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Thursday, 8 August 2013

I Miss my Dog Every Day

It's early evening and I am enjoying my nightly sharpener.

It’s been 2 months now and I still feel so sad. I still cry every day. I will just burst into tears quite suddenly and just as suddenly the tears will subside. This morning I was chatting to Jerry the electrician who is a friend of Boyfriend-on-a-Short-Fuse about books and this and that. He is very nice, and has had his fair share of troubles. Then he says, and `how are you doing since you lost…’ and because I’d been thinking about something else it swung me back into my loss and I just burst into tears. I think he was rather taken aback. But since I lost my Nutty I am emotionally incontinent and my dams are not in place, Whoosh… and there is a great emotional surge.
I know I have always been quite melancholic but it’s never been quite like this.
I’ve been reading Natasha McElhone’s excellent memoir After You, which she wrote after her beloved husband died quite suddenly in his early 40’s while she was pregnant with their third son. It is simply heart-rending and a true representation of raw grief.
I cannot put my grief into context with hers but it resonated, just the same.
I was reading reviews of her book on Amazon. One of them as beautifully written as the book itself.
I lost my husband in February of this year. Like Natasha, it came out of the blue - my husband was young, fit and apparently healthy. I've read several books that deal with grief as a project, but none come close to explaining the panic, the maelstrom of bewilderment, abandonment and chaos that has whipped around my head ever since; and none have thus far made me think - yes, that's what I'm feeling, that's what it's like.

Ms McElhone's book was featured in a Sunday paper last week, and after reading excerpts, I immediately ordered it. When it arrived, I read it in one greedy go. It's a short book, made up of diary entries and letters she wrote to her husband, who died while she was away filming, and while pregnant with their third son.

The first thing that struck me was the style of writing. Ms McElhone's prose is beautiful at times, but it's shot through with anger, panic and frustration. It's jerky in style, seemingly bouncing from one thing to another. At times it numbly describes the practicalities of death - choosing a coffin, where and how to do the funeral - at others, the words howl at you, and you can almost taste her loneliness, her forlornness and her horror when the realisation of her situation hits her with juggernaut force, again and again. I found myself nodding along at times - she describes in one entry trying to get a phone company to switch the account from her husband's name to hers, and you can feel the heaviness in her heart when she tells them, no, he can't come to the phone as he has died, and the grim acceptance of their half-hearted condolences. I have made those calls, heard those words and my heart broke for her.

Another thing that the book highlights perfectly is the juxtaposition between a widow's grief, which is a private, intimate emotion, and the very public way in which one must present it. Ms. McElhone describes having to 'fit in' private grieving time between work and child-rearing, taking a half hour here and there to cry or to remember her husband. I almost shouted when I read this; my own grieving M.O. taking the form of only allowing myself to properly cry when I'm driving alone, so that I don't have to be seen, and I don't have to explain it to anyone or excuse or justify it in any way. A little thing perhaps, but something that distresses me. I was pleased that someone else understood it too.

Natasha describes in stark detail the reality of being widowed. She doesn't sugar-coat it, she doesn't dress it up with clich├ęs, and she doesn't fall into the easy path of mawkish, sentimental memorial. I think that perhaps a person who has never been bereaved might find the book a bit full on - she really lets the reader into her marriage and her grief - but anyone who has lost someone will recognise every tear-stained word. It's a wonderful book, and a very lovely tribute to her husband. Natasha, if you're reading - thank you for putting into words what I never could.

Truly, you inhabit a completely different world from other people once you have been bereaved. I had no idea unti I went through my own earthquake.
But I am getting through the day, working through my endless `to do’ list and getting somewhere. I am pitching articles, no response as yet, but experience has taught me that it’s a numbers game and not to take rejection too personally.
My big plan now is to go to Greece (Boyfriend-on-a-Short-Fuse not keen but can be persuaded) and help out at the Halkida dog rescue, an hour from Athens. The animal situation in Greece is almost beyond hope, I had no idea it was so bad, the people there just seem to be so cruel. This place is, so I’m told, like the Wild West. Run by a few strange women who don’t have a clue about dog welfare. The British lady who used to go there regularly can’t face it anymore and said I should just go and do whatever I can. She says bringing dogs back to the UK is much easier than it used to be so I'd like to be involved in that.
I’ve been looking at houses in Shere in Surrey. Near where I grew up and near a few friends so a good place to be. I’ve seen a largish house with a bit of land and plan to foster the dogs there. Presently many Greek rescue charities can’t find homes for their dogs and have to keep them in expensive kennels. once they are in the UK. 
Well, I feel quite miserable here at the moment so I may as well be miserable in Athens and doing some good.

Julia.stephenson@live.co.uk
 

Monday, 8 July 2013

Life Goes On, Sort Of....

And so it is nearly 3 weeks since we lost our beloved Nutty and I am still crying every day. He has left such a big hole in my life that I often feel despair that nothing will ever fill it.

As the days go by, there are short moments when I am not aware of my grief, when I'm running to the post office or jumping on a bus, but my sadness is always with me, like a big black blanket, draped over my chest. While I do enjoy being by myself, it's when I'm alone that I feel saddest. And yet there is nothing anyone can say or do that makes anything better. It's like all the colour has drained from my life and it's hard to feel very happy about anything.

I cried in bed last night, just thinking about the lovely boy. Oh how we miss him. I cried because I miss him so much and I cried because crying is a connection with his memory. And I cried some more because when I am no longer crying about him I think a connection with him will be lost. Mad I know, I know that I am connected to him whether I am happy or sad.

S is very sad too but he deals with it better. He is more practical and matter of fact. Logically I know that none of us can live forever, it's just that I feel I could have coped better with losing anyone else but Nutty. It is quite simply the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I can't believe I have got to 50 before I was truly bereaved. If anyone else in my family had died it would have upset me less.

I have a lot of people I like a lot, but very few people I love. Maybe just S, perhaps Teflon-dad and eco-brother. If I had children I would experience that unconditional love, but now Nutty is gone, I don't unconditionally love anyone.

I read constantly about grief and am fascinated about how people deal with it. Really there is a great well of despair out there and the world can be divided into those that have lost and those who have not. sometimes people will say, `oh my grandparents have died so I have been bereaved', but most of the time, there are exceptions I know, losing an elderly relative is sad, but usually comes with a degree of acceptance.

Reading back the entry I wrote just after Nutty died, I can't believe that I wrote I felt a degree of relief that he was out of pain. That was very selfless of me, but to be honest, I don't feel remotely relieved. Of course he couldn't have gone on the way he was, but his decline had been so sudden, I just wish we hadn't taken him with us to Yorkshire (the car journey weakened him). But I must accept it was his time. The vet said that he would have died some time as the cancer had weakened him so.

President Ikeda writes;

The impermanence of life is inescapable. In Buddhism, this is a fundamental premise about the nature of existence. Why should death come as a shock? From the standpoint of life's eternity, it could be said that birth and death are occurrences of minuscule significance. That is all well and good in theory, but the human heart cannot fully come to terms with such events through theory alone.
 
It's so true. I understand the theory with my mind but not with my heart. Yet, I mustn't be maudlin. The pain will fade and happiness will come. I will make something good come from this sadness.


Friday, 21 June 2013

Farewell...

Well, our dearest most darling dog has died. We had to help him on his way as despite his body pretty much shutting down his little heart was still pumping away. Richard, the homeopathic vet, had given us a remedy, Arsen Alb, which speeds up the dying process, it works 50% of the time but not for Nutty. But it did slow things down for him, I think. He was lying beside my bed all night and he woke me up about 3 times with other-worldly groans. He didn’t seem to be in pain but the sound was the sound of dying, a groaning whimpering, like he was neither dead nor really alive, but moving to a new place.
 In a way perhaps it is better he had the injection. If he had died naturally I would not have believed he was really dead and probably had to go to the vet to confirm.
Now he has gone, I feel utterly numb. My chest is full of tears, my solar plexus feels like there is a stone lodged in it and I am deeply sad. But also quite philosophical and relieved that the worst is over. Nutty is released from his old, sick body and can be reborn into a young and healthy dog, or more likely in his case, as he was such an extraordinary spiritual and compassionate creature, another human being.
The late Bill Weston, a very wise Buddhist friend, used to say that animals that had become so close to their human companions would be reborn as humans. Knowing the sort of dog Nutty was, and how evolved he was, that is easy to believe. I never saw him show a negative emotion. Even when the Tinies moved in he was relaxed and happy to have them around. He was never upset when they stole his food (he was a very considered, slow eater), never jealous that he now had to share us with them. He was just pure love, love, love.
He was the centre of my life for the last 4 years and I miss him, miss him, miss him.
I have been googling up Buddhist guidance about losing pets and there is a lot of helpful stuff. Buddhists believe that all people have been our parents at some time and many Buddhist schools go on to say that all living beings have been our parents. While I have no problem believing that all other humans may have been my parent at some stage, it is a leap of faith to believe all animals have been our parents. You might say, but more and more people are being born than in any other time in the world’s history, how can we all have a connection? The answer to that is that they come from other planets, other solar systems. Not so far-fetched when you consider even scientists are now recognising the existence of other planets apart from our own small one.
After talking to Magdosha the homeopath yesterday, she reassured me that he will be reborn and that I can determine to meet him again. This may seem wishful thinking, but I’ve never had any trouble believing in reincarnation for humans, so if you believe in reincarnation for us, it is a very small leap to believe in reincarnation for other species.
So I don’t necessarily believe that, say some poor battery chicken has been my mother, but I do believe that chicken will die and be reborn into the world again, in some shape or form. And as for a dog like Nutty, with such close connection and influence on his humans, well I do find it easy to believe that he will be reborn in favourable circumstances.
That dog taught me so much about compassion. I know understand why parents of severely disabled children mourn their early death so desperately, for I love a dumb animal who cannot talk or communicate in a `human’ way and yet the love and soul communication is perhaps deeper than with those I can speak to in my own human language. But there is a language of the heart and some animals can speak that fluently.  
Unsurprisingly the day didn’t start off very well. I’d had a bad night, what with the Tinies on the bed, Nutty’s throes of death and my dear pal wandering around upstairs at 5am.
So at 8.30am, when I finally dragged myself out of bed, I felt Nutty and his beating heart… incredible….. how awful that the one thing I have been dreading for 4 years (that he stop breathing) was the thing I now hoped for. I had no choice. I am strong willed, but even I cannot fight the cycle of death, however much I might desperately want to.
I came in to see him and to our amazement, he was sitting up, licking his skinny, blood-stained paws. But he didn’t appear to recognise me, although yesterday I did elicit, oh joy! a small tail wag when I stroked him.
Before his decline (which has only been this last week), he was always so happy to see me in the morning. That was `our’ time when he would wake up and make his way to my bed and wander round looking for loves and strokes. He was never a cuddly dog. He didn’t enjoy being on the sofa, rug or a bed, although he would often enjoy a big scratch of the bedcovers if we lifted him up for a bit.
He was always happiest on the wooden floor. I could see that many times he would almost endure my cuddles through gritted teeth, like a son being cuddled by his attentive mother and longing for it to end! But I always loved stroking my boy’s beautiful tawny fur and kissing his little snout, even though he would often close his eyes in distaste, `oh please hurry up Mummy!’.
And yet, wherever I was in the flat, he would always wander around until he found me. He would climb upstairs, downstairs, clip clop, clip clop, `oh where is my mummy?’  
Steve always accepted ruefully that I was the most loved, that given the choice, Nutty would always follow me. I had a little game where I would walk round and round the sofa and Nutty would just keep following me in circles. Steve would reach out and stroke him, but Nutty would ignore him, so focused was he on following me.
So I rang the vet in Elizabeth Street and she only had an 11am slot  and didn’t have time to make a home visit, which we would so much have preferred. I was aware, making the appointment with the receptionist that this was the very last time I would refer to Nutty in the present tense...I kept quite calm, I didn't cry. After 6 months of crying on tap, now the very worst thing is happening I went into auto-pilot. I've realised that when the very worst things are happening to us, something in the human phyche kicks in to get us through. It's only later that the numbness fades and is replaced by raw, excruciating pain.

So, come the time, Steve took Nutty downstairs and we carried him to the car. I sat in the back on the floor so I could kiss and stroke him and tell him how much I loved him.
But he hates the car so we were sad to put him through it for his final day, and unfortunately the traffic was heavy, which just made it all harder.
I had to carry him into the vet because Steve needed to park up. I thought I would carry him, just to have the final cuddle and contact. But that wasn’t so good because in my distress I couldn’t remember which part of Elizabeth street the horrible vets' was.

With hysteria welling up in my chest I had to place Nutty gently onto the raised step outside a house while I called the vet in a panic. They gave me directions, it was only a few houses down, and I picked Nutty up carefully and carried him gently inside.
The unpleasant receptionist (God we hate this place), said `oh the vet is still doing paper work, you can’t go straight in’, even though when I called I had said, `is the vet free because I will wait outside until she is', (I didn’t want the invasion of privacy you get in these places with everyone staring at you), and she said yes she was free. But although she tried to make me stop and dump Nutty on the floor or whatever, I insisted that I put Nutty down on his final resting place, rather than be carried from pillar to post.
Anyway, the vet was professionally sympathetic, not like Richard of course, but she was the best we could do at short notice, and I really didn’t want to keep the beloved going any longer as he was really shutting down and could have started to suffer. He hadn’t eaten for 5 days or peed for a day and I could smell urine on his breath, like it had been going round and round his body with nowhere to get out. Richard had explained that toxins would be building up in his body and it would be unfair to keep him alive another day.
Unbelievably, this vet then explained we needed to sign a consent form, fair enough, but astonishingly, given that I had phoned up that morning explaining the situation and that our dog needed to be put down, she then disappeared for 5 MINUTES to get `the paperwork’, (this vet seems obsessed by paperwork), why hadn’t she pulled out her wretched form, which only consisted of a few lines anyway.
The vet nurse stood impassively by, saying nothing, and the vet then shaved Nutty’s leg, quite gently, thank goodness, and quickly put the needle in. Nutty didn’t flinch, by now he was so far gone he was not very aware of very much. S and I were steady and emotionalness. We had been preparing for this moment for months and had cried and railed, but we were strangely calm. Later S said he had been chanting to himself, I had just been numbly focused on the moment, blank really.
Then, literally, within seconds he was dead. The vet gave us a pep talk, in special compassionate tones about what we wanted to do with the body etc. We took Nutty’s floppy little soft body in our arms, I paid the bill to the hatchet-faced receptionist who did not even offer a crumb of comfort, so cold-blooded was she, `thank you for your kindness’ I said sarcastically, but she was so inhuman she didn’t blink.
I went to the car, S had put Nutty in the boot, but I took him out of the boot and put him in the back with me. We drove to Guildford in silence mostly, talking a bit about Nutty and the good times, my hand on his tawny back for the last time.
My great regret was that the ending might not have been as tranquil for him as he deserved. Thanks to the beastly car, traffic, S’s bad temper, and then my grief and getting lost (only for a short time), it’s not what I wanted. And yet WE DID OUR BEST, in our horrible imperfect human way.
But things got much better. S calmed down a bit as we drove. The sun had gone in and the Surrey countryside was shrouded in gloomy grey cloud. We pulled into Longdown road, for the first time in a year, since we sold the house where I grew up. We slipped into our field opposite, that my Mother left us, which was overgrown, wild and rather beautiful.
We put Nutty in his pram for the last time and wheeled him down the gravelly drive and into the field. It was hard to push his pram though the thigh-high grasses, poppy and wild flowers and we struggled to the corner of the field.
The ground here was too hard to dig, so S found a spot nearer one of the fruit trees we planted in memory of mum in 2009, where the soil was a bit easier to dig. But it was hard going but thanks to S we dug a reasonable grave for the Beloved, wrapped him in his towel and placed him in the ground. We put the soil back over him and I placed a rough posy of wild flowers on top.
We did memorial gongyo and chanted a bit for him. I wrote a temporary note explaining to the nice gardening people who are tending the field that we had buried our beloved dog. I will organise a beautiful headstone, or wooden plaque like we had for mum’s grave in due course. And now we have a spot where we can pay our respects and remember and cherish him.
As we were leaving I asked S to go back and find out the name of the tree under which Nutty was buried (it seems unbelievable, Nutty! Buried!) Our vital boy is no more.
There was a gasp as S shouted, `It’s a Celestial Dogwood!’.
Talk about a wonderful and mystic coincidence.
For Nutty was truly, our Celestial Dog.
I looked up celestial and it means heavenly, holy, spiritual, godly, otherworldly, saintly…. All these words describe our beautiful boy to a t.
We drove back to London feeling a bit more philosophical. Ceremonies are comforting. We opened our front door to paroxisms of delight from the delighted Tinies who were so happy to see us. 
And so life must go on. They are life and Nutty is gone.
I pray that Nutty and I will meet again and that I will again have the privilege of loving another creature with all my heart, unconditionally. I hope other dogs will come into my life that I can help and who I can share this bond with. I need hope as the emptiness I feel now I have finally lost the creature I loved more than any other in the world is just too gut-wrenching to contemplate.

Yet in a way I feel relief that it is over. Living with a dying person is so exhausting, you long to help them, and yet there is only so much you can do. I nursed him to the best of my ability, until there was nothing else I could do.
I came home and threw away his little syringes. The blood stained rug that smells so strongly of him… S said oh wash it, it stinks, but I love the smell of it. Yes it smells of cancer, but I never minded his smell, because it was him.
And so we go to bed, calm, sad, broken-hearted, with some relief that Nutty is now free.
Goodnight my darling, I will miss you more than words can say.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Nutty is Barely Alive

Nutty is still hanging on. Unbelievably, his little heart is still pumping away while everything else in his dear little body is closing down.

I am heartbroken. I wonder if I will ever feel whole and happy again without my darling dearest friend, supporter and greatest fan to cheer me on.
Even as he is dying he is no trouble, hardly bleeding, not heaving or having fits. Just quietly lying down, his head at a strange angle to his body underneath my bed.
I went out to see the homeopath earlier and when I came in Nutty wasn’t in the sitting room where I left him. Boyfriend on a Short Fuse came down and ran around asking `where is Nutty!’
Like Lazarus he had risen from his deathbed and staggered into my bedroom where he collapsed and is still lying down.
So we are all in limbo. We went to see Richard the homeopathic vet, fully expecting him to do the deed. Only for him to say that he doesn’t do the injections (the injections! I call it, so light and easy sounding for something so enormous), but that he would give us some homeopathic remedy to hasten his passing. Which we have duly been giving him on the hour, but the little man’s heart remains as strong as ever.
Richard said it is better for dogs to die in their sleep as the injection is not as easy as it sounds, problems finding veins, etc. But, he added, if he was still alive in the morning it would be the kindest thing to take him to the vet. And so we are blessed with one more night with the beloved.
I don’t know if it is worse for it all to be dragging out. He is really lost to us now anyway, as Boyfriend on a Short Fuse said, a vegetable, although I know he knows me. He even wagged his tail once for me when I stroked him this morning (was it this morning or this afternoon, I can’t remember). He doesn’t seem to be in discomfort but obviously transition is difficult for man and beast.
Our homeopath is very enlightened and so perceptive. She is physic as I suspected, hence her very penetrating comments and questions. She is terrific and just gets to the crux of everything. I explained about BOASF and she asked why I stayed with him. Well, habit, love, because he is helpful, indispendsable in many ways. `Why don’t you just hire a handyman?’ she asked reasonably when I had said how wonderful it was that he had sent off for a very long hose on Amazon which will water the whole roof garden in minutes.
Today he crossed the line again. I forgot the leads and he rounded on me, heaping abuse, called me a beep, beep, beep (email me for details of unmentionable word) 3 times. Later he said he didn’t call me a beep, but said that I behaved like a beep. Well I don’t really see the difference. Yes he is impossible, and we don’t have respect for each other and desperately need a break. But I can’t go through this time alone and so I am grateful for that.
I is staying tonight. She is good company and a new friend. Very kind and intuitive. It is lovely to have the support of a fellow dog lover who has lost beloved companions. BOASF had gone back to his place. So quite a nice day if it wasn’t for all this.
The homeopath explained that grief comes in waves… it’s true, I am shocked that on the way back from not killing our dog at the vet, with Nutty in my arms I can be thinking about reading the electricity meter and what to cook for dinner. As if anything else matters a jot. And yet life goes on. At least Nutty is going before me. He would have hated it if I had left him. And so he is leaving me, utterly heartbroken. I hope and long to love again. I will miss the love.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Nutty Soldiers On

Despite his increasing weakness, Nutty is still alive, just.

Even though he can barely walk or stand his little heart beats as fervently as ever. It's a kind of miracle that despite his feebleness his life force is still ticking away. Just.

As usual I am unable to contain my emotion and tears spurt out randomly. I am walking down the street, congratulating myself on buying food and keeping the cupboards stocked and suddenly find myself capsized into grief.

Stumbling down the Kings Road my eyes are so full of tears I can't see the faces of the passers by. I get on the bus and I am isolated in my grief. I wonder if I am the only person on the bus whose heart is as heavy as lead, just about to lose the person they love more than anyone in the world and dreading the next day when they will never see that beloved face ever again.

Very soon, possibly tomorrow, I will never see his face or hold his little furry body again. It seems impossible.

The rest of the world whirrs away in it's busy happy bubble but those of us disabled by loss stagger through the day, putting one foot in front of the other and wondering if they will ever be happy again.

And yet there are glimmers of hope. I am going to organise a Grief Workshop, for want of a better title, a sort of get together of random friends and friends of friends who are bereaved, or who have been bereaved and lived to fight another day. We will discuss the worst times, how long it took before we started to feel better and strategies for getting through the worst times. Of course most of us will be Buddhists but hopefully there will be all sorts of people there.

I know there is a way out of the tunnel of darkness because I have witnessed friends endure the worst, worst of times and come through smiling.

Yesterday when Boyfriend on a Short Fuse was being particularly foul, I day-dreamed about taking the train up to Yorkshire with a handful of Ambien and Valium and making my way to the beautiful river I so enjoyed swimming in last weekend (the last weekend when Nutty was well). I would take the handful of pills and then wade out to the middle of the river, where it is very deep and the current fast and free-flowing, (so powerful that it was hard work for me, a strong swimmer to swim in). I'd never be able to fight it if I was drugged, and if I lay, face down and let it carry me off, that would probably be the end of it. That would be the cleanest end I think.

But that was yesterday. Today I feel much stronger. The girls came round this morning and we put together the booklet for our weekend course. Boyfriend on a Short Fuse was much kinder, oddly enough after I told him I was going to spend the summer in St Ives without him. He spend all afternoon unblocking the u bend in the bathroom. I was so grateful. Think he was a bit put out by that. I've had quite a bit of support which is buoying me up. I simply have to keep going so I can help others who are going through the same thing.

Tonight we trundled Nutty to the park in his pram and lay him down on the grass. He tottered about for a bit, but didn't manage to pee so I worry that his kidneys have given up. Boyfriend on a Short Fuse was crying, tears streaming down his face. I was so moved. I have never seen him cry. He remembered the happy times he had with Nutty at Longdown, the wonderful long walks they went on alone together, and how they discovered Guildford together.

Nutty has touched a very special place in both our hearts and we will never forget him.

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Final Days

Nutty, our beloved Sheltie is slowing down, his life-force draining out of him hour by hour.

The Tinies (aka, the tiny tots, our Bichon Frises) woke me up at 7am rather annoyingly, as I didn't go back to sleep and I didn't have to be compos mentis till 9.30am when Dina was coming up to chant with me.

Nutty slept all night under my bed. He likes the darkness and being in a small area where he can be undisturbed. His breathing is very shallow now. Part of me hopes he will just stop breathing and pass away peacefully and the other part dreads the final moment and the abyss of despair that lies beyond it. I can't bear the thought of taking him to the vet for his final injection and yet I know this may be the most humane option.

He has not eaten for 3 days now. I siphon broth and water into his mouth but he won't take anything solid. He sleeps spread out like a jelly on the floor as if his bones have disappeared. When he does get up he is shaky and uncoordinated, unable to get a grip on the wooden floors and his little blood-stained paws slip about as he tries to get a grip.

The grief is at times so intense I don't know how I will stand it. And then, just when the pain is at it's most intense, it subsides a little, giving me a bit of a breathing space.

When Dina came up I couldn't contain myself. The sympathy of other people just turns on the taps and all my misery gushes out. We chanted for quite a while and every so often I'd start thinking about Nutty, and how much I will miss him, and my chest would fill up with tears and I'd start heaving again. She was very sympathetic and really, the sympathy of friends is the only thing that helps. Of course they cannot really say anything new but just having a warm supportive body nearby makes such a difference.

Then she left and I felt so exhausted I wanted to go back to bed. But it was past 11am and I had to take the dogs out to the park. As Nutty is so comatose I forget that he still needs to pee and might enjoy the feel of grass under his paws and the sunshine on his tawny (albeit scrawny) back.

And so I clipped the leads on the Tinies and put Nutty in his blood-stained pram and off we trundled to the park. There we sat on the grass in the muggy sunshine, the Tinies chasing other dogs and Nutty collapsed, like a jelly, next to me.

I called Boyfriend on a Short Fuse, not sure why really as he is no good in a crisis and hates it when I am emotional. I suppose out of habit and wanting the comfort and familiarity. He was fine though, and came along to meet me in the park. He was grumbling on the way home about one of his recalcitrant offspring who had got some poor girl up the duff. We were chatting away quite pleasantly until we arrived at my flat. I lifted Nutty out of his pram and disassembled it before rather clumsily levering it into the flat and shoving it behind the front door, all the time keeping my eye on the Tinies and Nutty who was staggering around drunkenly on the pavement outside.

`DON'T DO IT LIKE THAT!' shouts Boyfriend on a Short Fuse, grabbing the pram from my hands. `GOD YOU ARE SO BLOODY USELESS. IT GOES IN WITH THE SMALL WHEELS FIRST, HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU!'

He flings the pram into his preferred position, with the wheels facing the correct way, before throwing Nutty inside the door (the Tinies have already crept in, they are terrified when he starts shouting), and storming off, smoke blowing out of his ears at the terrible irritations he must endure.

He never used to be this bad. Until a few years ago he was so much fun, a real cheeky chappy, he could charm the birds from the trees. These days, perhaps it is some midlife crisis, he is always moaning and criticising and has developed an unhealthy obsession with health and safety and following obscure rules to the letter.

After some thought I've realised this is what happens to most men past 50. They become sticklers for correctness, following obscure rules to the letter, eating particular food in a certain way, and woe betide the woman who has provided the middle-aged Fuhrer with a plate with a speck of dust on it or a glass with a whisper of dust. They like the TV blaring all night but become incensed if the radio is on quietly in another room. They will not countenance any kind of music being played anywhere. The sound of anyone using their laptop or cleaning their teeth inspires paroxisms of fury.

I thought it was just Boyfriend on a Short Fuse who was moody, irrational, interfering and permanently furious but there are tons of men like him out there.

I was in the park yesterday about to attend to one of the Tinies who had just dumped a tiny poo on the grass. I had a tissue in my hand and was just about to remove it and put it in the bin. A middle-aged man comes rushing up to me with enough plastic to turn the entire Pacific ocean into a plastic soup (whoops forgot, due to people like him the Pacific ocean is already a plastic soup). `YOU MUST USE A PLASTIC BAG, HERE I HAVE ONE!' he says bossily, pretending he is being helpful but I know he is just being controlling and bossy.

`It's OK', I reply politely, `I have a large tissue'. (I don't go into the whole thing about plastic being far more polluting than poo because he will never understand).

`OH NO, I MUST INSIST YOU USE A BAG', he bosses, primly handing me a slew of plastic, beaming like he is doing me a wonderful favour. How kind!

Of course I take the bloody bag because he is a middle-aged man who will expire with frustration if I refuse it.

The funny thing is that I used to be a big fan of men, I adored my father, grandfather and brother, but to be honest, I'd rather do without the interfering and being controlled. It's definitely an age thing, they are fine up to a certain point.

Calm and harmony was restored this afternoon when Joyce popped in for a coffee and stayed 4 hours for a good old natter. I burst into tears as soon as I saw her, (I am aware my emotional incontinence is irritating, especially to middle-aged you-know-whos), but once I'd got that out of the way felt so much better. Really if I was never involved with a man again but had the luxury of endless girlfriends on tap, within reasonable distance, I would be quite happy.

My pal, B just rang to offer her sympathy. He beloved dog was put down last year, so she understands completely. I explained that I loved Nutty more than anyone, certainly more than you-know-who, which was why it is all so heart-breaking. `I quite understand what you mean', she says, `I loved my dog far more than X (her bossy middle-aged husband). When he came back from work the evening after I'd put my dog down he said, `I don't know why you're so stressed, it's hardly like you had a stressful day'.
They had a furious row with her saying, `I loved that dog far more than I loved you!' And she's barely spoken to him since.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Nutty's Life is Slipping Away

It's with a heavy heart that I report that Nutty, our beloved Sheltie, has still not perked up.

He is sleeping most of the time, occasionally heaving himself up on his shaky old blood-stained paws to follow me about. Sometimes if I've left him downstairs sleeping, he will wake up and drag himself up the narrow wooden stairs to find me.

He has barely eaten anything in the last few days although I've tempted him with freshly cooked chicken and Lily's organic chicken and turkey sachets (which he normally loves). I've resorted to syphoning Daylesford's excellent Scotch Broth into his mouth which he seems to like well enough. At least that will give him some nourishment. His mouth tumour, (squamous cell carcinoma, to give it it's horrible title) is about the same. It's distressing how people turn in the street and stare with horror as he perambulates past in his pram, it does look very gory, it's true.

When we take him to the park he finds it hard to walk, he is so fragile, the smallest gust of wind will blow him over. Boyfriend on a Short Fuse is quietly devastated, he bottles it all up whereas I sob at the slightest opportunity. Friends say I am being `very brave' but I'm not, I have always been emotionally incontinent, although in recent years have embraced my family's stiff upper lip, but now I have returned to my old weepy form. Better out than in I suppose.

I felt calmer after chanting with some friends this afternoon. Dear Julie came by with 2 beautiful bunches of scented stocks. She is so thoughtful and it gave me such a lift.

Friends are very understanding. They know that grief is grief, whether it is for a dog or person. Losing Nutty is far, far worse than losing my mother or my grandparents, something I find quite surprising. But many people say they felt the same. Because love for your pet is unconditional and how many people do you love unconditionally? None in my case. I loved my father unconditionally up to the age of about 30 when he toppled off his pedestal, no great reason for that, just growing up I suppose.

So tonight my heart is heavy and my legs feel that they are full of lead. I am reassured that Nutty has had the most wonderful doggie life, most of them spent with his beloved sibling in the bucolic Surrey Hills, with acres of land to run free in and the last 4 years with us in London. Not so much land to run around in, but we made up for that by lavishing him with all the love in the world and the best food money could buy. Nothing is too good for my beloved Nutty but I must be brave and think about saying goodbye because he is worn out and tired and ready to go fairly soon.