So the question is, do buildings, houses, have some emotional resonance with us? Of course they do. You cannot spend twenty years based at one bricked up assortment of living spaces and not associate that place with memories. There are wise souls who will casually say “It’s just a building,” and I appreciate their point of view. They live in the moment and acknowledge a past that’s passed in a place that’s a house not a home.
And you know when all those thoughts go out of the window? I started writing this two days after I moved to a smaller cottage. I thought I’d settle in and be less caught up in the strained back, the lowering of head to get through smaller door jambs, the inaccessibility of my stuff and the general feeling of new, smaller and the sense that it was permanent but only when the builders had finished their upgrade…
And then our dog Rosie stopped eating. Six months ago, she’d been diagnosed with cancer and about ten weeks ago, her back leg had become useless and developed sores that she spent all day licking. Her dog’s life was suddenly a dog’s life. My significant other – so utterly brilliant in taking charge at such moments – was away dealing with other more Oxfordshire-based family health concerns. I was utterly responsible for Rosie and with her refusing food (the surest sign that things were seriously amiss) I had to take her where she most feared to tread. I carried her in and placed her on the vet’s examining table. Chris, knowing my partner would not be back until Thursday, attempted to get Rosie to rally round by giving her a hefty painkiller, something that could no longer be done orally without unpleasantness on both sides. He added a steroid shot. “If she’s not responsive and you feel the time has come, bring her in tomorrow.” The mere idea of this beloved animal having her last night alive filled me with a dammed wall of intense sadness. That’s not a typo. It was dammed up as in what will happen when that bursts?
Tuesday morning arrived with a dark thud. I’d cooked her mince meat, something that was breathed in on her good days. The nose took a microsecond sniff and her beautiful head turned, the die cast. I tried sausages, doggie treats, spaghetti carbonara, anything that my memory told me she would wolf down. All politely declined. I think I lasted for a few hours thinking how uncomfortable she must have been having not eaten for days and a leg like a quietly broadcasting pain stick. I then called the vet and made the appointment. I looked over my computer and into the small hallway. A familiar face turned and looked at me…
11th November 2014, 17.10
30 minutes after the death of a beloved member of our family…
Essentially Rosie was starving herself. If she wasn’t eating her food, she wasn’t taking her painkillers. Right to the end she was still barking, defending the house and if I said “In the car!” she didn’t even register the discomfort she must have been in, limping towards her second home, the back left seat of the beat up Toyota, or the WAH car (because of its registration).
And that’s where she had her last moments… attended to by Chris, the vet, who administered the barbiturate, Mel, my partner’s riding partner and Helen, a great friend who was sensitive enough to volunteer to accompany me. Daisy, Rosie’s daughter, was there too, to register her mother’s passing (apparently this is the done thing with other dogs in the family). Rosie had three loving hands on her, smoothing her and my mantra of “Beautiful girl…” repeated over and over, something I said to her that used to make her visibly soften and wag her tail in front of me when she was well. And then she was gone.
I cannot believe how profound the emotion is. I can tap into it frighteningly easily. I think of what a wonderful life she had, how extraordinarily lucky we were to have her and I hope she might have appreciated that love like that works both ways. She was adored, utterly adored because she was utterly adorable.
God, I’m going to miss her.