It's been a while since I was able to face this Blog. About 4 months, in fact. I knew it would hurt when Mad Dog went to Rainbow Bridge, but I had no idea quite how much. He's been my companion and my rock for my entire adult life, and the space he has left behind is hollow and raw.
I can shut my eyes and see every part of him. I can start from his long grey nails (always a battle to keep trimmed) and those big bony white paws that he never quite grew into; I can work my way up his foxy front legs which only looked black from a distance - close up they were chestnut and golden and every colour in between; I can picture his white fuzzy chest, and how when you rubbed his armpits his back legs would tickle, way back before his nerves let him down and the link between the two was severed; the way the white crept a little way around his neck, and under his chin, ruffling up under his collar; his smooth black muzzle and how it greyed over the years, each new white spot a badge of a battle fought and survived if not always won; his funny flappy tongue from the incident with the chilli when he was 4 months old; the little scar on the very tip of his lip from when he leapt out of the shopping trolley the third day I had him; the long white blaze which had seemed so big and broad when he was tiny, but which never grew with the rest of the dog so it got narrower as he got bigger; those deep brown eyes and all the things they saw but shouldn't have; the wide and velvety ears, and all the things they had to say to those who could read their secrets...
I can go on like this for the whole dog. I can tell you about every inch, from the white spot on the back of his neck to the white tip that he had on his tail before he lost it. I can tell you where that tail started from and where it ended up. I can bore anyone who's daft enough to listen on the subject and still have stories to tell. But none of it brings him back.
Both Mad Dog and I were homeless when we met, and we built our world together, through the very worst of times to the present day. He stuck by me whilst I made what some would see as unforgiveable mistakes, and allowed myself to be used by the lowest of people. But he never judged, and he never will...He just stayed by my side until I reached a point where he felt I was safe. I now have a secure home and a happy healthy family. To this end, his legacy is the bricks and mortar that surround me and the love within them. After much thought, we have a new canine in our midst now, a rescue dog who needed a forever sofa. She'll be along shortly to introduce herself, I have no doubt. In the meantime it's enough that Mad Dog - or Dogger, as he was affectionately known once I passed the age at which my original choice of name seemed like a good one - would approve. He didn't hang on all that time to see this haven created to just look down from the Bridge and watch it going to waste.
Was he ready to go? I think so. In fact I know so, he was waiting for me to be ready rather than the other way around - he probably would have been just as happy to go a few weeks before. But it had to be the right time for both of us, and he knew that.
The morning that he went, I came downstairs to find he had soiled himself completely, and was lying on the cold floor where he had kicked all his bedding to one side in an attempt to cover up. His nerves has gone so badly he couldn't even drag himself away from the mess, and the look on his poor dear face was of shame and humiliation. After I picked him up and carried him out to his favourite sunny spot in the garden, I looked out of the window and knew that it was time. His quality of life had finally gone, and it would be cruel to force him to carry on for my sake.
Two hours later, and after much consideration, we decided it was best to take him to the vet rather than have the vet come to us. We wanted his passing to be as calm as possible, and he trusted them there. At home, we'd have had hysterical kids and no peace, which above all else is what Mad Dog deserved at the end. Peace.
We pulled up in our usual spot outside the surgery, and I climbed into the back seat to say goodbye to my first love for the last time. I sat there with him and for the first time in over 13 years he let me wrap my arms right around him and hold him tight. He laid his head on my shoulder and nuzzled my neck as I cried into his fur. I told him I was sorry, so sorry, that there was nothing more I could do. I was sorry I had failed him at the last post, but couldn't bear to see him suffer any more. At that point he made a huge effort and shifted his face up to mine to lick away my tears. He knew what was happening, and he was saying "it's ok".
The vet came out and I let him go, whilst R leaned in to carry him through the door for his final journey. I didn't trust my legs, unreliable as they are, not to let me down. But he was unable to lift Dogger at the last minute, so fierce were the tears rolling down his face, so in the end I took him myself. I didn't let go of my boy until his paw had been shaved, and the drugs had eased him on his way. I held him and smoothed his head as he relaxed, truly free of pain and discomfort for the first time in years. Then he gave a great sigh and his body went slack, whilst his soul leapt up and ran away to freedom.
His body was cremated and is in a box looking down on where I sleep when I am home. That comforts me. He lives on through his memory - they remember him at his vet, and in most places that he visited regularly in his last years, as well as here at home - and his legacy. He will never be forgotten. He taught me how to trust, and how to love.
Goodbye dear, precious Mad Dog. See you at the Bridge.