Sunday, September 30

8th April 1998 - 29th September 2012

THE HOUSE WAS quiet and Babe’s basket was empty. As I rolled my first cigarette of the day I wondered where everyone could be: a walk? – no, they mentioned taking her to the vet’s to get her foot checked out. The night before, just as they had retired to bed, it began to bleed profusely. She stood on three legs with her paw raised, this open wound bleeding in two directions, all drops leading to the floor. She looked at me with sad eyes and showed me her paw. They must be at the vet’s.
As I smoked I thought about it more – why weren’t they back? How did long did it take at the vet’s?
Near the end of the cigarette I began to worry. What if she never came back from the vet’s? Eventually I told myself – ‘Don’t be so ridiculous.’ and went inside. Then – ‘O, she is so bad that maybe they are putting her out of her misery … and she is in misery!’ I could not function. I had to know. I sat in the living room and looked out of the window. It was a bright day; one of my favourites; sunshine & cold; the road did not move; all was steady.
After five minutes the car pulled up. I attempted to see the faces of my parents. I could not see. One thing or another was in the way. My dad got out and his face, in the two footsteps he was visible, told me nothing. Babe must be in the passenger seat with my mum. My mother was taking longer emerging – of course she was helping Babe out of the car. Babe never liked travelling in cars.
Then I saw my mother’s face and it was wet with tears.
There was no Babe.
I felt unsteady. If I had had to talk at that moment I knew that my voice would crack and I would be very difficult to understand. My eyes started to cry.
It’s possible Babe was being operated on … perhaps a mild course of chemotherapy … She was staying in the vet’s for the night. No big deal. It would be OK.
I went into the kitchen. My dad was there, having just walked in. He rested himself on the chair and crumbled. His face crumbled very accurately into a face that is blurry with sorrow.
I tried to ask the question but I could not.
‘They’ve taken her.’
It was a sentence that did not really make sense to me, not at the time nor now as I try to write it down.
I leaned on the oven and cried and my legs shook and my nose ran because in my mind I saw my dog being injected very slowly into death and, at once, I knew that I would never see her again, though knowing such an absolute truth I still felt short-changed because it was not something I could comprehend right away. I would need time. I cried and cried. People are so ugly when they cry.
There were dried drops of her blood on the floor.
My mum, herself in tears, embraced me. Embracing is very difficult for me, especially when my hand is in my pocket and all manner of liquids are running out of my eyes, nostrils & mouth.
It was a very strange thought to think that I would not see her again, she who had lived with me for fourteen-and-a-half years.
My father, usually as outwardly emotional as myself, was particularly torn up as he had always wanted a border collie and now she was dead. He had signed the form. No body. No ashes. No, thank-you.
I drank a pot of coffee in the cold garden with my parents as he texted family members who had liked the dog. There was not a constant stream of hurt within me but it came in lumps as I remembered certain things. Her basket had been placed outside, split in half by a shard of sunlight off the side of the house. Her blanket was covered in hair and patches of blood. Big bluebottle flies buzzed around to eat the dried blood from the blanket. I kicked the basket and they flew away, but they always came back. My mother very soon insisted that things be kept the way they had been so as not to dismiss her so quickly: a clean blanket was brought out and placed in the basket; the basket was put back indoors; food & water were topped up in their respective bowls; it was as if she was still there, somewhere about the house, dozing, looking up when you walked past to wag her tail in greeting.
Some time later in the day I realised aloud – ‘This is why I could never go to a funeral.’ All they did was talk about her. I don’t know why it angered me, but it did, and I couldn’t bear to talk about it. My grief, in a concentrated form, had manifested itself with the earlier outburst of tears. With those tears gone and further tears stemmed, I just wanted silence. They seemed to force themselves into talking about her. I lay on the sofa, with my back turned, trying to block a great many things out.
No longer is she there. Relieved of her suffering, this house is now without. I keep expecting to see her. I step over her imaginary head when I get off the sofa. I go to throw food on the floor and call her name. I do not feel as safe in the house without her. Sometimes, for a split moment, I think that I can smell her; the smell as she was and the ‘death stench’ she possessed in her last few weeks. As I move about the house I check all her favourite spots, but she is not there. Slowly those sorts of things fade out.

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