This is the post I never thought would be written. Having the cheeky, energetic and love laced life of my darling Izzie puppy change from present to past tense. This week has been, hands down, the toughest of my life. At 26, I count that as a blessing. Never in my 26 years have I felt pain and loss quite so deeply as I do in this moment, and I am grateful for that. But I can’t ignore, that although blessed to have not experienced grief and sorrow quite so profoundly, I still am feeling it now. It feels real and raw and new and frightening.
My beautiful pup, Isabella (when she was naughty) // Izzie (when she was her silly ole self), was one of the main characters in this recent chapter of my life. She was the character, without any lines, but whose presence was felt in every scene she featured and missed when she wasn’t. She annoyed me like nothing else, but one look into those beautiful big brown eyes and every ounce of anger, frustration or bitterness, evaporated almost instantly.
I’ve always been a very dependant or even co-dependant young adult. I cried when left alone by myself in the house for even a few hours. This isn’t as a child, this is in my 20s. I struggled with ‘being’ alone. I was riddled with doubt, fear and anxiety. When we did the big move to the country at the start of 2012 – I clung to my partner and struggled being away from the city (and my friends//family) for more than a week. Dave and I made the decision to get a dog – to complete our little family and to look after ‘mummy’ if Dave ever went away. And turns out, he did. We’ve gone through three years of on and off FIFO, with the longest gap of about nine months (or was it a year?) where Dave was based at home. But Izzie and I held down the fort, with Izzie always carrying out instructions from her dad to keep me safe and loved.
From the first time I laid eyes on her, I loved Izzie. The chubbiest of the litter, with paws like a little lion cub, and a knack for chewing everything in her path – I knew she was ours before the breeder told us. Then the puppy training started. She ate//destroyed//chewed EVERYTHING. But then she’d snuggle on your lap, whiz through toilet training with only one accident, give you an abundance of kisses … and all the annoyances disappeared. My angel did NOT like going a day without a walk (or two), which was awesome for me. It got me out of the house, exploring the new and beautiful surrounds of our South West home/s, meeting people, playing with other puppies, getting fit chasing her when I dropped the lead …
She woke up every single day happy. Happy to just be alive. Happy to see me. Happy to walk. Happy to sniff flowers. Happy to eat flowers. Happy to meet other puppies. Happy to sit on other puppies who gave her shit. I remember getting so angry at her incessant barking at 5am, I yelled at her and told her ‘Uh uh!’ right to her face and knew she was terrified. She was silent for the rest of the morning. Rather than hating the bitch that ruined her noisy fun, Izzie held no grudge and the moment I returned at a more reasonable hour, she beamed her gorgeous smile, her tail wagged like crazy and her eyes twinkled. THAT, I thought, is unconditional love. She passed away a few days later.
Her death was so sudden and tragic that, to be honest, I still feel I’m in shock. I’ve began the grieving process, allowing myself space and granting permission to hurt and heal, but I am not done grieving yet. And I don’t know that I ever will. She was a constant in my life, a daily provider of love, comfort, energy and companionship. She is the reason that I have never, until now, had one night where I have felt scared or unsafe in my home. She loved wholeheartedly and encouraged us to do the same. She forced us to be entirely present. As I rushed through the chores outside, she would remind mummy that playtime is A-OK by plonking her ball in the pile of clothes to be hung. She would follow us wherever we went as if to silently ask ‘can I join in too?’. Of course, it was very rare that we didn’t give in and silently reply, with a scruff of her head, ‘of course you can darling’.
Her loss had me question everything. Whether my beliefs in soul and spirit and life beyond this physical plain, were just bullshit. Whether when we died, there is nothing left behind but sadness and unresolved guilt. Whether I had been a good mother to her in the short time I had her. Everything. Hours of sleep lost to thoughts of worry and doubt. Anytime my mind went blank, images of her in her final moments flashed and every time had me think ‘how could I have changed this?’ ‘what did I miss?’. These moments of guilty conscience eased with time, but I still find my thoughts drifting to ‘what ifs…’ and she would still be here.
The overwhelming love and support of family, friends and acquaintances has blown me away. She was so loved by everyone who was lucky enough to have met her. Her energy and spirit was infectious. People who were once terrified of her stigmatised ‘rotty’ look were quickly won over when they realised she was just a dopey big ole bear.
I’ve learnt so much about grief, loss and healing over the past week and a bit. My journey is far from over, I still have lots to learn and will no doubt experience loss again in my life. But for now I have a deep appreciation for what I was blessed enough to have. Dave and I keep reminding ourselves that the only reason that we now feel so much pain and loss, is because that void was once full of love and joy. How lucky we are to have felt love and joy so profoundly that its absence is so agonising.
Thank you to everyone who has been there to catch me. I will be forever grateful for the love and compassion that you have offered.
Blessings, a little heartache and oodles of puppy lickin’ kisses x