This post is for my older readers… those who’ve been with me for a long time and know some of my personal background.
You’ll know that I have – or had – two little dogs, Honey and Coco. Coco died on Boxing Day, completely unexpectedly.
My family were at my sister’s home in Leeds – Coco had been helping herself to food from Poppy’s bowl (my sister’s dog) so we thought her signs of discomfort were over-indulgence – just like the rest of us.
She slept a lot, but otherwise was normal and chirpy. Until Boxing Day night and she’d been sleeping upstairs with my daughter who brought her downstairs and put her on the floor. She could barely walk.
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Within a few minutes we were on our way to the emergency vet. As soon as she saw Coco, she said, “this is a very poorly dog”. And, we didn’t believe her. Me and my sister really thought she was over-reacting. Julie (the vet) took Coco through to put her on a drip and do a couple of tests because she couldn’t tell what was wrong.
When the tests came back it was the worst possible scenario. A tumour that she must have had for some time and we had no clue about had burst in her stomach, filling it with blood and causing liver failure. She had, in Julie’s estimation, just a few hours to live. An operation was possible but her chances of surviving it were so slim it was not an option.. in fact, we were advised against it.
My sister called Mr BBB and my children to come. It was snowing very heavily and the roads were awful. While we waited, I held her in my arms like a baby. I told her thank you, so many times, for being my joy. For bringing us such happiness and for being part of our family. I didn’t need to tell her that I loved her – Coco was the most loved of dogs – but I did want to say thank you for all the things she gave us and I just said it over and over.
She was on a drip that had a sedative in it as well as fluids, so she was sleepy, but opened up her eyes every now and again. She knew we were there.
When my children arrived, I’d asked them to bring Honey. They were inseparable – two peas in a pod with only a year in age between then. So, Honey doesn’t know a time without Coco. They kissed her and held her. In so many ways, she’d had the perfect last days – we were all around, she slept in our bed (as much a treat for me as for her).
When it was time, my daughter and I laid her on her blanket on the floor so that Honey could smell her and see what was happening. We knelt beside her and she just flickered away. I wish now I’d held her. I also think now that Honey knew before we did. She is accepting that Coco isn’t here but doesn’t quite know what to do with herself, like all of us. I’m so grateful for that animal sixth sense and that she isn’t wandering the house looking for her.
Coco was the baby of the family; so cuddled and loved and so silly and happy. She never had an unhappy day in her whole life. I know she had the best possible life a dog could have and she loved every second of it.
But, now I know what grief is – and I haven’t known it truly before. It’s an unbearable mix of fear and dread that just sits in my stomach and won’t move. Even when I think I’ve stopped crying, there are tears on my face. When I think I can eat, I can’t. I know what it is now to be inconsolable. That little scrap that barely left my side is so big in her absence. She’s here but not here. There are shadows of her everywhere and I don’t know how to bear the loss of her. That my little dog is not here.
Honey is sleeping in my bed, but she is wary of my sadness. She comes over and jams herself against me because she knows but leaves again when she’s had enough.
If you are a regular reader, you’ll know my love of animals and you’ll know that Honey and Coco are the lights of our lives. Coco was only 9; it was too soon and we had no time to ready ourselves. She died at about 11pm; I stayed awake most of the night because I wanted to think of her. I’m so grateful that we had her – and I always felt lucky to have got two such lovely dogs. We had to leave her in Leeds; it was not the end anyone could have wanted for her… I thought that she might eventually die a dotty old dog in her teens, at home.
In that dreadful last hour, I had so many decisions to make, once of which was to have her individually cremated so we will have her ashes back with us here in a few days. But, we have nothing of her here, at her home at the moment, except her collar and blanket which still carries her smell.
I don’t know if I should have, or could have, spotted the signs sooner, but I do know it would have made no difference to the outcome. But I know she knew how adored she was and she loved us boundlessly back – and she loved loving us; we were her family.
*NB: Since I posted this, I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness in comments, texts, emails and tweets. I’m so grateful for them and also honoured that some people have shared their experience of loss as well. I’m now where you’ve been so I know I am treading in footsteps and not walking alone. xx
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