dogs, life

For Bear Dog…


In life, there is loss. It is painful and it is at times, grossly unfair as some experience great loss while others experience very little. It’s just the way it is.

And if I’m to be honest, thoughts of unfairness hijack my thoughts as of late, there has been many losses, in many forms.

But please understand I’m not writing this from a ‘poor me’ or self-absorbed perspective, quite the contrary. I’m writing this because I find writing to be therapeutic and consoling. I guess in some ways it’s my own personal therapy session. Tapping words onto a screen seems to somehow ease my grief as I discovered the hard way that internalising pain is not conducive to the healing process.

Many years ago I experienced immense loss and rather than express my grief, I internalised it. I wept in private, I didn’t speak of my grief, rather, I spoke of Meg’s death in clinical phrases. I could explain in detail the intricacies of her heart defects and the consequential operations. If you asked, I would tell you. Yet if you asked how I felt, the wall would immediately build. Feelings were off limits.

After keeping my true grief private for 16 years, a small issue sent me spiralling into a breakdown, which thankfully forced formal counselling. From that, I now know internalising grief or pain is detrimental and if you can find a way to unburden if you will, only good things can result.

So I write. And now, I write about the despair and all consuming grief at having lost again, and this time he was one of my best friends and my soulmate.

There are many who may baulk at that last sentence, for my best friend and soulmate was a dog. But to me Oscar aka Bear Dog was my best friend and my soulmate, and his loss is immeasurable for me. And this grief I feel is real, it is intense and at times, it hurts so much, and is comparable to the loss of Meg. That may be hard for some to understand, but that’s okay. Views differ and always will.

But Oscar’s loss has truly broken me.

The following words were written a few days after Oscar’s spinal surgery. I believe a part of me knew I was losing my friend. I tried to fight the negative feelings. I tried to tell myself that he would not be in that 5% who would succumb to myelomalacia, following Grade 5 IVDD, but like Meg, I somehow knew. I knew goodbye was looming on the horizon. I didn’t want to say goodbye, but in my heart, I knew goodbye was coming. And it did.

For Bear Dog

Your morning ritual of waking, shuffling over to the carpet, having a big shake which made your collar jingle, then you’d roll for ages and make your bear sounds:  ah kar kar, before leaping onto the bed, and onto me and showering me with your unique ‘chin chews’.

At breakfast you’d always come into the kitchen and make more Bear noises, voicing your impatience at the time it took for me to make your breakfast. They were unique and so you. Arhharhhh

After eating you’d walk around and check the other bowls, then often you’d go onto the verandah and look at what was happening on the street.

You’d shuffle over to the bean bag and make a leap, it would take a few shuffles before you got your spot.  Then you’d sit like a human and look sideways at me with those beautiful, brown eyes.

The moment I sat down on the couch with my coffee, you’d rush over and ask for help to get on the couch.  You would sometimes do little half jumps and your front paws would tap, tap tap on the floor. Once up, you’d often snort at me if I’m in your way, or if I am in the ‘best’ spot. Yet you always, always would sit directly beside me. I could always feel your gentle breath against my leg.

You would come into the bathroom, peer around the door, see me in the bath/shower and give a short, loud snort before leaving. As if you’re saying pffff, guess I’ll go out here.

You would sit like a human in the front seat of the car, and the joy you’d get from having the window down was pure bliss.  If I put it up, you’d shuffle and the turn your head to look at me and give me the white eye, downward look.

The soccer fields was one of your favourite places, besides the car.  All I’d have to say is run and run and run and run…  and you’d run, then you’d find the best place to roll. The cricket pitch with its fake grass was a favourite.  But if you’d find bird or kangaroo poo, that was the best place for a roll.

You’d always want me to share my breakfast, that was a given. None of the others do, just you.

Down in the backyard you’d always help Stanley search for lizards, then if you got bored with that, you’d find a good digging spot for eating dirt.  If I pulled out the piece of shade cloth, you’d run over, step on it and try to bite it as I pulled you along.  When I stopped pulling, you’d roll and roll; the look of joy on your beautiful face was priceless. It was one of your favourite games.

If I mentioned the car, your ears would prick up and you’d start your Bear noises, and if I put my runners on, well that that was pure bliss and signalled more intensive Bear noises.

You are the one who loved cuddles the most, and I loved running my fingers through your shoulder hair, it was so full and fluffy. And you loved your head being scratched and if you wanted more, you’d raise your front paw, look at me with those eyes and head cast downward and demand more pats.

 You had a funny way of eating.  You would curl your neck, so your ears flopped forward, then you’d sniff, walk around the other side, sniff again, then begin eating. Your way of drinking was unique, I always knew it was you drinking even if I couldn’t see.  There was a rhythm, lop lop, – lop lop lop, – lop lop.

You were and still are one of my greatest loves Bear Dog. You are my bubba, my Bear, my best friend.

Oh Bear, I’m broken, truly broken.

My Bear Bear, I love you so much and I will miss you forever…

life

Saying goodbye…


How do you say goodbye ?

We can rationalise, question, rationalise and question again, but we’re never prepared to say that final goodbye.

Then you realise it is his journey, not yours. Realise you have to let go. Realise it’s time to say goodbye. But it’s okay.

It’s called grieving. It’s called love. It’s called loss.

Bottom line though, my heart is breaking. Breaking into a million pieces. Breaking as though its never been broken before.

You’d think it’d get easier. But it dosen’t. Hurt is hurt, pain is pain, grief is grief.

And there was so much hurt, pain and grief at being told 8 weeks ago that our beloved Simon has a highly aggressive cancer. In the 8 weeks following, we have seen our beautiful boy succumb to this ferocious disease.

Our beautiful Simon aka Big-bigs came into our lives 6 years ago as a happy go lucky 9-year-old dachshund whose attitude was simply divine. He was in need of a new home following a divorce, and from the moment he set his furry paws on our doorstep, we became one and our family was complete.

Over the last 6 years we have been so lucky to have shared our lives with this beautiful, quirky, funny soul. He has lit up our lives and given us so much more than we have given him.

And now it’s time to let him trot, as only Big-bigs does, across the rainbow bridge where his soul will be forever free. Free to dig for bugs hidden deep within the dirt. Free to grumble at any other souls who try to take a favourite toy. Free to bark as loud as he can when playing in the pool.

We will love you forever, special soul. We are broken, but we are so blessed to have shared our lives with you.

Sweet dreams Big-bigs …

life

Remembering Meg…


At approximately 4am on October 29, 1995, Dr Derek said, ‘I’m sorry, Meg just died’.

I don’t recall what I said, but I vividly remember every detail of that moment seeing her, in her bed in Melbourne’s Royal Children’s hospital Intensive Care Unit. It was if my mind took a snapshot of that exact moment when Meg, my first child left this world and my life changed forever.

And like an old album, every now and then, I dust off my mind and remember.

I’ve only shared the memory of that early morning with a couple of close friends over the years, not necessarily because of the pain recalling that traumatic time caused, it was more about how people would react. I would see pity in their eyes and whilst well intentioned, I simply didn’t want to feel like that person.

I’m not sure why I’ve decided to write about it here, now. Maybe it’s because her ‘anniversary’ recently passed, or maybe it’s because I simply need to write about a time that had a profound effect on my life.

Meg was born with a severe heart condition known as a Tetralogy of Fallot: a combination of 4 defects, three of which included Tricuspid Atresia, Sub-Pulminary Stenois and a Ventricular Septal Defect.

Her prognosis was not positive, however cardiologists advised that her condition could be managed with a shunt, followed by intense medication with a view to perform an operation know as a Fontan when she reached 2 years of age.

At 6 weeks old, surgeons performed the shunt operation, and in the 8 months following, Meg did quite well despite the daily medications and regular visits to the hospital. She was on drug called Warfarin, which causes thinning of the blood and her doses needed to be closely monitored.

Despite the traumatic hospital visits that required injections and echocardiograms, she was a happy baby who seemed to have an uncanny ability to draw people to her. For example, if we were out shopping, people often commented. I recall one lady smiling as she walked toward Meg. When she reached us she said to me, “I’m sorry if this sounds strange, but I simply had to come over and see your baby, it’s as if she’s calling me…”.

It did sound strange, yet this happened often. Meg was not any more beautiful than any other baby, but she had something about her. I sometimes thought she knew her time on earth was short and therefore radiated this, which drew people to her.

Due to her condition, she did not reach the usual milestones. She did not crawl, nor was she able to roll easily as young babies do. She could however sit upright once we had helped her to the position. She loved to just sit and either watch me doing whatever needed doing, or just playing with her favourite toys.

Sadly though, her time away from ICU was short-lived. At 8 months old she went into heart failure, which revealed a shocking diagnosis: mitral valve regurgitation that required immediate open heart surgery to replace the valve. To say this was a major setback is an understatement, this diagnosis was catastrophic for it meant there was little chance of the future Fontan operation being performed. However the medical team did not reveal this to us at the time, I guess it served no purpose, for whilst this diagnosis left little hope for Meg’s future, there was still a fragment of hope that we all, medical team included, needed to hold onto.

The following day Meg underwent the 6-hour operation to replace her Mitral Valve. The risk involved in performing this procedure on someone so young was high, and there are no words to describe the emotional turmoil we felt during those 6 hours.

Later, after being told all had gone well, we were taken to see her in the ICU. And whilst the medical team had prepared us for what to expect on seeing Meg post surgery, I saw past the numerous tubes and beeping machines that enveloped her, and simply saw my sweet, beautiful baby.

She spent the next few weeks in ICU, gaining strength with each passing day. And in the months following her surgery, she began show small signs of improvement and there was a glimmer of hope that she may grow into a beautiful woman, whose life would be filled with love and laughter.

This was not to be.

On October 28, 1995 I noticed Meg’s colour was bluer than usual. Her breathing was very laboured and she was not able to sit upright. I have vivid memories of that morning and my reaction. It’s been said a mother’s instinct is intensely strong and now, when I look back, it was that instinct that delayed my trip back to the hospital. As I sat on the lounge room floor nursing her and looking into her beautiful blue eyes, I knew. I knew if I took her back to the hospital, she wouldn’t come home.

But I made the call and Dr Fong said he’d send an ambulance, but I decided to drive her myself.

On arrival, she was re-admitted into ICU and placed on a ventilator. Throughout that day she fought hard, yet in the early hours of the following morning we received a call in our hospital accommodation. I will never forget those six words.

“Jen, come quickly, Meg’s taken a dive…’

Strange wording, yet the team in ICU had become friends, with staff adoring Meg. It could be said the wording was not professional, but it didn’t matter to us as we hurriedly dressed and raced downstairs to the ICU.

Walking into her room was like walking into a nightmare.

The floor to the left side of her bed was smeared with the remains of a blood bag that had been accidentally dropped. Dr Derek stood beside her bed, the frayed edges of his jeans stained red from remnants of the broken bag. The buttons on his white, collared shirt had been incorrectly fastened, making his shirt look oddly ‘uneven’. He’d been the doctor on call when the buzzers went off, dressed quickly, and as a result misplaced buttons.

Again, I do not know why or how I’ve remembered this tragic time in great detail, as I wrote above, it really is as if my mind took a snapshot and it’s now stored in my memory forever.

Across from Derek was a female doctor I’d not seen before, she was frantically working on Meg and I could hear her saying, ‘fuck, I cant find it…’. Alongside her there were a number of other medical staff calmly, yet methodically adjusting tubes and checking monitors.

I walked around to the right side of her bed, gently kissed her forehead and placed my mouth to her ear. I clearly remember my words. “It’s okay Meggie, you can go if you need to, I’ll understand…”. I do not know why I said those words, and for a very long time after her death, I blamed myself. If only I’d asked her to fight harder, would she have still been here today?

I now realise that was not the case. I loved her deeply and maybe deep down in my heart saying those words was some kind of acceptance. I don’t know, I really don’t. I only know that my heart broke into a million pieces when a few minutes later, Dr Derek spoke those six words I’d never wanted to hear.

At that moment, my world fell apart. And in the months that followed, the grief I felt was indescribable. But the old adage, time heals, is true.

A few months after she died, I remember reading a story about a man who’d lost his teenage daughter. His words resonated and they are words I have carried with me and lived by.

When tragedy strikes your life you can be one of two things: bitter or better. I choose better”.

Today, 24 years later, I have put the pieces of my life back together, knowing I am a better person for having had that beautiful soul in my life. Meg taught me many things and I’m so, so grateful I had the honour of being her mother.

Remembering Meg: a gentle, wise and magical soul…

Note: There may not be many who do read this post as I lost all of my followers last year due to a massive faux pas when trying to upgrade my blog. But it’s not about who reads it, it’s more about documenting digitally, knowing it will be here when I need it.

life

The colour of leaving and the importance of being present…


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‘I think you will like these lyrics Mum,’ my 21-year-old son said as I accompanied him to Brisbane yesterday so he could sit a uni (college) entrance exam for the Feb 2020 semester.

‘The song’s called The Colour of Leaving‘, he continued. 

I was immediately drawn to the title for it was cryptic, beautiful and could be interpreted in many ways. I also found it ironic considering I’d just completed my post about Meg before we left.

As the kilometres ticked over I absorbed the lyrics and as I glanced over at my beautiful son, I also embraced the importance of being present.

The moment was bittersweet and melancholic for the lyrics generated sadness, yet at the same time, the present enveloped me with love and gratitude: an interesting juxtaposition of emotions.

Settling lower into my seat, my gaze resting on my son’s strong hands, holding the steering wheel, I took comfort in knowing life is a kaleidoscope of colour, with the colours often changing with each passing moment.

And sometimes, those moments blend to form magnificent rainbows, allowing the colour of leaving to fade, and the importance of being present to shine brilliantly…