0945, Sunday the 6th of July, Spirit went to sleep in my arms for the last time.
Late the night before, she stumbled and couldn’t get up again, becoming incredibly distressed that her legs wouldn’t do what she wanted them to do. She belly-crawled around the floor, anxious to be near me, and almost certainly in as much physical pain as psychological pain.
My heart broke, and it feels like it’s breaking still – more than three weeks later.
Her own heart was still so strong, but her legs just couldn’t keep up with it anymore. Dementia was long-settled, and there were times she clearly didn’t remember where she was. She paced, and she paced, which was good for her heart, and her hind legs, but she couldn’t linger indefinitely.
In a way, it was a relief to have such a clear and obvious sign that it was time, but even after warnings from my vet, I was still not at all ready to say goodbye. Not even close. But I was often questioning whether I chose to delay for my sake or hers, until at last she made the decision for me.
A dog who can’t stand has gone as far as she can. And 14 is a good long life for a Malamute.
I miss her – all the time. Spirit was the dearest, gentlest soul, and I feel so lonely without her, even covered as I am in cats half the time. She left me too soon after Monster left me, and I feel like I really can’t lose any more right now.
I’ve been meaning to write this farewell entry for weeks, but I haven’t been able to sit still and write since it happened. I’ve turned my life upside down to avoid dealing with the loss, but I need to come back to the reality of what’s left behind.
We buried her, as I said we would, by the river on my parents’ beautiful property. Five silver birches were planted around her, and a seat will be settled in what we’ve already dubbed ‘Spirit’s Grove’. The saplings are naked and scrawny, and the grass needs to grow back from disturbance, but I will photograph the Grove in Spring or Summer, when the trees have had a chance to nourish themselves on what she’s returning to the earth.
The lovely vets at Montrose, who were so compassionate and understanding of Spirit’s pain and my abject and unabashed grief – really, I was a wailing woman made of tears and snot – sent along this lovely card soon afterwards:
My animals and I are so lucky to have such good people taking care of us.
I’ve spent the last hour or so sifting through folders and folders of disorganised photographs, collecting together some of my favourite memories of my beautiful girl. I’d love to caption each of them, retell all the moments, but my heart really can’t take that kind of masochistic abuse today. Instead, I’m going to just share the lot of them, the only context necessary being that they were all taken with love.