Sunday, 4 November 2012

A design flaw; or, I really, really miss my dog

Here is how it goes:

A wave of sorrow tears itself up off the ocean floor, rolls towards the shore, and has picked up so much speed by the time it makes landfall that it smashes everything in its path.

The writer part of my brain says: Oh, for heaven’s sake, don’t start with hyperbole. And a rather strained metaphor, on top of it.

The wounded part of my brain says: I’m trying to say how it is, and I don’t have good words.

The writer brain sniffs, and goes off to look things up in a thesaurus.

The grief crashes come, pretty often, perhaps more often than I remembered. It does feel like being smashed up. I tell myself to let it go through me; it has to be allowed. All the time, my mind is running around like a dog searching for its ball, looking in all the dusty corners and forgotten crannies, desperate for anything, some bit of knowledge, some shard of wisdom, some ancient debris of remembered strength. It wants to know what to do, and it is not sure.

Time, someone shouts, from the back of the echoing hall that is my current frontal cortex. It’s just time. This too will pass. It passed before. It will again.

Bugger that for a game of soldiers, says another of the jostling voices; this is a major design flaw. This empty, flinging pain serves absolutely no evolutionary purpose. If ancient humans had fallen apart every time a dog died, they would never have got out of the caves and invented the internet.

I think: this has no utility. I love utility. I know the drill. It’s a sign you have loved; it means the human heart is working. It is a sort of fitting remembrance, to feel the loss. Blah, blah, blah. But whoever thought up this whole shooting match really did not get the proportions right. You should be able to love someone and let them go. It should not feel as if you are missing a limb. It should not hurt all over your whole body. There’s no good in that.

The dear departed would not like it, should they know. As my dad was singing his final song to the pretty Australian nurse in his last hospital room, he would not have been thinking: oh, good, very soon I’m going to make all my children cry. The Duchess and The Pigeon, had they spoken English and understood the human concept of water coming out of the eyes, would not have lifted their heads in delight and approval. It’s all wrong.

I know comparisons are not much use either, at a time like this. I know she was not just a dog; she was my daily love and my boon companion. She gave oceans of unconditional, touching, generous love, and you can’t say that about everyone. But there is a kind man we all love here, who just lost his wife of thirty years. I see him out and about, in the distant fields, whilst I am with the horses, looking after his own animals. I think: how is he putting one foot in front of another? My griefs have been what I think of as the ordinary griefs; they would not make front page news. A gentleman of eighty breathed his last; two old canines slid away. These are the things that happen to everyone. That kind man has the rupture grief, the rip up your life grief, the loss of someone who should have gone on for another twenty years, if there were any justice in anything. I think: he is carrying on the face of much greater odds. I damn well can too.

It is a major design flaw, and someone should go back to the bloody drawing board.

So here is the bald truth: every atom in my body misses my old girl. The house is hideously empty without her. I had no idea until now how much she filled it; even when she was quietly sleeping, her benign, gentle presence permeated every room. I am really, really sad. My antic brain has no answers; I can’t talk myself out of it. In the order of griefs, this comes somewhere down the list; brave people face things much harder than this. Yet, just now, I am undone.

I shall rally. I remember a day, after my father, when I woke up and found with surprise that the worst had passed. There was a sense of shift; some tectonic plate had moved in the night. I still missed him; even now there are sudden moments when I get the Railway Children tears. But the world had rocked back onto its axis. Humans are amazingly resilient. I just wish we didn’t have to go quite so deep into the dark before the light comes again. Bloody design flaws.


Today’s pictures:

Everything was very still and lovely and light up at Red’s View. It was minus one, but the sun still had warmth in it:

4 Nov 1

4 Nov 2

4 Nov 2-001

4 Nov 3

4 Nov 5

4 Nov 8

This one makes me think of Robert Frost. ‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep.’

4 Nov 9

4 Nov 10

The dear equines were very sweet and consoling this morning. Here is Autumn the Filly, with her noble face on:

4 Nov 11

And the small ball of fur that is Myfanwy the Pony, who seems to have picked up the Minnie the Moocher act from Red:

4 Nov 12

I did not work the mare this morning. We just hung around together in the field, gazing at the view and thinking our thoughts. She does the very touching thing of standing at my side, without restraint. She has four acres of field to wander off into, but she stays with me. Occasionally, she bends her head round to my chest so I can stroke her white face. At least, I think, I still have somewhere I can put all the animal love. That was one of the great gifts the Pigeon gave – a place for all the love to go. Not all horses like that much affection; they can be cat-like in their independence. By some great stroke of fortune, I ended up with the softest horse in Britain:

4 Nov 14

This is not her most beautiful face, but it is the one I love the best, all dopey and dozy:

4 Nov 15

I also love that, as the winter comes and her coat grows thick, she has lost some of her duchessy aspect, and is more like a goofy old bear:

4 Nov 16

These are not going to stop for a while. The blog is not the blog without the Pigeon pictures. These are some from December and January. The beauty stops my heart:

4 Nov Pidge 12th December

4 Nov Pidge 17th January

4 Nov Pidge 23rd January

The hill:

4 Nov 20

Thank you again for the amazing goodness and kindness of all your comments. I can’t begin to express how much they touch me.


  1. I just found out that a lady I work with has a son with stage 4 cancer. We're still having a gas shortage here on Long Island and she's worried she won't be able to get him into the city for his chemo treatment tomorrow because they've run out of gas.

    Like the man who lost his wife, this lady has given me all kinds of perspective. I feel quite nearly guilty for having come through this hurricane with a mere four hours without electricity. All the electricity and gas in the world can't fix her problem.

    I'm glad you're still putting Pidge pictures in. Even while I'm reading what you write, my mind is searching for her face.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Scrolled down slowly and there she was. Tears started into my eyes, which just isn't sensible; I didn't know her, I've never met you. But your writing and photographs have somehow become so familiar, intimate even, that part of me believes you're that grand game girl who lives round the corner, who makes me think and laugh in equal measure.

    We are th'intereweb neighbours, I guess, you and the Dear Readers are a global village. Wish we could pop round and say, hate to intrude, but just wondering how you're doing. I guess when we comment that's the typing equivalent.

    You are much thought of - hope it helps. This is my second attempt to post. First effort had typos, tears in eyes not goods for proof-reading

  4. "love is love" (the sister)
    sometimes when I skipped your blog for a few days or weeks and I would come back I had this feeling of apprehension even impending doom before looking at the latest sigh of relief this time;
    You have made Pigeon a precious part of our lives, sharing the happy times and now inevitably the tears.
    Thinking of you

  5. It seems too much that not only should have this loss but that you should also feel in some way not as entitled to grieve as the gentleman who has lost his wife. When a friend of mine lost his cat I know he grieved far more than if any of his nearest and dearest had died, not because he had his priorities wrong but just because he loved that cat more than anyone else. He is a lovely man and it was agony to watch him go through it. We like to put things in boxes and hierarchise everything, including relationships, but life isn't like that for most of us, it's far messier and harder to pin down. You are a writer, so trying to pin down is what you do, and you do it brilliantly, luckily for your Dear Readers. You made me laugh and cry in this post. Keep treating yourself gently. Rachel

  6. I do love your photos of the trees - and 'The woods are lovely, dark, and deep' is the perfect quote for them.

  7. Oh no - I have been away working in Uganda - I cried when I read your last few posts - there are no words but hold on - you will learn to deal with this too, but what a dreadful design flaw that death truly is. Amanda x

  8. Like Goldenoldenlady, when I saw that face the tears started. I do hope you find some comfort in knowing you are thought of and cared about.
    Be kind to yourself. xx

  9. The 'love is love' observation in an earlier post, and your remark here that Pigeon gave you 'somewhere to put all the love' just about sums up what our dogs mean to us. My children would have the opinion that the design flaw was not in us, but in the face that God gave dogs such shorter lifespans than to us- in fact, I think they have told God what they think of this as we have grieved over our previous dog-people.
    Pigeon was incredibly important. You miss her. Very, very much. I'm sorry for your loss, but if she had been less of a companion you'd miss her less. I think one's grief is in utter proportion to the importance of the loss and its a compliment to Pigeon that she's left such a hole. As characters go she really was wonderful!

  10. There's nothing I can write here that can help but I'm feeling your pain - I am another of your sobbing readers. I wish I could drop by with a home-made treat and just give you a hug, even though we don't know each other in the "real" world. Your writing is wonderful, it brings me back to when I lost my dogs and my grandfather. Take care. x

  11. I agree with the poster above, you should not feel as though you're not as entitled to your grief simply because Pigeon was not a human. She was your daily companion and now she is not there.

    We used to have horses and I too loved when they had their winter coats, so thick and furry.

    Your woods are lovely and Frost is perfect for them.

  12. My heart aches when I see the photos. Such a difficult time for you.

  13. When you prefaced your photos with "It was minus one...", I didn't think about the temperature.
    And then, "but the sun still had warmth in it."

    I love Robert Frost. "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life. It goes on."

    XXXX Pat

  14. ah tania, am back from a few days away and so so sad to read your news. could never have said that i am a pet/dog person but even a dolt like me could see that Pigeon was the business.the heartiest of hugs to you.


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