This week we lost one of the most incredible family members we have ever been blessed with.
Ava, our darling girl, left us on Tuesday after having had cancer for almost two years.
My whole family, even my sons who live overseas, are sick with the loss.
My eyes are bloodshot from crying and I look haggard and horrid like Sylvester Stallone’s mum. I know if he ever reads this he will beat the shit out of me, so let’s hope I don’t become famous any time soon, eh?
I know it’s going to get easier.
I know that time will heal to a certain extent.
My sister sent me a message telling me to just wallow in my misery and grief and I’ve followed her advice, because, the truth is, I WANT to feel this way. I kind of feel like I’m honoring her by hurting so bad.
I look for her every minute of the day, call her name when it’s time for morning walks and hear her heavy panting because of this thick Georgia heat, every time I walk around my house. Pete does the same, and burst into tears yesterday because he expected to see her laid on her shag pile rug in front of the TV...but she wasn’t.
So there....now you know why I look like shit, but that’s actually not the point of this piece.
So many of you have been there, lost a four legged best friend. You know what we as a family are dealing with, and why it hurts so much.
But just what is it that dogs have over us that they come into our homes, turn everything upside down, cover our homes in drool, dog hair and the occasional errant turd, and make us STILL love them to the moon and back?
People say it’s their unconditional love.
I actually think that’s not the case.
I don’t think dogs’ love is unconditional.
I know if I didn’t feed mine, or walk them, or massage them or have them lay on the bed next to me as I sleep, they wouldn’t be quite as ‘unconditional’ about their feelings for me.
I adore my husband, but my love for him isn’t unconditional...if he turned into a proper douche and started chasing after a young ‘bit of skirt’ (as we say in England) half his age, I’d be gone in a flash.
If he ever.....and I mean seriously.....EVER, started wearing shiny shirts with the top four buttons open and either white or red trousers, and wore copious amounts of gold jewelry, his ass would be GONE!
What if he ever dyed his hair or grew a combover? Ugh, just threw up in my mouth a little bit…..
So what is it about this particular human/animal connection that gets us right in the heart every time? Why don’t we feel the same about Sheep? Tortoises? Ferrets?
I think it’s because dogs are the ‘us’ we would like to be, if we blew away all the shit we saddle ourselves with, removing the veil of so-called decency and manners.
Some of you may know that I have very little tolerance for people. I see the signs in cute dog boutiques everywhere ‘Dogs Welcome, People Tolerated,’ but in my case it’s true.
My long term relationship track record is pretty crap, because eventually I’m going to open my mouth, say what I think and piss someone off. Then they’re going to get all offended, and talk about their feelings, blah blah blah, and then start crying and....you know how that ends.
Later on, everyone else has to get involved with the ‘she said/she said’ bollocks, and the one who is offended, whether they’re right or wrong, gets to sniffle and whine. Arms are put round each other, everyone commiserates and it’s all....Just. So. Much. Stuff!
Seriously who has time for that crap?
Conversely, I know plenty of people who never ever show their joy or abject pleasure at something because they think it might paint them in a bad way.
They get excited about a new house showing, but keep their giddiness under wraps in case the seller decides to up the price.
She might not want to admit that she really fancies the pants off of some geezer she just met, in case he thinks she’s needy and desperate for a fella.
Or they might look at themselves in the mirror wearing that gorgeous black dress and think ‘I am hot as shit’ but not dare articulate it, lest other people think they’re egotistical.
I know people who laugh behind their hands because their teeth aren’t perfect.
I know plenty of men who are frightened to hug a woman friend because of the whole political correctness thing. That one in particular makes me mad.
I know hundreds of people who won’t eat cake or dessert in public in case someone says they’re a big fat pig and should ‘watch what they eat’.
How about the amount of times you’ve wanted to scream ‘You’re an asshole..please just bugger off!’ at someone, but you just haven’t because people might think you’re a lunatic and not in control……
This is NOT how your average dog behaves.
Dogs FEEL things, they wear every emotion like a badge of honor.
Piss a dog off and you’re going to know it straight away.....make a dogs day and you’re going to be left in no doubt that you are the greatest thing since sliced bread.
There is no side to a dog.
What you see is how it is, in the moment, in all its glory, in all its ugliness.
Doesn’t matter who gets upset or who’s lifted up by it, nothing is faked, nothing is veiled, nothing is made out to be anything other than what it is.
We have a dog staying with us right now, her name is Libby. She’s a gorgeous 8 year old Ridgeback/ Boxer mix.
Libby spent the morning playing with a 19 week old German Shepherd pup called Roxy.
I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I saw Libby run around in unfettered glee while chasing and playing with little Roxy, the two of them whooping and hollering, jumping and jiving.
A couple of times I also watched Libby tell Roxy to f*ck off and not be all up in her face. But the next moment it was gone, Libby had made her point, Roxy was under no illusions as to what she needed to do to keep the friendship alive, and all was forgotten in an instant.
Unfortunately for me, who has to live in this weird human world, behaving like Libby is a practice I have adopted for myself because it’s just logical.
I say ‘unfortunately’ because I am in the minority.
And that’s why I spend more time with my dogs, because they ‘get it’, they don’t hold grudges, they don’t cast doubt on my plans or piss on my box of fireworks (not literally, that’s a metaphorical saying, of course), they’re joyful to see me and forgive me instantly if I step on a tail, bump into them or forget to give them a treat at 11am.
They love to work (I never knew a lazy dog), eat with gusto, can’t feign surprise, dream about cake, sausages and steak just like I do, and they run like the wind....just because they can!
All my dogs are different, but they are all honest, they all live in the moment, have no truck with drama, hate openly but momentarily and love joyfully.
They live in packs like we do, they care for each other like we do, they respect authority like we do......in wild dog packs it takes a village to raise a child, just like with humans.
They are, quintessentially, the ‘us’ we would be, if only we could be.
If only we had the balls……
Losing such a perfect creature from our family is a huge loss quite simply because they exemplify the life we’d like to live, encourage us to live it, but are okay that we are too scared to go there.
Today, take a lesson from your dog, the greatest teacher you could ever be blessed with, and grab life with both hands, be who you deep down inside thrill to be and live as you really want to.
Declare your love, shout your anger and live your truth.
YOUR truth, no one else’s.
Then, and only then, my friends, will you be as carefree and vibrant as your beloved dog.
Rest In Peace Ava. The greatest teacher God ever put breath into.