This week we as the O' Brien family had some bad news. Our beloved family pet dog Brian passed away of what I can only think was heart failure. But more on that later. As someone who likes to take pictures of our city having a companion on trips, usually on a Tuesday or a Wednesday was bit of a god send. In fact it worked both ways. My work roster allowed me to be off those days and Brian knew this. Might sound mad, but he did. Mondays were taken up with dropping Darragh and Joe off to school in Killester then me and Brian heading over to my Ma's in Donnycarney. Brian loved going to Donnycarney because his girlfirend Lilly was there. He would leap out of the car when he knew the destination and would play with his girlfriend in the huge back garden until Helen my wife, would summon him in to go home. He would come in, eventually. Tuesday and Wednesday morning would be the same. I would get up, he would be at the front door, knowing it was Tuesday or Wednesday and looking at me asking 'Where are we going today?'. His favourite spot was in between Helen, Darragh and Joe and myself , in the car, going somewhere. When Thursday came around he would be looking to head out the back for the last wee before being let back in until Helen came home with the boys after school. He would jump on the couch, we would all kiss him goodbye..(I swear he was saying feck off) and when they came back at 2.45 he was in the window, half dozing until Helen and the kids came home and the wag of the tail was all he needed to be happy. That wag of the tail would be seen too when I got home late from work on either Friday/Saturday/Sunday nights and he would be in the window and when the car lights were seen the tail would go. I walked in the door, I would usually have a beer to wind down, we would chat; he would talk to me, sitting as he did on my lap, as we discussed events of the day. Unless you have a dog, this is all nonsense. Unless you have had a dog that has been so engrained in the fabric of your life and has since passed away this is also nonsense. Let me try and explain the nonsense. I can't remeber the exact date we got Brian. Must have been Spring 2006. That's 12 years ago. I remember Helen and myself in Ashton Pound looking in cages and seeing this black dog in a dark corner of his cage. I knew in that very second he was the one. I don't know why. I Just knew. Helen was more dubious, I assume wanting more of a smaller dog. This dog was the one. We signed the papers, I can't even remember the formalilities, I just remember coming back a couple of days later and taking the dog home. As we sat there in our new house, this dog was the proudest thing I had ever owned. The pound had no records for his history so we just went along with it. In the car on the way home, he was sitting at Helen's feet, his head not lifting and looking seriously depressed. We took him home, gave him a bowl of water, gave him some fresh meat as a way of saying hello and welcome to our family. I assume he ate it. We played hurling down on the green, I would hit the ball and he would run and run and run and catch the tennis ball. But never ever giving the fucking thing back. As long as I have known him once he caught a ball he wasn't giving it back without a struggle.
October 2007 and my first born, Darragh came in to the world. For the previous few months Brian would sit with Helen, across her lap as if he knew she was pregnant. Dogs have this inate feeling to protect their master and family. He would bark if someone came to the door, something only now years later I realised what he was doing. By this stage Helen and myself thought that Brian needed company. A bad idea on our part and Gary left us after a few months of madness. Brian settled back in to his routine and we continued to play ball down at the field. In 2011 and Helen's dad was not well, and Helen was heavily pregnant on our 2nd born, Joe. Brian would stick to Helen on our nights in like glue, laid across her lap as if protecting her and he knew how sad she was about her dad. Dogs sense feelings. When Joe was born in April 2011 Brian would be even more protective over Joe, barking at postmen, delivery men etc....
Darragh and Joe would get bigger with each an every month and our walks would extend to The South Wall, The Phoenix Park, St Annes Park and Brian loved the Dublin Mountains.
Sunday 22nd April I got a call in work from Helen. Helen never rings in work. 'Brian is not well'. I was throwing things out like 'it;s the heat, 'it's something he ate'. Helen sent me a video and I said I would be home in 15 minutes. I got home, he was there, under the trampoline, looking at me. I crawled under, we had a chat. A good chat, I told him he was the bestest dog I could have asked for. He came round a bit and I brought him in to the couch and said I will be back for 6ish. I came back at 6.30 and found him in the porch with Helen, Darragh and Joe by his side; he had just slipped away. We were distraught. When a pet, and calling him a pet seems to undermine his role in the family unit. A pet just doesn't quite cut the title. This pet came everywhere with us. The pictures show how loved he was. From all the O' Brien Clan thank you Brian, thank you for your loyalty, love and friendship for the last 12 years.
'It’s great. Very, very moving. You’ve captured the bond between man - and family - and dog really well. Thanks for letting me read it'.
All the best