Do you remember the day we first met?
I was younger then, fresh faced and bright eyed, with far more hair on my head and fewer lines around the eyes. I’d just started out in college and History was still the lesson of choice, partly because I hadn’t completely given up on the idea that archaeologists were more like Indiana Jones than the bloke off Time Team, but mostly because I wanted to learn about the events that shaped the world. Little did I know I would be living such a moment myself, the day I returned home and found you waiting in the living room.
You were younger too, of course, far younger, with big dark eyes, floppy ears, and a head too big for your body. I found myself watching on in admiration as you waddled around the room, forcing Sam, seven years your senior, to tuck tail and run. There you were, barely out of your nappies and already ruling the roost.
You were going to be the boss, it seemed. And you were built for it. With those big paws, big shoulders, big head, and big ears, you were destined for… well, big things. Or at least you should have been, if you weren’t such a softy.
But when little old Sam failed to grow an inch, you stopped growing too. Sympathy Stuntage they called it (“they” being “my imagination”). They tried to shame you with the term, as though it might snap you out of it, but you wore those big floppy ears like a badge of honour.
You earned my respect with that, and we soon became fast friends, you and I. While Sam was off being pampered like a cat by Hannah, you’d come skittering across the wooden floor in my room, jump onto the futon that was my bed, dig a way under the duvet, and collapse into a heap, where you’d stay for as long as I stayed in the room playing games or watching TV. I lost count of how many times my friends nearly sat on you.
Even when I turned the bed into a surprise wrestling ring, hitting you out of nowhere with a Stone Cold Stunner, a DDT, or, my personal favourite, a Rock Bottom, it never put you off. You didn’t like getting pinned, of course, but then you always had the heart of a champion. I was just too good for you in those days, and there’s no shame in that.
I can’t quite remember now where your name came from, but I don’t think we could have chosen any better. No food was safe with the Harvester around. Not even Sam’s. While you scoffed yours down as fast as you could, he liked to leave his sitting in the bowl for a few hours, probably just to wind you up. Eventually you’d try to eat it, as was your nature, but the sound of your collar clinking against the metal bowl would give you away and you’d get a scolding for your efforts. You soon smartened up to that though, and it wasn’t long before we stumbled upon you craning your neck in such a way that your collar didn’t touch the bowl, allowing you to stuff your face undisturbed!
Eventually I moved out, leaving you to fend for yourself. It wasn’t anything personal – I also left behind home cooking, Sky TV in the bedroom, and free washing and ironing. I missed you most of all though. Thankfully, you never held it against me. Whenever I visited you’d still be my best mate… unless someone had food, in which case I wouldn’t exist.
We were both older by now, much older. I had a beard and a receding hair line, but you had hardly changed at all, not even by growing an inch. You had started to lose your marbles though…
Taking Harvesting to a whole new level, you developed a taste for carpet. It drove the parents mental when they returned home from work to find the flooring in the hall and on the stairs completely chewed up. We knew you didn’t mean it, of course. It was just a sign that time was getting on and you were finding it harder to be left alone.
I took you in for awhile after that, hoping our old rapport would relieve your stress. Sadly, you found that pillows and slippers were just as tasty as carpet, and it soon became clear that you missed the family too much, or Sam’s food at least, and needed to be taken back home.
You improved a fair bit after that, even chancing yourself on a little adventure. I remember fearing the worst when I heard you’d gone missing. After all, you were a bit of a divvy really, even with your food/collar trick, so I couldn’t see you surviving in the big bad world for long.
How wrong I was! Sure enough, the next day we found out you’d turned yourself in at a vet’s halfway across the city, still high from a chippy sausage, with your breath stinking of tinned mince. For one last time, you’d gone out and lived like an Alpha, the only way you knew how.
Last week we said goodbye for the last time. I didn’t know it then, but I suspected. Not that it made it any easier. If the science is right, you were 105 years old, and that’s a long time to share a life together. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Your pack will miss you. Always.