The unforgettable pet: Pepper the jack russell, who miraculously endured a brutal attack by a rottweiler.

Like Madonna, she adored being photographed, sharing a birthday with the Material Girl. However, behind her cuteness, she concealed a strong resilience.

On a Sunday morning in 2004, my then partner and I found ourselves driving to a terrace house in Southall, London. We were led by a dog breeder to his backyard, where two jack russell puppies trembled. They were the last of the litter. One, a smooth-haired white puppy with a brown head and big button eyes, cautiously approached us. Her sister, the runt, remained shyly withdrawn. We chose the former and named her Pepper after the dark spot on her back.

In my 20s and unaccustomed to responsibility, I panicked upon encountering this tiny furry bundle. I quickly purchased every book on canine behavior I could find. But my worries were needless. We soon discovered that Pepper was a gentle, intelligent, and opinionated soul who approached life’s ups and downs with contemplation. She would sit and gaze at me from the sunniest spot in the room. During walks, she would stay close. Her cuteness made it easy to meet new people, both in the park and at work. Much like Madonna, she absolutely adored a photoshoot.

Nevertheless, there were hair-raising moments. Once, Pepper got frightened by a boisterous beagle and sprinted home across four busy roads, followed by a crowd of people, including a police officer on a bike. On a narrowboat, she disliked being on the water so much that she attempted to leap from the deck to the towpath but missed. Landing in the murky water, she narrowly escaped the dangerous swirl of the lock.

A more serious incident was yet to come. On a cold March afternoon, two rottweilers appeared out of nowhere on the Kent coast. One attacked her neck, while the other seized her leg. They dragged her around like a rag doll. The resulting injuries were so severe that she lay dying on the vet’s table. Miraculously, the emergency operation was a success, and she lived for another decade. She was truly a survivor.

However, old age proved to be a difficult time for both Pepper and myself. She developed a benign tumor on her chest, experienced hearing loss, and became increasingly hesitant with declining confidence. With cloudy eyes, she grew more anxious when we were not nearby. But every day, I would assure her of my love.

In her last six months, she suffered regular seizures. By then, we had moved to a garden flat, where she spent her days dozing under a palm tree. Unfortunately, our fears of a brain tumor were confirmed. On a hot Saturday afternoon during the 2020 lockdown, after waiting in line outside the emergency vet hospital and relying solely on socially distanced phone consultations due to face-to-face appointments being banned, we realized it was time to let her go. It was two months before her 16th birthday and, in an intense twist, the day after my father’s funeral. But that’s a story for another time.

Of course, life moves on. There are moments when you realize that life no longer revolves around a four-legged companion, which once dominated a significant part of my adulthood. You can even indulge in devilish irresponsibility, if you desire. Death also brings about other changes. In my case, it marked the end of a long marriage and the beginning of a new chapter without a husband or a hound.

Three and a half years have passed, and things are good, but I still miss the smell of her paws and that unspoken yet constant communication. I like to think that she is watching over me, as the Queen of Pop once sang, “you may be my lucky star.”

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