and I feel surprisingly sad about this fact.
Fraser was a dog. Yes, I know - a dog. It didn't stop me being fond of him.
I met Fraser long before I met his owner. I met him the day he was strolling, alone, along the street. He was, as is a dog's duty, investigating every smell, every plant, every patch of dirt.
We looked at each other. I asked him what he was doing. He gave me the sort of look which says, "You stupid animal."
Nevertheless I managed to capture him by the collar and return him to his rightful place before someone reported him to the council and his owner was fined.
Despite that we became friends. He would give a welcoming bark if he saw me. His paws would go up the wire gate and cling there so that I could give him a scratch between his floppy ears. He would put his head to one side and "talk" to me.
He was an English Cocker Spaniel. He was a gentle dog. I never heard him growl. His stump of a tail (docked by the previous owner, not the present one) would go into over-drive when he was happy in only the way a dog can be happy.
He loved slow walks. A walk for Fraser meant investigating everything on the way. His owner would try and take him somewhere new on a regular basis. They would get in the car and find a new suburb, a new street, a new patch of sand or dirt or grass.
Perhaps that was one reason why it took me so long to meet his owner. Inevitably of course there came a day when Fraser and I were having our usual brief chat and his owner came out of the house. We introduced ourselves and I went from calling Fraser "dog" to calling him by his given name.
His owner and I discovered his aunt had worked for my maternal grandfather...and so it went on. His owner and I became "friendly" rather than "friends". With Fraser it was different. We were definitely friends. If he was lying by the front door, a favourite spot, and he saw me then he would come bounding to greet me as I passed. I had to stop or there would be a disappointed bark. How dare I go past without speaking to him?
The bounding grew to a walk, to an amble, to a bare stroll, to real effort. I knew he wasn't going to last much longer. I wondered about the winter.
And then, yesterday, on the first day I had not sneezed my head off all week, there was his owner in the garden...and no Fraser. I knew. His owner didn't have to tell me. We talked for a bit. He was having trouble controlling his voice. He keeps looking around for Fraser. I know I will look for him as I pass.
If I hadn't still been snuffling and sneezing occasionally I think I might have wanted to hug this man. Fraser was his family.