Saying goodbye to my best friend
There’s a hole in my life, and it’s dog shaped.
Last week, we made the agonising decision to have our beautiful 15 and a half year old German Shepherd/Lab cross Hallie put to sleep.
I know we were lucky to have a dog for such a long time. I know that losing a dog is not the same as losing a person. I know my dog had a great life. I know that dogs die. None of that helps.
During the last three years of my family’s fragmented and nomadic lifestyle, Hallie was the one constant. She was my loyal sidekick.
But as well as that, this dog was special. She was calm, intuitive, protective, and loving. She was also a bit weird. She had a fascination with rocks and would entertain local dog-walkers with her habit of digging them out of the sea, rolling on them, barking at them and sometimes howling at them.
She was loved by many too – I am not the only one grieving. Some of those people were with us last week, putting themselves through a traumatic and tragic experience, not just to support me but because they loved Hallie.
I remember the day she came into our lives, like it was yesterday. I remember driving down the driveway of a farm in Langley BC, husband Lee protesting that we wouldn’t be “making any decisions today”, and having a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach – like the decision we would be making today would have a massive impact on our lives.
Out of a litter of nine, one puppy snuggled into Lee’s arms, like she knew which one of us she had to persuade, and persuade she did. We picked her. Or rather, she picked us.
I have been trying to work out why I’m finding this loss so hard. I have lost cats. I have lost my grandparents. My dad died just three years ago. But I have never experienced this level of grief; this all-consuming, heart-wrenching pain.
I think it’s all about the relationship you have with your pets. There are very few people in your life with whom you will experience the same level of trust and loyalty as you will with your dog. Dogs are pure and good and eager to please. I have not one bad memory of my 15 and a half years with Hallie. (Apart from that one time she tried to bite our friend Jim. But even that is funny rather than bad. I hope Jim agrees).
I thought that by coming to Canada right after she died that I would escape some of the pain. But of course, Canada is where she was born, where we spent many years together, where we walked the beaches and parks thousands of times, where she met her best friends Finnegan, Clancy and Gus.
I do take some comfort in bringing her back here; some of her ashes came in my hand luggage, and we will scatter them on White Rock beach, her favourite place in the world.
I want to bypass this part of the grieving process and get to the acceptance part, when I can remember my dog without feeling broken.
I’ve had two days of respite from grief this week, because I have had a bad case of ‘flu and have been bed-ridden and slightly delirious. Now that I am feeling better, the grief is creeping back. But honestly, I would rather have ‘flu.