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Dear Friend

Yes, I know you can’t read! I’m writing this for me, not for you. I just want you to know, I just want to put something down, to say I know you’re not perfect, but neither am I. It’s hard to believe how we’ve ever managed to get on together — two females in one house.

Your jealousy makes me laugh. The vying for the man’s attention, the way you would choose to sit between us or complain when we touch. I’ve news for you — I was here first!

You’re so beautiful, everyone tells you so, even strangers in the street, but they don’t know you. They don’t know your mood swings, and how one minute you can give affection like water to a man dying from thirst then a moment later you criticise me and complain — and no matter what I do, and how hard I try, I can’t seem to please you. I am positive — I would swear to it — that you curse me under your breath sometimes. I can hear you grumbling, and while the words cannot be formed, their meaning is abundantly clear.

Of course, there are the occasions when I’ve shouted at you; times when I’ve felt such a rage, when you’ve almost driven me to it, like a red rag to a bull — and then I look at you and you grin back (though so many say you can’t smile), and I love you all over again.

There have been the days of regret. Why did I ever take on this responsibility? Why did I allow you to live with me when you’ve destroyed things precious to me? When you’ve been an inconvenience to my life, destroying a great deal of the spontaneity of freedom. Arrangements. I’m always making arrangements for you. Why did I allow us to share our lives when I must eventually witness your death? Why — when at times I acutely resent the inconvenience of you — do I still manage to care so much about what happens to you? Why wouldn’t I choose to have it any other way?

Your toys under my feet, tripping me up. You under my feet, tripping me up. Food wasted. Times when you’re sick. Medical bills. Pills I have to give you out of love, and you look at me resentfully when I have to force you to take them. Buying presents that aren’t appreciated. Buying them anyway. How big a list of complaints do you want?

I think I moan most about your hair. Your long white hair. It gets everywhere. In the corners, under the furniture, on my bed, where you rest your head on your paws and look at me with innocent eyes, an expression, I am convinced, you practice when my back is turned. Your hair — your fur — I refer to it as ‘tumbleweeds’ under my kitchen table. I hate it. It drives me mad. And yet…the one thing I dread — the one thing I can see in my future — is not the grief of returning to a house where there are empty bowls that no longer need filling; where there are leads, but you no longer need to be walked; where there is a bed, that you can no longer sleep in, for you are sleeping forever; but that fur — those tumbleweeds — and the grief, the unbearable grief in having to hoover them up for the final time. And I honestly don’t think I’ll be able to do it….

dearfriend

To all pet lovers everywhere….

There is a truly wonderful book called Goodbye, Dear Friend: Coming to Terms with the Death of a Pet written by Virginia Ironside in 1998, published by Robson Books Ltd. Alas, to my knowledge it is no longer in print, and there is no way I will part with my copy. To those who dismiss the death of a pet, I can only say that many feel as though they have lost a member of the family and the grief can be just as heartbreaking.

I wrote this back in June 1995. I didn’t know it then, but my own ‘Dear Friend’ was approximately halfway through her life. Yet, it feels as though I wrote this only yesterday. That time has gone as though a blink of an eye.

I did hoover up her hair — of course, I did. But, I can’t tell you I did it immediately. Some of her things I cleared away at once, but there were some things — some markings — she left behind that took longer for me to clear away. They were proof that she had lived with us, shared our lives.

The smears on the patio windows and car windows, for example, where she had wiped her nose against the glass while she gazed out longingly, or while she stood there just being plain noisy. Of course, even with the cleaning her hairs continued to pop up out of the blue for a long time. Ironically, I welcomed them, where previously I always spent my time trying to get rid of them.

To any reading this who have never felt that unique bond and attachment to an animal all I can say is they don’t know what they are missing. Also, I don’t apologise for it. I never pampered my pet. I wanted a ‘dog’ and I made sure she stayed true to her nature. Still, for a long while she was a huge part of my life and always will be, even in her absence. Although the sentiments here (including the poems below and a couple elsewhere regarding loss and grief generally) may at times seem bleak, her life and the time spent together were anything but sorrowful. I hope that comes across as well. My regards to pet owners everywhere.

End of Seasons

November 27th — the end of seasons.
I light a candle against the darkness
so that you may find your way home.

***

Absence

I haven’t cut the grass
this year.
I haven’t cared.
No need.

The absence of four paws
has turned sweet necessity
into just another chore.