Saturday 28 August 2010

A year without my wingman

A year ago today you breathed your last breath.

A year ago today, I sat on the couch and held you while David, our vet, slid a needle into your vein, releasing you from your frail, disease-ravaged body. I was assured that you felt no pain in those last few minutes and, indeed, through big, fat tears, I saw you gently close your eyes as if preparing for a wee nap.

You'd probably find it hard to imagine how much the poles and boundaries of my life have shifted in the past year: we sold the villa, renovated the townhouse and moved in, gave away Molly, moved to the other side of the world and collected numerous stamps in our passports. But no matter where the road has led me, everything I've done this year has been done with a dog shaped hole in my heart. For the last 365 days, I've had to navigate enormous pot-holes of grief, an alien journey for someone who has never lost anyone close to her. I'm told grief comes in all shapes and sizes; for me, it's been a bit like luggage: some days I'm carrying a small make-up bag, other days it's a big-arse Samsonite suitcase that totally blindsides me.

In the past year we've lovingly picked apart every memory, hiccup or victory of your life with us: the other day, for example, while walking on the Downs (which you would have adored, there's lots of doggie butts to sniff and places to pee), the Animator and I recalled the warm Sunday, 16 years ago, when we found you at the Auckland SPCA. You were tucked into a corner of the cage, as if trying to make yourself invisible to the larger puppies who kept stepping on you. We were told you were from a litter of 10 stray pups, four of whom had been spared (apparently only the 'cute' ones survived the cull, so your accidental beauty, the result of unknown parentage, saved you from certain death).

True to form, Shazzy (literally) went for the underdog: I couldn't bear to see you being pushed around by the larger puppies. The Animator wasn't sure, he said you “didn't have any personality” and suggested we come back the following Sunday. But you showed him by vomiting all over his feet five minutes after we pulled out of the parking lot!

From that day on, your silky ears, soft puppy breath and endless capacity for mischief assured you a place as the alpha dog of the Stephenson-Haughey whanau.You had attitude like the Italians have pasta, making it known early on that repeatedly chasing balls, frisbees or sticks was for other, lesser dogs, that dog food was beneath you and that if you couldn't see the point of a command, you'd simply ignore it. I was keen on a water and a lap dog – you were neither, only putting up with silly Mummy cuddles because you knew a treat would inevitably follow. But what you lacked in affection (or obedience), you more than made up for with cool charisma and a wise, gentlemanly character.

Probably the hardest thing about this past year has been knowing that, no matter how much we loved and cared for you, we couldn't stop your body from growing too ill to contain your huge spirit. I just hope you know how much joy you brought into our lives and how grateful we are that you decided to hang with us for 15 glorious years.

Today, darling Brompton, my heart aches for you. I wish I could visit your grave and say these words in person but, sadly, I'm 12,000 miles away. I'm honoured that we could walk with you on your last journey and hope you know that it was love from the start, and love until the end.The world holds way less magic without you, my sweet boy, but I know that one day we will meet again....

Shazzy and Marty xx

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