Some days can just be the absolute worst. Your boss shouted at you, you had a row with your partner and your car broke down. Things can often pile up and by days end it can all boil to the surface and you want the earth to swallow you whole. But then you get home and your dog attacks you with love and licks. They don’t know how your day’s been, they’re just happy you’re home. Then for a few moments you forget the day and a smile creeps in.

Later on in the evening you might start to feel a little upset and tears run down your face. It won’t be long before a furry face is licking away your tears and throwing themselves at you. Because that’s the beauty of dogs. They’re capable of empathy which is a beautiful and powerful emotion. They love deeply and feel sadness and grief deeply too. People talk about dogs having a sixth sense, that they can sense your emotions and they definitely do react when you’re ill or upset. They hate it and they often get upset too. They might drive you insane one day, but be the only thing that keep you sane the next. They have annoying traits, cute traits, funny traits and just generally their own way of living. The vast complexities of dog personalities is just amazing. They all have their own little unique quirks which make them special and the little habits that slowly mould with ours.

My Sprocker is strange, adorable and rather cunning times. Here’s a few examples of what he’s like.

He has mad half hours when he’s had a wet walk or being given food he really likes. He’ll run all over the house barely stopping for breath.

He’s fiercely loyal. I haven’t lived at home for 4 years now but he still patiently waits outside my door to come sleep beside me most nights.

Certain times of the year an invisible barrier will appear in the kitchen apparently. One week he’ll enter the kitchen no problem. The next? He’ll slowly edge forward then back away as if there’s something in his way. He’ll do this for a good few minutes before he scrambles his legs and dashes into the kitchen crossing the invisible border.

He’s a bit cheeky when it comes to coming back in from the garden. He will sometimes refuse to come back in when the person who let him out calls him back. But the moment someone else calls him in, he’s in like a shot. It’s not dependent on the person either, he does it to everyone equally.

When I come home after a few months away he often ignores me when I enter the house. Almost as if he’s mad at me for leaving him. It’s not long before he’s batting his paw at me when I stop cuddling him for more than 3 seconds. It can start to get quite annoying but it’s still always nice to have that unconditional love. It’s the little things like this when their routines and habits become so deeply embedded into our daily lives that makes being a dog owner a joy.

Which is what brings me to the terrible phrase in question ‘But they’re just a dog’ A phrase that dog lovers detest. A phrase which belittles the beauty and wonder of dogs. I get it, some people aren’t owners or dog lovers but it’s such a redundant thing to say. People usually say this when someone expresses their love for their dog. As a way of saying you shouldn’t care this much for something which isn’t human. There’s also that painful sting when someone uses it after your best friend has died. Dog’s aren’t forever, we only get them for a short time but when they are here, they leave such an everlasting impression. When they go they leave a gaping hole. After all, they’re always there. You hear them at night, they welcome you home they make you go outside. They are a massive part of your life. Then they go and the house just feels lifeless, quiet and incomplete. No-one launches themselves at you when you come through the door. No sounds at night or rustling on your bed and an empty basket where they used to lay. It gets to dinner and walk time and you find yourself going through the motions before you realise. It’s just quiet and a little less mad. It is absolutely heart breaking to lose a pet and it’s a type of grief that is too often dismissed by people. For you, they may just be a ‘dog’ one of billions who cares but for the owner they have just lost a member of their family.

Then comes the decision of what to do next because this always feels horrible and wrong whichever way you try and slice it. Do I get another dog? Because when you do that you always have that niggling feeling of guilt. As if you’re replacing them. That this newer dog will serve as a distraction and you’ll slowly forget your previous dog. Or do you end your dog days? It’s a perfectly normal feeling to have and it’s important to take your time to grieve and process the death of a pet. As depressing as it is you have to adapt to the new state of the house, it doesn’t mean you forget them. I lost my cocker spaniel 10 years ago and whenever I see other cocker spaniels I’m always reminded of him. His floppy ears bounding up and down the stairs barking and patrolling the house, the way he stuck to my mum like a shadow and his love of football. The memories feel like they might fade but they’ll always be up there and the love you gave them will never disappear.

So when someone says you to ‘but they’re just a dog’ make your passions heard. Proudly exclaim that ‘just a dog’ is such a bland perspective to have on life. Tell them about some of the times your dog’s made you laugh, smile and cry. The stories of them being crazy or funny to keep them alive. They’re members of the family and the amount of joy and fun they bring to life makes the phrase ‘just a dog’ seem laughable.