I'm writing this blog to help myself and potentially others to come to terms with the grief of losing your dog.
Sadly on 24th August we had to say goodbye to our wonderful girl Happy. Although she had been unwell for a couple of months, with numerous vet visits, tests and referrals we thought we had found the cause as being Spondylitis in her spine with arthritis in her hips, unfortunately we now feel this was just a red herring for what was really going on inside her and something that wasn't found in any of the tests she had. She was quite depressed, lethargic and obviously in pain, she hadn't been herself for many weeks. She just wanted to be left alone, not playing with her sister and not really wanting much attention, her appetite was okish but she had had a number of upset tummies, so was just on a light diet of white fish & rice/potato, her painkillers had also been stopped in the week leading up to her passing as we thought these were the cause.
On the morning of the 24th we noticed her tummy looked distended and seemed quite hard, because of the reactions to the pain killers she had been given for her orthopaedic issues, we thought this was related. We took a trip to the vets to get checked over, leaving her there to have a full check up. Heartbreakingly during the course of the morning they did an ultrasound and finally opened her up to find a huge mass in her abdomen wrapped around her spleen and invading her stomach. She also had a secondary tumour that was about the size of a ping pong ball growing on her stomach too. During an incredibly painful phone call we were told the news and rushed to be with her, we were told it was inoperable and the kindest thing to do was to let her go. She was already anaesthetised so rather than wake her up just for us to say goodbye, we let her go, hugging and stroking her right to the very end.
To say we are devastated is an understatement, we feel completely broken by her loss. One of the only things that has vaguely helped, has been putting my feelings into words and 'talking' to Happy. I've made numerous posts of Facebook and written a short piece trying to explain the feelings. It is these I share with you now.
Losing a dog
(My observations & ramblings on grief)
To the person that has lost...
Nothing can prepare you. Even if you think you're prepared and have lost a dog before, this newest one will feel just as raw, just as heartbreaking and just as painful, if not more so.
There is no right and no wrong in how you go through this, grief is a very personal almost selfish thing, that only you will know what to do with.
You may rant & rave, you may become introverted, you may want to tell the world so they can feel sad too, you may not sleep, eat or drink too much. You may cry constantly or only alone in the shower. You may look at photos & videos constantly or not want to look at all. You may feel like your chest has a crushing, heavy weight on it & that you can't breathe or that you're just walking through a heavy gloop, barely existing as you feel, at that moment, absolutely nothing else matters..... Because it doesn't, all that matters is the grief, so let it wrap you up in its big warm blanket and let it show you the way. Don't pretend, don't think you should be doing something you're not.
You're not daft, you know it won't last forever, you know time heals and it will get easier & less painful. But in those very dark, gut wrenching moments of knowing you will never see them again, bury your face in their fur or look into their deep thoughtful eyes, those days seem so far away.
Advice for the friends of the grieving...
Words aren't necessarily important, don't think you have to come up with a great long spiel, a simple 'I'm so sorry' is enough. A hug, your kindness, keeping them in your thoughts, are all that's needed.
Let them own their grief. Now is not the time to tell them about your lost dog/cat/rabbit/grandma. They simply don't care, it's not being rude, they just don't have the energy to think about anything else other than trying to take a breath and exist.
Don't tell them you know exactly how they feel (I've said that in past, I never will again). That you're feeling the same way or that you are as upset as they are because none of that will help... As irrational as it may be, they will be thinking that NO, you don't feel the same as I do, YOU couldn't possibly have loved your dog the same way I did, there's no way you could possibly be AS upset, as you didn't spend almost your whole waking moment with them... At that time, they feel you just have no idea.
Don't ask 'How they are?', unless you genuinely care and are prepared for the potentially negative answer, with added tears and a stream of emotion. You may be lucky with just an 'I'm ok'.. But if you're not prepared to unleash the floodgates with those 3 simple words, just stick with 'I'm sorry'. They won't hold it against you.
I once read an analogy to grief that goes something like this.. It's like a huge stormy sea, with massive waves battering your chest, filling your body, making you feel like you're drowning and these waves are relentless. Then almost imperceptibly over time they lessen in their ferocity, they're still there but you can now start to catch your breath, the heaviness in your chest is easing. Slowly these waves come at greater intervals, you feel the calm in between them but the wave itself still washes over you, til gradually and oh so slowly they start to settle.. Settle until they're just ripples, ripples of memories, the tears will still be there but they will have added smiles & laughter. The sun comes out, you can breathe again.
Dedicated to Happy Hamster 11/03/07 - 24/08/16.... just the most amazing girl, with the kindest heart and the gentlest soul. We miss you so very much Hammy Bear, now & forevermore xxx
A Happy life.
You were a good dog Mrs Bear, not a bad bone in your body, never a snarl, growl or bark in anger (unless you count the naughty over familiar sniffy boy dogs!). You loved everyone and everyone loved you. Never pushy, never in your face, just a quiet demeanour and gentle nature. So much so that you even let small children you'd never met before sit and stroke your ears and tail and feet, never once pulling away, just lying there and accepting.
It was this nature that made you a great therapy dog (well that and your love for biscuits!) the stories I could tell from our visits to see the wounded soldiers.. Wheelchair chariot races with you pulling them along, with half a dozen guys laughing & cheering you on.. The way you curled up on the bed with one lad who was having a fit, I didn't tell you to do it, you just did. As he came round he could feel your soft fur and just started stroking you, then he smiled. The nurses said that was the first time they'd ever seen it as he usually came round from his fits crying. Hearing their laughter and seeing smiles on their faces that I'd never seen in previous visits was just amazing, in those brief moments of having a Happy cuddle or watching you play the fool they forgot whatever demons were tormenting them. You made a difference Bamba, not just to us but others too.
We packed a lot into your 9yrs didn't we, the therapy visits that led to us being invited up to The House of Lords for the day. Your first time on a train, your first visit to London, busy packed streets that you weren't at all fazed by. That was you Hammy, taking everything in your side, bomb proof I called you as you were just so accepting of everything we did together.
Agility, how you loved it, you weren't quick but you were a show off, stopping & standing on top of the A Frame or the dog walk just looking at everyone, I swear you were laughing! Our first (and only!) competition was great fun and you were smiling there too, the pictures we've got of it prove that.
Crufts.. Twice! Show dog you weren't... you did it but it wasn't your most favourite thing, still 2 X 2nd place rosettes are nothing to be sniffed at. You preferred the pace of the country shows, 'prettiest bitch' or 'best brace' competitions, you and your sister had a monopoly on those for a while, best achievement was Best in Show, your daddy was very proud of us that day!
Beating days were your most favourite kind of day EVER.. We hit the jackpot with this last shoot didn't we lovely girl, you were allowed to go where you wanted and do what you wanted, running around with complete abandon not even stopping between drives, unless it was for a quick sausage roll to keep your energy up. You did your job well and I think you alone got most of the birds up, aside from the ones you pegged and decided to have a chew on.. But hey, I never said you were perfect! You still did some great retrieves despite the naughtiness, runners were your favourite and you always took them back to your dad, even better was when someone else was watching!
Despite being an only dog for almost 3yrs, you didn't bat an eyelid when Brogie arrived, you took to your sister like she'd always been there, you gave her confidence and she watched you & followed you everywhere, you were the bestest big sister she could've ever wished for. The play fights you had were hilarious, you were the one being bitten and having your neck hung off, never once did you bite your sister back, but she knew when she'd pushed you over the limit and your patience waned. Her look of 'it's scary but fun' was priceless!
I should've know what kind of dog you would be from when I first met you at 3 wks old and you snuggled into my shoulder & went to sleep with your little tongue sticking out, to your first night at home, 7 wks old. I didn't sleep a wink, waiting for those howls & cries but they didn't happen, you slept right through until I came down at 6am to find you still asleep, you looked at me bleary eyed, yawned stretched and wagged your tail!. You were the ultimate in lazy, we didn't call you Mrs Slothcombe for nothing, you had your moments of speed, but generally you went by 'happy time' which was like life, but in slow motion. Life for you initially probably wasn't the best, I loved you but I had to start working, it wasn't the plan but it's how life turned out. You were so good and just accepted it, new house, new routine... Then best of all came a new daddy, your life changed and became so much better when at 10mths old Daddy came into our lives. He let you get away with murder, gave you all sorts of naughty things to eat & took you out for day trips while I was working. You were forever his best friend and truly a daddies girl.
You were a good dog Mrs Bear.. Frustratingly annoying at times and cheeky, but intrinsically such a good dog xxxxx
You brought me this, this morning Hammy. You know we're having a tough time. We're going to the beach today.. We don't want to go without you but we know you'd want us to take your crazy swimming mad sister. It's been so hard getting ready to go, we might only be there an hour or we might be there for the day, either way your presence will be missed so much. The pain is getting worse for us but I'm glad yours has gone. We love you Mrs Bear xxxxxx
One more chance to stroke those impossibly soft ears.
One more kiss of that big nose.
One more time to bury my face in that thick neck fur.
One more time to stroke that hairy belly.
One more time to hear you padding slowly up the stairs, to hear you snore, to hear you 'yip, yipping' in your sleep, to hear that heavy thud of your tail as you have waggy dreams.
One more time to see you snuggle Flatdog.
One more time to see you bat your sister for more attention.
One more time to feel your heavy head in my lap.
One more time to tell you I love you.
I woke up at 3.30am thinking I heard you crying.. I came running downstairs but you weren't here. You're not anywhere. I can't move your bed as its still got your imprint in it. I hoovered yesterday and that felt wrong as you weren't lying there getting in my way. I'd often have to move you at least twice and when I did you would huff and glare at me, like you had the God given right to lie where you wanted without being disturbed. If we could only have you back, I would never move you again. I hope you know how much we loved you Hammy, I hope we told you enough and showed you Xxxx
Feels like I'm wallowing today Hammy Bear. Wallowing through a thick heavy gloop that's making my legs heavy, pressing down on my chest and hurting my head. Everything seems pointless, I can't even find the energy to talk.
This time last week was your last night with us.. In less than 24hrs you'd be gone. I'd always promised you that when we knew it was time for you to leave us, I would treat you all your most favourite things.. Boursin, cream, bacon sandwiches, sausages, ice cream, a big fat roast dinner. But all you got was stupid white fish & potato for days.. I'm so sorry that I broke that promise baby girl and truly hope you're eating whatever the hell you want over the bridge. We miss you so much xxx
Is it going to be this bloody hard every Wednesday at 10.10 from now on Hammy Bear? Am I going to be in floods of tears remembering it was the last time I saw you alive?? I'm so so sorry Baby girl, if I had known I'd have done more than just stroke your head and tell you to be good, I'd have wrapped you in my arms and never let go. It's so bloody difficult without you, it hurts so much. We want you back. xxx
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