The tears started the moment I turned my phone on this morning. They dropped into my pancakes and accompanied the Hound on his short lamp-post watering jaunt around the neighbourhood. A few hours, and several emails later, I am unable to find the off switch.
It's the thing I knew that one day I would have to write about but, with some sort of ridiculous optimism, believed I might be able to avoid.
Doug has emailed from San Francisco to say that our former dog, Molly, seems to be fading fast. I'm sure he won't mind me regurgitating his words:
Molly has lost quite a bit of energy. She stopped running on the beach, then she was slow on walks, then she was reluctant to even go on walks, and now we are carrying her outside just to get her into the garden.
Equally significant is that her gums are pale and somewhat dry- often a sign of anaemia or organ failure.
The wonderful news is that she is evincing no pain whatsoever. We will protect her from that, so we have adopted a watch-and-wait policy. If she loses her appetite or starts to show any sign of discomfort, we will rescue her.
My heart breaks for that not-so-little terrier/collie mash-up we selected from the Wellington SPCA almost 16 years ago. We all have things in life we regret and one of my biggest is giving Molly away. Although she's probably had a better life in the US than she would have had with us (Doug and Suzi work from home, she has two other canine siblings and she lives in dog-friendly SF. For god's sake, who wouldn't be happy?) I have never been able to shake the feeling that I abandoned her; that I made a promise to love her and give her a good life and when a better opportunity came along, I up and buggered off. It's why my heart carries so many splinters that can never be glued together.
We have, of course, been fortunate to see the glossy black beauty three times since she moved to the Bay Area. To witness the superior care and love she's receiving, to see how deliriously happy she is. And that, in her doggy goodness, she holds no grudge against us. There is much that we miss about her: the way her tail wiggle turns into a half-body wave, her adoring gaze, voracious appetite and the sheer, unadulterated beauty of that thick, glossy fur. But Doug's weekly videos of her scampering along the beach and the photos that line our walls, bedside-tables and hard-drive are a constant reminder of how lucky we are to have had her in her lives.
Although I'm approaching an age that fills me with little joy, I'm pretty comfortable in my skin, in my life, my values and beliefs. I possess a degree, a diploma, two mortgage free houses, more items of clothing than any sane person should ever have and a couple of passports filled with stamps. I have friends in four continents and, mistakenly or not, think I've seen a bit of life. Yet that one email today reduced me to a blubbering, helpless mess. My heart bleeds and my eyes leak and nothing anyone can say or do will make it better.
Ironically, we are soon to make the short drive to the airport to pick up Sheryl, a friend of Doug and Suzi's from San Francisco, who is staying with us a couple of nights. Poor Sheryl, she will not get us at our best today. But as someone who lost both her dogs last year, I imagine she will be able to sympathise.
And now I must go and clean the bathroom; there is also work to be done and walks to be taken and headspace to be filled so that I have little time to dwell upon Ms Molly and the Grim Reaper who swoops overhead, waiting to grasp her to his bosom.
It's a day for tissues and no mascara. And, perhaps later, for strong liquor.