Death is at your doorstep
And it will steal your innocence
But it will not steal your substance
But you are not alone in this
You are not alone in this
…. we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
Hold your hand.
~ Timshell, Mumford and Sons
Last night our beautiful dog Rosie died.
I am shattered.
I can barely write these words. I’m not writing them in search of sympathy, because nothing could take away the enormity of this grief. I am writing them to honour her. She was – and will always be – the most loved whippet in the world.
A last day of living is never easy to think about. Prescribing it for our dear Rosie was even harder. Everything about it feels wrong. Is it ever a good day to die?
This story starts 4 years ago when a few small blood masses appeared on her belly. We were told haemangiosarcoma was a cancer that could take months or years to fully take affect. But there was no cure. So we got on with giving her the happiest life we could.
In the last year her tumours intensified in size and number. She bled constantly. Mopping up blood was what we did. Surgery could not save her, but it bought us a few more months. We watched and waited. We watched the tumours take over. We watched as one of her legs bulged with a tumour that made it twice the size of the other. We watched as internal tumours in her throat and chest protruded. We watched in despair.
But this is the thing about a whippet child… they are strong-hearted ones. Not only was she gentle and kind and sweet to the core, but she loved life. She ran hard! She loved hard. She was devoted to us. And our love for her ran stronger than her stride.
At no point did we see her give up. But we knew her body was dying.
Four days ago she became very unwell. She sought comfort in curling her body on beds and couches (favourite yet forbidden places). Our vet looked at me and this time I knew the end was near. We took a couple of days to let it sink in. The end. It had come.
It was never going to be easy. It’s never something that you eagerly agree to. But she’s still got a spark. But she seems so alive. It’s counter-intuitive to see your beloved pet alive – still walking and eating – and simultaneously plan for them to sleep. Her spirit was still there, but there was no doubt she was suffering. If we waited much longer her suffering would become misery.
And this is where love is hard. The only way to endure it is to reframe it. Because you love them, you must let them go. Because you love them, you must give them relief. Because you love them you choose dignity, not desperation.
So with this we stood as her guardian, entrusted to honour her with a noble end. But it is still the hardest decision we’ve ever made.
There is one more thing you should know about a whippet child. They are astute to the emotions of the world. Her eyes were deep pools of insight which you could fall into and never truly come away the same. Her soul taught mine to be honest. Which made this decision so very personal. Like she could see my heart. I asked for her forgiveness and understanding. And I trembled ahead.
We woke up yesterday and set upon the hardest journey one can make. The vet would come to our home in the evening. We wanted to fill her last day with love. We wanted to make her soul sing. We wanted her to be brimming with happiness.
We took her to her beloved wetlands – her favourite running ground. We thought she might not be up to it, but she surprised us. It was wonderful and heartbreaking in equal measure. One last walk in the sun.
The sun was shining bright. My goodness did it shine.
And she ran!
For that precious time in the wetlands we could be fooled that nothing was wrong. The painkillers the vet gave her in the last days had given her a boost, but only temporarily masked what was going on. Remember, she is the strong-hearted one. I secretly believe she knew this was her glorious end and she enjoyed it thoroughly.
We came home and the reality set back in. A place was chosen in the garden and the digging began. Oh how Mr G loved her. My heart is still in a million pieces as I picture him shovelling dirt while she chewed her bone next to him. That’s a tough gig. A tough dig.
We spent the afternoon in quiet with her as she slept all wrapped up in our most soft and treasured blankets. Comfort, my dear.
The house hummed with gentle sounds. Just Mr G and me, tidying up our clutter and our hearts at the same time. Every so often when Rosie would open her eyes or get up to stretch her legs we’d talk. How are you dear girl?… Hey Rosie Posy… We Love You.
We played soft serene music. Music that lead us to the place where hearts break. I took photos. So many photos. I wanted to remember every physical thing about her. Her elegant body. The delicate twist of her paw. The ridge of smooth fur on her neck. The way her neck arched gracefully. The exact shade of fawn on her back. Her beautiful face.
We held her. Cuddles of length, and strength and depth. We could not hold her enough.
I brought the kids home from school and kindergarten – they would say their last good-bye before I took them to a friend’s house. I came back to dim and quiet. The music was playing softly again. We had half an hour. It was just Mr G and me and Rosie. Like it was at the beginning. From when she was a pup. Before the human children were born. We were the two that loved her the most. Together we held her on the couch, stroked her body, and gently whispered our way though our memories. Ten years of them. Highlights of her profoundly generous life.
We thanked her.
We held her. We kissed her. We loved her.
She was not alone.
* The video is nothing like what I want to convey, but this song, this song is special for us. I do believe it was the last song she heard.