A tribute to Spesh and hope my grief may help others who are also mourning the loss of a soul mate.
I am obviously grieving the loss of Spesh as I write this. Every moment of Spesh’s life has been an inspiration for us all, and I won’t let him gaining his wings be more than a moment of brief sadness for us all. He wouldn’t want that.
Instead, I am sharing my grief as I have shared his life with you all. I’m sure he would want me to be as open as I always have been and pass on my feelings in hopes it helps another who is grieving the devastating loss of a best friend and soul mate. I am not trained or qualified in grief counselling at all, but I do know grief and I do know how I work through it. I also know that writing this will help me with my loss, and I hope will help others with theirs. He was our boy after all.
Losing a pet is not new to me, I have loved and lost many some too young, most old and ready to pass and it never gets any easier whether it is sudden or if it is a long goodbye. Sometimes we are lucky enough to link with one through an unseen bond, in Spesh’s case a brightly shining golden cord of light where their loss is absolutely devastating. Every part of your daily routine involved them, from getting up in the morning and making sure they were cared for before you even managed your morning wee to making sure their beds were correctly placed in the car and in Spesh’s case having some extra food on your plate to share it with them as that is the only way he would eat consistently.
We all know it is said there are many stages to grief, and they don’t go in order, you may experience them at different stages, you may experience some or only a couple or none at all. That doesn’t make your loss any less! The ones listed for grieving terminal ill humans are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I think they differ a bit with dogs, but they are similar. It is important to remember that ALL your feelings are valid, regardless of whether the books or other people say you should or shouldn’t be feeling it!
Denial is the first listed, and gosh I did experience that with Spesh. My head knew he was gone and yet my heart screamed. As I sobbed and cried down the phone to a cherished friend when I lost all reason my heart denied what I already knew. All my knowledge, training and common sense went out of the car window. The calm voice of a calm friend trying to break through the trauma helped ease the shock and enabled me to think. We all need that person, and in my moment of need she was there. Don’t be scared to call that person, even if you can’t talk. Don’t be scared to let your guard down, even if only briefly.
When I turned around to come home with him tucked up my jumper I couldn’t let go, I needed longer. I needed to cry and I needed to hold him. I wasn’t ready (I'm still not). Remember the others in your home probably want to hold them too, try to give them that, they will be grieving too, and personally I found it easier to let go when watching others say their goodbyes too. We have lost dogs before, however my son has never been there at that time. This time I woke him up to say goodbye. You know your children and what is right for them. Children are often quite accepting of death, they don’t respond the same way we do. But it may come out a few weeks or months later. It is important to discuss things with them, remember to be honest and make sure they understand they aren’t coming back.
I remember when Kieron was very small and our dane passed away suddenly. Right or wrong, I told Kieron he had died and gone to be a star in the sky. Trying to explain his ashes were star dust was complicated! A few months later, we came home after a lateish night and it was a beautiful starry night. Kieron pointed to the brightest star in the sky and said “look mummy, there’s Sunny, he’s waving!” He hadn’t mentioned anything before that, and yes I did shed a few tears.
Anger or guilt. I felt guilty. I should have noticed he was struggling. I should have wrapped him up more when I took him to the car. But really, I know there was nothing I could have done, there was no time. There was no one to blame. You can say some hurtful words when you are grieving, you may need to find someone, anyone to blame, usually those closest to you. They will forgive you, but you need to forgive yourself too. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But it won’t help you, it’ll just fester and ruin the memories with them. Don’t feel guilty! We could all have done that one thing, but really, what would it change? I didn’t feel any anger, but I was extra sensitive to “the norm”, how dare they continue on as if nothing has happened. At that moment, we are consumed by the shock of the loss. Even if you know its coming, it is still not preparation enough for when it happens.
Bargaining: I think I did this right at the start along with the denial. I pleaded as I cried, but there wasn’t an opportunity to bargain beyond that. It was over too quickly. Instead, I plead for a little sign that he’s ok and got to his next place safely. When you have time, when you know its coming, last week for example I did my bargaining. Please let him be ok, I’ll be better, I’ll do better, but PLEASE let him get through this. Let him see his 2nd birthday…..and he did.
Depression: Yea, I’m probably still in these waters. For 2 years Spesh has been a part of every bit of my life, every decision I made had to consider his needs. I feel very lost I won’t lie. It’ll be the same for anyone losing a pet, from the way you prepare their food, to walks, to that oh so big empty space on the sofa. I honestly hadn’t realised how much room he took up, and just how the other dogs wrapped around him. Thankfully the other dogs, especially the ones needing extra care keep me from falling into a state of staying under the duvet and sobbing. It would be nice to wallow in my tears for a bit but they are determined to get on with their lives and thus I must with mine. This bit is probably the hardest part. Facing the day without them and you just do not want to get up and face that reality. But you must. If you fall into the quicksand of sadness it will be an injustice to the love they gave you in their wonderful lives. Take some time, but don’t drown in the loss. They wouldn’t want that.
Acceptance is logically the final step. I’m not there yet and doubt I will be for a while. I still expect to see his beautiful smiley face and floofy tail when I wake up. This bit will take time. Time doesn’t make it easier, you just get better at living the new reality without them. I am slowly collecting his stuff together, how can such a little guy have so many things?! Each item I retrieve brings back a flood of memories, today’s was his baby bath seat. I remember fondly giving him his first jacuzzi with the others, I also remember that wet waggy tail soaking me through. I think acceptance will come gradually as I get into a new routine each day. I don’t think there is ever an epiphany moment, but hopefully it’ll hurt less when I think of him.
What is unique to my grief with Spesh, is that I hadn’t realised just how loved he was by everyone. I mean, I knew he was loved. But since we shared the news that he has passed I have been overwhelmed by just how many people loved him. And in sharing his life with you, you have shared my grief, taking away some of the pain I am currently feeling onto your shoulders. You have all shared the load and for that, I am immensely grateful. As I am for how much love you sent into him. Someone once said he lives through his heart, his brain fails him, but his love for everyone, life, and me is what keeps him going. There are no truer words spoken. Spesh was the embodiment of love.
Losing a pet is far more than anyone realises, they listen to our secrets, lick away our tears, get us out and about, and so so much more. They are a big part of our lives, and you should be allowed to grieve in your own way. There is not a prescribed amount of grieving time, you are not less of a person if you pop your grief in a box and squirrel it away, similarly if you choose to wallow in the sadness for a little bit that’s ok too. But, don’t let their loss ruin your memories. The love they give us in such a short time, and the time is always to short, is worth the pain at the end. Don’t be scared to love again, and open your heart to another.
You’ll never replace them, you can’t but when you are ready open up your heart again.
Spesh in particular helped raised awareness of disabled dogs and whilst they may not lead a typical life, they can still live a happy life. He sparked debates on ethical considerations, compassion, quality of life, love, raised the profile of neurological diseases in dogs and I know his story saved several lives at least and gave owners hope for their special ones. He united strangers from across the world who followed his journey, shared in his celebrations and prayed if he had a wobble. He taught me a lot too, I have read far more articles on the brain than I ever would have without him. There are words I can spell but not pronounce and he has taught many to look beyond the difficulties we may face. He has changed my life for the better. I’d like to think he’s changed many lives for the better.
There are various charities who support people who have lost a pet. If you are struggling, if you have fallen into the darkness that swallows you reach out to them. You are not less of a person for needing that help.
The Blue Cross offer a bereavement service: https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-bereavement-and-pet-loss.
Spesh’s legacy is and always will be to always see beyond what’s right in front of you. Even on your darkest days there is hope. He has inspired to always keep trying. Even if you keep falling over you should never stop trying to get up. He has inspired me to remember that even if one thing is out of reach there is always another way to achieve my goal. He has inspired all of us to open our hearts to new things, challenges, to keep going even when it seems impossible. He never gave up and even when he probably knew it was time he still wagged that tail and gave the best nose licks. I am reliably informed that he will come back to us in a healthy body, I always said if he could run he’d be a nightmare so I welcome that challenge, I’d know his spirit anywhere. But for now Spesh enjoy the warmth of the golden light you shared with us. You are a warrior, an inspiration and my soulmate.
You are home now, and when the right day comes I will take you to the beach for that joint birthday walk I promised you on a calm warm day and watch you fly over the sea.
Sent to me from a friend, no truer words spoken: