my pillow or in an Ikea bag… he always surprised us.
When we would travel, we would keep each other company in the backseat of the car. We would sleep together, watch movies together, and look out of the window together. Teo often barked at the motorcyclists speeding past the car and kept barking even after they were long gone.
We travelled to a few countries together. In a French seaside town, Teo would enjoy roaming the beach and finding a remote, abandoned bag on which he could pee in peace, to mark his place. But he would not go near the water, as Teo hated it. Whenever it would rain, it was a difficult chore to get him outside, so we theorised about how he actually was a mix between a cat and a dog, a “kit-dog”.
I recall a time in Switzerland, when I woke up early one morning and couldn’t find Teo anywhere. After searching the whole house, I came back to my room only to discover him hidden behind the curtains, sitting on my table which was right beside the window, watching my neighbours (and probably their cat).
Sometimes, he would go as far as to stand on his hind legs – like a squirrel – and join his front legs in a begging position, to ask us for his favourite food. Combined with a small whimper, Teo made it clear how eager he was, so he often succeeded in getting the food he wanted.
It was hard to not be won over by him.
Equally, it was hard to not win him over. All you had to do was give him belly rubs or feed him something he liked, and he would love you.
The more I type, the more memories come to mind, and the more I want to dive into his beautiful, special life and share all the little things that make Teo, Teo.
This includes: his fascinating eating ritual which involved sticking his nose into his granules until he found the right one and then moving it to the carpet to finally eat it (a ritual I could never understand), his jumping around tall grass like a small bunny, and his love and loyalty towards his chicken, a toy he had since day one and never replaced.
There will always be so much to say about Teo, but the delightful thing about it is that he will forever live on through the wonderful, unforgettable memories people have of him. He will live on through their stories.
He was my best friend and my “partner in crime”. He was and always will be my happiness, love, luck, positivity and my rock. And I know that, just like the people he watched from my window, he will watch over me from Doggy Heaven.
Happy birthday, Teo. I hope you’re celebrating with your favourite food up there.
Featured Image Credit: Julia Benko