It is autumn. At this time of year my thoughts turn to how precious some aspects of our lives are.
Some things in our lives are so momentous and fleeting that when you look back they seem almost dreamlike
The only thing we can be sure of when we invite a dog into our lives is that he or she will have a short life compared with our human years, and when the inevitable happens, the death of a dog bites deep and hard.
To many this connection between us and our dogs seems incomprehensible but for those of us that take the step to invite a dog into our lives means that we embark on a new chapter.
Dogs share things with us that very few family or friends do. They receive a lot of our time and energies like no human could and we do not need to hide our dark sides. They are happy to curl up with us when people would avoid us.
This does not mean it is a one sided relationship. Dogs are not unaware of our moods but they do have an amazing capacity to take the good with the bad.
This is never underestimated and as a dog owner I expect to return this depth of trust in threefold and never underestimate how deeply they are aware of the emotions that swirl around us humans.
When my lurcher Flynt fell ill my heart fractured. Between us we had to decide what was right for him. He had shared so much with me in his life that I felt it was necessary to take some radical decisions on his behalf-but knowing him so well made many of those decisions easier.
When amputation of his front leg was advocated for a soft tissue cancer I considered the operation, but the more I thought about it the more I knew he would struggle with the life that would commit him to.
He was 11 at that point and had always been in good health, but our house has steep stairs both up to the bedroom (where he slept) and also up into the garden. He was active, loved running and I just couldn’t take his mobility away, moreover the vet couldn’t tell me whether the cancer had already spread further.
To learn to walk again and waste precious months was just something I couldn’t take away from him.
Our last chapter together had begun.
I found a natural health vet and we bolstered his immune system with herbs, homeopathy and Bowen therapy together with a new breakthrough cancer remedy and he cheerfully flew through the next year.
Every day was precious and I watched for signs of his zest for life to diminish. I can honestly say it never did; if there ever was a dog that wanted to live forever it was him.
Every time the cancer knocked him he would pick himself up and carry on. He sat in the car, smiled and loved to watch even on the days when his health was failing.
Brave to the last he lay down at the front door and fought not to leave. I do feel he knew that by lying across the threshold he had made a clear choice on where he wanted to die and that he wanted to specifically be with me only. He effectively stopped me making a last journey to the vet.
He fought to remain with his last breath and rather than leaving him at a scrupulously clean and clinical environment in a vet’s surgery he died at home.
To spend a last evening with him was amazing, the other dogs were able to say goodbye and grieve too and he and I took a last long drive the next day to his favourite park where my best human friend picked him up and drove him to be cremated, I just couldn’t face the finality but knew he would be safe with her.
That was 4 years ago and the grief is still stark .I still feel him trotting beside me when I am having a difficult time and the bond still remains and is strong. The rawness of his departure will never vanish, but my life would have been very different without him.
I have thought long and hard about why we fall so hard and about the nature of the love. Dogs have a way of living in the moment and the time we are given with them is special and through this we become somehow closer to nature.
So as autumn returns the cycle of life continues, and the leaves glide to the floor, golden and trumpeting a last hurrah, I remember him brave, vibrant and glorious in my memory.
Soulmates do not have to be human; he will remain with me forever.