The unforgettable pet: Grayson Perry recalls Teddy the dog, who was there for me during my weakest moments.

As a teenager, my family relationships were challenging. Teddy served as my nonjudgmental companion, always ready for a laugh, a wrestle, or a walk.

My mother had a penchant for collecting animals. We already had various pets like dogs, cats, ducks, a horse, a goat, and a budgie. One day, she came across someone wanting to give away a puppy and decided to bring him home. I instantly fell in love with the adorable, shaggy canine, whose breed remained a mystery but resembled a mix of a Labrador and an Old English Sheepdog. Hence, we named him Teddy.

Teddy’s fur matched the color of mine. At one point, my mother thought we resembled each other so much that she proposed entering us into a pets-who-look-most-like-their-owners competition during the village fete. However, being a teenager, I declined.

Teddy possessed a congenial and joyful nature. He moved in a slightly clumsy, loping manner, unlike an elegant greyhound. He never seemed intimidating and always appeared to be smiling.

I was around 16 years old when Teddy became part of our family. His arrival coincided with a period of loneliness for me. After living disastrously with my father for nine months, I moved back in with my mother and stepfather, creating a tense atmosphere. It was undoubtedly a difficult time.

Despite waking up at 5:30 in the morning to work for my stepfather, who ran a newsagent, and enduring a two-hour commute to school, I always made sure to walk Teddy when I got home. We formed a strong bond during our long walks in the countryside. I vividly remember a particular instance when we walked across a stubble field in autumn and were met with the sight of a moonbow. I often romanticized the idea of being a solitary figure under the Essex sky, an isolated teenager amidst the flat landscape. These sentiments undoubtedly influenced my early pottery artwork, always accompanied by Teddy.

Between the ages of 15 and 19, I underwent a period of introspection. I unknowingly placed a significant amount of emotional baggage on Teddy, considering him a slightly upgraded version of my teddy bear, Alan Measles. Teddy was my unwavering friend, free from judgment and complications. We shared laughs, wrestles, and walks. Leaving him behind when I went off to university was undoubtedly tough. Whenever I returned, Teddy would go into a frenzy, as if I were his best friend.

My mother and stepfather eventually moved to a dairy farm in Wales, taking Teddy with them. He lived out his old age there, as far as I know. Meanwhile, my relationship with my mother became strained. Looking at old photographs of Teddy still brings tears to my eyes. It’s difficult to discern how much of my emotional attachment is solely about him and how much is tied to the time when he served as my closest companion.

Although our time together spanned only three years, I believe it was during my most vulnerable period. Teddy provided a constant and stable relationship amid the height of my teenage dysfunction, leaving a lasting impact on me.

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