by Phoebe Blunt

I need to sing this song. It’s a song for Wilson, my faithful old Alsatian. He asks for so little. Soft praise, a gentle stroke and he’s contented. He’s always been there, his wolfish appearance strong and protective. He hasn’t once lost interest and wandered away from his self-imposed duty: my guardian.

I don’t remember a time when he wasn’t there. Mum says that when I was a baby Wilson and I formed a special bond. The unique partnership which was forged between human and dog, based on mutual love and respect. Quite simply, we needed each other.

At night he would lie next to my cot, ears pricked and alert, listening to my steady deep-sleep breathing. Remembering my sweet, warm baby scent so that he would always be able to find me. Slowly he would relax into his comfortable half-sleep that could jolt into pinpoint clarity if needed. Of course, I don’t remember this time, but somehow I always knew he was there. He became familiar to me. I began to recognise him. We became members of the same pack.    

When I started to toddle around the house, exploring the greater world, Wilson would be at my side. Sniffing the ground, snooping around corners, searching out any possible dangers. He never restricted my adventures, but with his steely determination he ensured I remained safe.

People would comment on his size and breed. I’d hear them criticise his intentions:

“You can’t trust them.”

“They’re all the same.”

“I’ve read about a vicious attack in the newspaper.”

They didn’t know him.

Time moved on, and my pre-school escapades, walking through the nearby woods with Mum and Wilson, widened my world. The walks were full of life, laughter and love. Wilson would walk steadily by my side, matching my stride, as we both fell into a comfortable rhythm. The familiar thud of his heavy pads striking the ground, echoed by my tiny footfall as our walk synchronised, became a daily routine. His eager face would light up when he saw me pick up a stick to throw for him. Locked onto the swaying stick, he would anticipate my throw and bound through the undergrowth to retrieve the prize. He would swiftly return to my side to check on my safety and to deliver the treasure, which would be dropped at my feet. We loved this game. He never failed to complete the task I set for him – fetch-and-drop.  He revelled in the praise that I showered upon him, the hugs and the pats and the sing-song “good boy” comments. I was proud of him.

“Sit, Wilson.”

“Drop, Wilson.”

“Quiet, Wilson.”

“Bark, Wilson.”

My voice would bark out the commands, and Wilson would oblige. I giggled at the big dog, soft as putty in my young hands. We were made for each other.

All too soon school days arrived and Wilson-walks became less frequent. Life offered different adventures and choices; my world grew larger. Wilson would follow me around as I prepared to leave for school, as if he was trying to persuade me stay – just for a while. He would lie on the kitchen floor, next to my feet, as I crunched through my toast and butter. A massive head resting on crossed paws, alert eyes drawn to my every move, my dog would watch sorrowfully, knowing that I was about to leave him. Perhaps he suspected that I was moving onto a new pack. Sensing his sorrow, I whispered into his ear that I would be home soon and we could play fetch-and-drop.

And now life has moved even further on. I have one foot in childhood and one hovering around adolescence. Wilson is still with me, my old dog. He doesn’t walk much now, but struggles through aching joints and unbalanced legs to follow me, and protect me. He is my unsung hero. He hasn’t dashed through fires to retrieve a suffocating body. Nor has he swum an ocean to drag a drowning man to the safety of the land. But I can sing this song for Wilson, my unsung hero, because he has always been in my life. As long as he breathes, I know that he would sacrifice his life for mine.

And we love each other. What more could I ask for?