We lost a beloved member of our family recently. Sasha was an almost seventeen year old rescue dog that came to live with us just over two years ago. She slotted into our lives as if she had always been part of it and even though she is physically gone it feels like she is with us still. For a small, mostly quiet, unassuming dog she had a huge presence which I hadn’t realised was quite so big until it was illuminated by her absence. When The Love of My Life opens the front door we still expect to hear the soft thud as it hits her head, before her nose is the first to pop around the corner – which if you knew her brothers you’d understand was no mean feat.
Sasha was at least fourteen when she came to us, low to the ground and rotund. She bustled into our lives and home as if she owned the place. When her younger, bigger ‘brothers’ would race outside and bark at perceived threats Sasha would lay on the sofa, possibly incline her head and say ‘Woof!’ and perhaps follow it with another ‘Woof!’. Ferociously. At nights she would hop off the sofa and get herself a drink before waddling outside to relieve herself before bedtime. It was on walks though that she really came alive. The years would fall off her at the mere suggestion of a walk; she would literally become bright eyed and bushy tailed. I actually always believed that she’d make her final departure during one of these walks, either through her determination to keep up with the rest of us or her absolutely frantic, mad panic to disembark upon arrival at the park. But she didn’t.
Instead, her health failed her, her body staging a mutiny. We treated as appropriate until it became inappropriate and then we made the decision to let her go. I’ve never seen an animal put to sleep before. It was so fast. The Love of My Life held Sasha in his arms, she had always been more of a man’s dog. He spoke softly and comfortingly to her as the vet readied his tools and then in an instant she was gone. There. Then not. It was peaceful and dignified and kind and calm. It was no less than Sasha deserved.
It was a fairly huge contrast with the deaths of my grandparents. My grandfather, a proud, dignified gentleman,very much the captain of his own ship, suffered from motor neuron disease in his last years. It robbed him of his speech, ability to swallow, and every other physical capacity over time. A brutal decline that robbed him of his dignity and any shred of autonomy. Yet his mind was unaltered, held prisoner in a body that decayed around it, so that he was aware of every loss of capacity and ability. Every indignity and humiliation. How excruciating that must have been! My beloved Nana who I have talked about here before, many times, had Alzheimer’s. My super stylish, fastidious Nana turned into someone who wouldn’t shower without prompting, who wore comfortable, practical, drab clothing she literally wouldn’t have been caught dead in before her mind left the building. Her body remained relatively healthy but the person I loved was gone and as my dear friend Popeye will testify this also is a vicious, cruel condition that robs that sufferer of, well, of their very selves. It is brutal on family and friends who must watch the people they love disappear before their eyes and effectively be gone long before they actually die. Body intact, mind gone. Mind intact, body useless. Neither floats my boat; there are no kindnesses to be had in either option. Maybe we could learn something from this comparison?
While we think about that I’ll tell you that I made a donation today to a very good cause in Sasha’s honour and if you can then I urge you to do the same. You can honour whomever you like of course and pick your own cause. For those of you who need some inspiration though, I’ll share mine. Go here and help Izzy save animals!
Sasha, you were loved and you are missed.
Life is short, travel safe x