Goodbye Atticus, everyone loved you. You were just that kind of dog.
If the truth be told, it was his brother who I first fell in love with on a beach in Port Macquarie.
Emerging from the ocean and making his way up the sand, his look and his walk reminded me so much of my first Rotty. He was tall for a puppy, jet black with the tan markings that define this beautiful breed.
I touched his soft fur and held his little face to mine, but I couldn’t keep him. He had a family and they wanted to take him home.
Seeing my disappointment they enthusiastically offered up an alternative.
“He has a brother you know. He’s the smallest of the lot and no-one wants him but YOU might?”
And so my 14 year love affair with Atticus began.
Yes he was the runt of the litter, yes he liked to sleep with his head in a shoe (any shoe would do) and yes no-one had wanted him.
But I did. And he loved me for wanting him.
Atticus was hyperactive, funny, ingratiating, affectionate and immediately attached himself to my older Rotty Tyson who silently and stoically tolerated him as one does herpes.
Soon after, I got the sack from my radio job in Port Macquarie. Hoping Atticus wasn’t some sort of black bad-luck talisman I packed up the car and drove us 11 hours North to a new job in Noosa.
Tyson loved long drives, his schtick was sticking his neck as far as possible out the back of my Vitara and somehow not falling out, so checking the rear view mirror I was puzzled to see him cowering in the corner of the car looking miserable.
I immediately pulled over and he leaped out like a bullet covered in vomit. Atti had become carsick and puked all over him. For hours. It was a sign of what life would be like with Atticus. A comedy of errors.
Waiting in the Perth domestic lounge for my flight back to Noosa I was was urgently paged.
Was I traveling with a dog? Yes? A Rotty? Yes.
Well he’s escaped from his crate and headed for the runway.
He’s still a puppy. He’s probably scared. Just call his name.
It’s too windy. You can’t hear a thing out there. And there’s a storm coming. If he’s seen on the runway obstructing a plane taking off we’ll have to shoot him.
Is this a joke?
Dad told me I’d lose my flight if I didn’t board. I did so in tears. Then a wonderfully kind buggy man drove Dad the length and breadth of Perth airport throughout the night, covering kms of savannah grass, in a thunderstorm, both of them drenched and cold, Dad shining a torch into the pitch blackness calling Atticus’s name into the wind.
After 7 hours Dad lost his voice but found Atti happy in a self made hole oblivious to the aviation havoc he had caused.
A week later Virgin flew him up to Noosa FOC. I assume to make sure he left the state.
In Brisbane it was possums. He was obsessed. As they ran from from power lines across my tin roof to the safely of the trees Atti would chase them up the side of the house. And back. Barking. At 2am.
Once a week I came home to what looked like a dead cat on my balcony. With small baby human hands. I’d spend the next hour with my eyes closed trying to push it somewhere with a broom only to have Atti think I was playing a game so he’d retrieve it then toss it around like a toy.
Sweet Jesus. My apologies to conservationists but I still shudder at the thought of possums.
Adelaide for Atticus was all about the media. He came along to outside broadcasts for Nova919, he featured in TV & print ads for numerous companies and unbeknownst to me started a campaign to change the general public’s perception of Rottweilers.
For a dog born with a clown-ish personality and goofy looking smile it wasn’t difficult. Atticus loved kids, he loved people he loved other dogs and they loved him right back.
He was just that kind of dog.
By the time I moved back home to Perth and had Bella, Atticus was almost 9 years old. I never thought for one moment that he would live long enough to see Bella walk or talk and I assumed her memories of him world come from photos or stories. I never considered their relationship would become a significant one.
How very wrong I was.
Atticus has been my loyal, loving best buddy for 14 years but Bella has only ever known a world with her dog “Add” in it. From when she was 3 days old he lay by her bassinet as she slept. He stirred at her every movement, looking at me expectantly when I was too tired to move as if to say, “Well c’mon…aren’t you going to get up??’”
He understood the different sounds she made as she slept and when she started to crawl and then walk, he watched over her every movement.
In return, as a baby, Bella would steal his toys, pull his ears, try to ride him like a horse and pretend to give him food then eat it herself.
As Bella got older and more active she looked to Atti to play with her like she saw her friends do with their dogs. But Atti was 12. Pretty old for a Rotty. I felt sad explaining to her that Atti COULD do all those things and more once – but that was a few years ago and Atti is getting old.
Last night when we both held Atticus, loved him, kissed him and she said goodbye to him for the last time, he was 14 years old. Bella was 5 years old.
This morning it was time for me to say goodbye to Atticus. It was the most painful experience of my life so far. I held his big boofy head softly in my arms as he went to sleep. As his eyes began to close I whispered in his ear that I loved him and I’ll miss him and I told him he was he was the best dog ever.
I feel as though my heart has broken. The house feels empty. I can still hear his claws go click, click on my floorboards. But it’s not Atti. Because Atti is gone.
I close my eyes and I can see him as a puppy, young and fun and alive and I want to be back there – back with Atti in that time and place where there’s no death and no sadness. I want to have my dog whole and healthy again.
But most of all I want him to be with us. I want to hold him just one more time.
I want to rest my face next to his and look into his kind brown eyes and tell him that I love him.
I love you so much Atti. And I’ll miss you every single day.
I know how much you loved our family.
And we loved you right back.
So goodbye my beautiful Atticus, everyone loved you.
You were just that kind of dog.
Lisa Fernandez has a long history in radio in Brisbane and Perth with SCA, and in Adelaide with Nova.
Lisa is now a TV presenter in Perth with Channel 9, you can see her website here.