When goodbye becomes your last.
1 year. 1 year I left you for a trip of a lifetime, and for 1 year my heart ached only for you. Your soft black fur, your wet tongue, the way you would cuddle me in your own doglike way, licking my face, your paw on my arm, and staring deep into my soul with your black eyes full of love.
For 7 years you loved me. For 7 years I was lucky enough to have been chosen by you. My best friend, my fur child, my canine companion, my true love.
At just 6 weeks old, you entered the vet clinic as a sick, emaciated puppy and I knew. I knew that you were mine and I had to look after you. It was love at first sight, the kind of love that is certain and strong and true. And in just 1 day, you had chosen me to.
For 7 years you were my rock. My peace. My calm during the storms of heartbreak, turmoil and chaos — always there, always waiting, always loving.
You never judged. If I came home grumpy, or angry or sad you never cared. You loved me anyway. If I came home happy, you loved me just the same.
I will never understand love more than I understand the love from a dog, because this love was one of the truest loves I have known. Unconditional love, the kind where no words ever left your mouth, but more stories were shared than some old friends.
7 years into our love affair, and I broke your heart. I left you behind to start a life overseas. But I was coming back. Why didn’t you wait. I was always coming back for you.
For months, you grieved, to the point where my Mum refused to allow you to see my face for it could break your heart just to hear my voice but to never be able to touch me or lick me or lay next to me on the grass or swim with me in the ocean.
Our happy place — the ocean. The first day I took you there I knew. I knew we shared the same love, the same happiness, the same peace. A love of the sea, the salt, the waves, the sand. The place we shared so much time, together, just the two of us. Where our bond grew stronger with every run, swim or sunset.
Now, the ocean is your resting place. You lay resting in peace outside the house by the beach. Surrounded by the sound of waves, the touch of sand, the salt of the water. But never again will you chase the waves, or swim through the water to reach me, or run next to me on the sand. Why didn’t you wait.
12 months. 12 months since I had held you for what I didn’t know would be a goodbye forever. 12 months we ached in our hearts, knowing that what was missing was each other. Almost 1 year to the day, I got the phone call that changed everything. The phone call, which told me, you had died suddenly while outside our ocean house. Never again would you lick my face and squeak with happiness at the sight of my return after a day of work. For 12 months I had dreamed of the way you would react when I finally come home, and now I had to accept the saddening truth that it would be me who would react, not you.
If only I had come home for Christmas then maybe you never would have left. But instead, I was coming home at Easter, 4 months too late. I know my parents would have told you. Why didn’t you wait for me? Did I break your heart? Is that why you didn’t wait? Because I left you and I didn’t come back. Can a dog die from a broken heart? Because now I feel as though I could.
Grief is a difficult thing to experience, when you had already said goodbye to the one who has now left a hole in your heart. There is the shock and heartbreak upon hearing the news, where the time stands still and nothing in the world can ever be right again. Then, comes a period of denial where because I am not there to carry your body and bury you in the Earth, it is not true. Then there is the period where I stop thinking of you altogether because the clutch of the heart and moment of remembrance hits you like a bus. And then there is going home.
4 months to the day I arrive home. I was not greeted by your manic bark or your excited squeak. I was not licked or chased or jumped on. I did not drop to the ground to hug you and to love you. Instead, I felt emptiness at the truth — You weren’t there, and you never would be again.
After 7 days, I visited your grave. It is only fitting that you should lay buried beneath the sand, the deposits of what once began as shells on the ocean floor. And as I sit here writing this with tears rolling down my face I remember the next stage of grief. Acceptance. Because acceptance was all I had left as I stared at the red bricks my mother has so carefully patterned over the ground, marking the place where my baby girl had been laid to rest by my grieving parents, while I pretended like nothing had ever happened.
My Dad told me what happened. He had to. He could not deal with the grief, the grief of knowing that he had found you dead on the ground. The grief of knowing that he had performed CPR on your lifeless body and by some miracle had brought you back to life, barely conscious but breathing. The memory of shouting to my brother to call the vet to come and save her. The vet came. He checked her; unsure of what could be wrong. Was it a brain haemorrhage? Was it a snakebite? They didn’t know. But nevertheless, you lay breathing peacefully as though you were merely sleeping. You were okay. The vet left. Dad stayed by your side. You put your paw on his arm, the way you would always did to me, took one last breath and then the light left your eyes and the world became darkness.
When light becomes darkness, a place can never feel the same because what made the light shine so bright has been dimmed, and everything that brought joy and happiness to our ocean place now lies with you. All I am left with are the memories of 7 years and the knowledge that no love was truer than the unconditional love shared between a girl and her dog. You left this earth to walk amongst the stars, jump across the waves, and run through the sand. I do not know why and I never will know why. But what I know from the depths of my heart is that a piece of you will always live through me, and when I look at the stars in the night sky, I know that one of them is you, a shining beacon of light watching over me with a love that never wavered, unconditional and true.
A dog so intelligent, so loyal, so true. Millie, I will always love you.