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Part of the Pack by Bastian Fox Phelan

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  • Julietta was cautious in welcoming the new housemate when I first moved in. When I arrived there were storm clouds brewing in the sky. The dogs barked in unison: part warning, part welcome.

    I didn't warm to her at first. She was reserved, protective of the house. Lucerito was instantly likeable with her happy smile and carefree nature.

    A month after I moved in Julietta had accepted me as a permanent member of the house. She started waiting outside my door every morning. If she were human, this would have been creepy. Dogs have a very different way of making you feel wanted.

    I was in the habit of rising after 9am – my last house had been a student house. But on the mornings that I heard Julietta's nails on the floorboards outside my room I would get up early, just to see her wagging tail and allow her to lead me, groggy from sleep, to the kitchen. She was proud to have done her duty. Every morning she waited – it was her ritual.

    When I wasn't home she would sniff under my door to see if I was there. Whatever she sensed of me was not present, and she continued down the hallway.

    One night I came home late, very drunk, and collapsed in tears on my bed. I was howling softly, because sometimes that makes me feel better. The next day, my housemate told me that Julietta had sat outside my door in the middle of the cold night and stayed there for an hour.

    I have never known loyalty and friendship like Julietta showed me. As her health declined she stopped visiting my doorway every morning. I missed her. I was so accustomed to her ritual that I slept in and was late to work one morning.

    Last week I woke up and heard her movements outside – I jumped out of bed (although I wanted an extra hour of sleep) because I knew it would be the last time I'd get her special wake up call.

    Julietta made me feel like I was part of the pack. That's a gift only a dog can give.
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