How it felt when our dog died
February 2021 and it all still feels like a messy blur.
On 29th of December I was scheduled to be interviewed on BBC Radio Solent. The day before, I was excited and had spent time preparing what I might say. I had only be on the radio once before as a backing singer, so there wasn’t much for me to say. This time though, it was all about my favorite subject; dogs.
Dogs have been the main reason behind most of my bigger life decisions. When I first adopted my rescue West Highland Terrier almost exactly 12 years ago, I was 18 and bristling with anticipation to finally meet the rescue dog we might take home. I remember that day so well. My mother an I had been called by the rescue center and told they had a smallish Westie boy that might be right for us. They asked us to come in and meet him.
Stood in the car park of their grounds, icy air, mouths puffing on cold fingers, excited, nervous and unsure what to expect. And then, we saw him.
A bedraggled ball of filthy, beige insanity rounded the corner in a blazing fury simply aching to get out of the kennels and race nose-first into the hedgerow. We took him for a walk (or should I say a drag?) on a frayed lead that had definitely seen better days. Armed with a squeaky toy we had 10 minutes to decide if this was going to be our boy.
At that time I had begun to work several dogs for friends and family. My training career was in it’s infancy and I was building a reputation for being the slightly unusual girl who could get the best out of naughty Staffordshire Bull Terriers. I was keen for a rescue dog that needed total rehabilitation.
As luck should have it, on the day we met there was a spark of something. Underneath the hyperactivity, over-excitement and desperation in his eyes to just be set free for a bloody good walk, I could see potential. Of course, there is no way I could have predicted just how special he was going to be. He was magnificent. My God, hindsight is such a thing.
The morning of my Radio interview I awoke to find my dear old boy, now nearly 14 lying on the kitchen floor, unable to move. We wrapped him in blankets and rushed to the vets. He was immediately diagnosed with hypothermia, and a blood test was needed to see how he was doing internally.
The bloods revealed sky high blood glucose. Diabetes.
The vets were semi-confident with some food and insulin he would recover. Over the next 36 hours he rallied. He rallied like the golden boy he always was. We used to joke that he was a phoenix in dog form. Every illness he had experienced over the years he seemed to recover from like a fire bird rising from the ashes, bigger and better than the time before. He simply sparkled.
By the 3rd day (31st December 2020) we were all reasonably confident for his recovery – vets included. He went in for his last round of insulin before we’d learn to inject him on a daily basis at home. We left him with the vets and returned home to watch videos and read leaflets to become “experts” in dog diabetes.
By 10:30am he was dead.
Shocked and obliterated, we raced to see him. He was brought out the back wrapped in a thick, woolly blanket we had inherited from a grandparent. I held him and we wept for what felt like hours. He grew cold in my arms. Then came the regret – I hadn’t been there to comfort him at the end.
We decided he would be cremated and left in pieces knowing life would never be the same again. I never thought I would be one of those people to get an animal cremated. Now I know better. Thank goodness it’s an option these days. It has helped.
Of course we knew this day would come. We knew one day we would have to say goodbye. But the shock will hit you like a freight train regardless of how old they were or whether you expected it or not. That’s just the way it is. I hope everyone is as lucky as we were to enjoy 12 glorious, happy years.
12 years. That’s the entirely of my adult life to date. The end of an era.
One month on and it’s safe to say we are still in the thick of it.
They say grief comes in waves. For me it’s like being shot through the spine by random, flying, arrows, fired from the dark cloud that settled over our house on New Year’s Day. It’s still hard to go outside.
As I walk through the hallway, each room feels empty. I can hear little footsteps. Feel his gaze. What was that behind me? He’s gone.
Some days when I am alone, it’s feels as if I am the one who died. I can feel my dear little dog is the other side of the walls, waiting for me to come home. Am I a ghost? Haunting a building where the walls are screaming from the outpouring of love that has nowhere to go.
If you are experiencing loss all I can tell you is that better days are coming. There have been days where we laughed, or reminisced over the spectacular days he gave us. Others we cried.
Walking in the fresh air is helpful. Switching your phone off is better. Don’t watch the news, it can wait.
Counselling is probably the greatest gift you can give yourself. Bereavement specialists know their stuff and can help you work through it. If you’re not sure about this, see it as privately outsourcing your problems. A professional friend. Nothing to be ashamed of. And noone needs to know if you’re shy.
Take care of you. You matter. Did you know that?
One day soon I know we will move into a new chapter. Another dog might come into our lives and lift the cloud. At least I hope so. (No pressure, new dog).
Our dear little boy will always be remembered, loved and cherished. Magnificent. Irreplaceable. Exceptional.
We wander through the dark finding our way out of grief. Noone knows how long the journey will be.
If you are bereaved, I hope it is brief, and filled with the light and love your best friend brought each and everyday. You are not alone. Hold on.
In Loving Memory
Pablo AKA “Doggy”