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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole...

 

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Cassie and Skits
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When I was younger I always wanted a dog as did my brothers and sister, but as lots of parents do, my parents said it would be too much responsibility with both working full time and us at school.
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Sometimes when we went shopping with my parents I would pretend we owned a dog and would go down the pet isle and look at the toys and food and pretend I knew what my dog would like. It sounds crazy now but I was only young at the time and I guess if I couldn't have a real dog why not have an imaginary dog.
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In 2004 my neighbour got a lab puppy called Cassie. I loved her and everyday after school we would go next door and play with her. It was great, I used to spend hours after school just playing with her. When Cassie was about 6 months old, her owner was planning on moving but couldn't take her with him so my parents agreed we could have her.
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Cassie was a big part of our family, and as a kid I used to tell her all my secrets. I used to come home from school and be greeted by her, me and my sister used to teach her tricks, make her jump obstacles, dress her up and the best bit, she got to sleep in my bedroom.
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After I finished college I moved away to Reading and didn't get to see Cassie that often. It's crazy how you feel like something is missing. After two years of being away I decided to bring Cassie with me to Reading, there were several other dogs on the yard I worked at and I just knew Cassie would love being a yard dog, plenty of walks and just being outside all the time.
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I used to go for hacks and Cassie would come too and follow my horse around the woods. She used to sit in the stables while I mucked them out, she was like a shadow and wouldn't leave my side. Cassie was getting on a bit and her arthritis would sometimes play up but she would still insist on coming to work with me.
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After 3 years of being in Reading with me, Cassie and I moved back home. I had a new job in Surrey and Cassie was allowed to come with me, but it wasn't the same she didn't really settle coming to work. She used to just want to go home all the time so I made the decision that maybe the quieter life of just being at home is what she needed. My dad would take her for walks in the morning and lunchtime and then my parents or myself would walk her in the afternoon.
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Cassie was a family dog, my two older siblings had moved out but we all still loved her. She was our first dog and such a big part of our upbringing.
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In 2016 I wanted another dog so that I had something to take to work while Cassie relaxed at home. My parents didn't want another one which I understood as they are a lot of responsibility with attention and training etc. 
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However my sister and I got talking and she mentioned about one of her other half's dogs, an 8 year old called Skits. We agreed I would take her home for a bit and not get attached to see if I could get my parents to agree. Of course what happens? I got attached to her though and my parents really didn't want her. I begged them just to let us have her for a month and see how things ended up, deep down I knew one month would lead to two then three...
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Cassie was a bit out of place at first but I think they grew on each other. Because Cassie was old she just wanted to be left alone and Skits, well she just loved playing with toys so it ended up working well for both dogs. The month went on and Skits remained, I never said anymore and gradually she grew on the family.
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In 2017 as a family we had to make the hardest decision to let Cassie go. She suffered pancreatitis just after Christmas and then had another flare up a few months later when they then found out she had cancer. She looked poorly and it was like she wanted us to let her go and it was her time.
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People always say your dog will tell you when their time is up and it's so true. I never knew it would be as hard as it was and it was heartbreaking. Coming home and not having Cassie smile and greet you, not having the dog you grew up with or shared your secrets with.
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The house felt like it was missing a big personality. It was hard on all of us. Having Skits really helped, she made things that little bit easier by being a distraction from the pain of loosing Cassie. 
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To read more of Gemma's stories, check out her blog here.