When I was around 8–9, I got my first dog – a 2-year-old black and white Maltese x Shih Tzu mix from the shelter. She quickly became my best buddy.
Several months later (maybe a year), my very young siblings (around 3 and 5) thought it would be fun to ‘play’ with her and get her attention at the same time by taking away her food bowl while she was eating. I know, terrible idea. But because all of us (my parents included) hadn’t taken care of a dog before, we didn’t know it prompted aggression. After a few months of this, she snapped and bit both my siblings.
Mum decided she had to go to prevent anyone else from getting bitten. I was devastated. I knew she was never aggressive and in fact so loving, but being so young, I didn’t know how to make a strong argument. I watched as she was taken from me. I was so upset for months after.
Since she was given to a family friend, we visited once every year for a few years after. Then we stopped.
We went to visit again when I was 21, after about a decade of not visiting their home. I didn’t expect her to be alive, much less remember me. After all, she would be around 15 years old.
When I stepped in, I was so surprised to be greeted by her in the exact same way she used to greet me every day when I came home from school. The only differences were, she had aged considerably and looked frail, and her tail was wagging way more vigorously. She was still biased towards me, sticking to me throughout the whole visit. Her current owners were surprised she even had enough energy to jump up to the couch to sit with me. During the whole visit, she lay her head on my lap and every time she looked up at me, her eyes sparkled with excitement. It was a bittersweet reunion, because I knew it’d be the last time I saw her alive.
So, do dogs remember their owners? Absolutely. Even after more than a decade of separation. They’re amazing, and their attention to humans is why they’re our best friends – because we are their world.
She passed on in October 2016. In her final days, her family called my mum to tell her she was really weak and probably won’t last too long. Sadly, I wasn’t in town then, but the rest of my family went down to see her in the next few days. After spending some time with them (probably 10 mins I think), she passed on. My family members were the only ones present at the time of her passing. Both families have agreed that she seemed to be waiting for my family to visit before departing. I suddenly remembered this, thought it was pretty interesting that she somehow knew and waited or maybe it’s just super coincidental.
Author: Michelle Tang