Wednesday 6 November 2019

And now she is gone.

[Image: A merle Great Dane, Freyja, is lying on the floor staring directly at the camera. She is resting her paw on Michelle's pink dressing gown covered lap. Behind her, a white mid-century rocker, window and other snippets of loungeroom furniture can be seen.]

The house feels empty and claustrophobic in equal measure. The walls weigh heavy on my heart. Each morning there is a moment, just before I open my bedroom door where I have forgotten. Then I am faced with a large empty couch and it hits me she’s gone.

It’s been almost two weeks now since I had to make the decision to say goodbye to Freyja and the wound is still raw. Everywhere I move in the house she is there, or more crushingly, she is not. The house is dotted with holes. Large gaping chasms that trap me at every turn. I can’t escape the reminder that I’ll no longer see her.

I can no more look down from the edge of my bed where she took her last breath or move out to my backyard where she would sit at my feet in the sun, or rest against my hip as I watered my plants. Every corner contains a memory.

Her hair is everywhere. I can’t bring myself to clean it. Her nose print remains on the front window and the multitude of drool droplets that once exhausted my cleaning efforts and patience are now a reminder that she was here. My section of the couch still holds the imprints of her paws. Small scratches in the leather. Her smell on my cushions. I don’t want to clean it. Or touch. Or see. I can’t sit with any sense of comfort or ease.

The loungeroom is empty. I hate being in there. Her couch sits to my left and I still turn my head expecting to see her. I start to chat to her. To the fridge to get her dinner. I stand at the coffee machine and wait for her warm head to worm its way into my hand. To hear her chat when I am too slow to realise she wanted a pat, a feed, to go to the loo or just an ear rub.

The last year she had slowed. In truth we both had. She slept and so did I. Long exhausted hours. But even in sleep she was there. A physical presence. Small breaths. The warmth of her body. Her smell that wrinkled my nose. The comfort of another living being in the house. The last six months have just been the two of us. With Mr Grumpy overseas she has been my partner and my constant. She has been a reminder of life. Connection.

And now she is gone.

No matter how much I know it was the right decision. No matter how much I know that there was no choice. It hurts. Giving voice to the knowledge. Words more sob than syllables. The vet and the vet nurse kind and comforting. But she was done. She woke in the night scared and crying for entrance to my bedroom. By morning she wouldn’t eat. By lunchtime, she couldn’t stand. After so long it all happened so quickly. She felt indestructible after cancer, amputation, infection. Slowing but continuing. We plodded along together. Well-matched throughout.

She left the world in my arms next to my bed. Her favourite place for the past 10 ½ years. Just the two of us.

The unreal nature of the moment when I was told she was gone but she was still there solid and warm in my arms. Her fur felt no different under my shaking fingers than it had a minute beforehand. She was still there even after she had departed. She was still there. The vet and nurse left quietly while I sobbed and told her how much I loved her. 

I couldn’t watch while they took her away.

As the front door closed and silence descended.

She came into my life when I was already unwell. She, like Thor before her, has been by my side through it all. Attuned to my body. Coming to alert when my heart rate plummeted. Pounding my chest and barking and licking my face to wake me after a faint. Snuffling my neck as I threw up in the loo. Watching while I showered. Relaxing only when I was out and safe on the couch. Providing love and comfort when it was all too hard. We’ve hardly been apart in the last decade and I have spent more time with her than anyone human or animal in that same time.

And now she is gone.

A house doesn’t feel like a home without a dog. It is incomplete. A missing ‘something’ creating an itch that leaves me restless and flat.

I am wrung out and exhausted.

There is a large Great Dane shaped hole in my heart. And all my tears fail to fill it.

I know it’ll get easier with time. But the house feels less of a home without her presence.

I know it’ll get easier. But for now, the pain sits heavy.