Gracie died just before 2pm on Wednesday 1st November. I am broken, in physical pain.
At the time, I was sat oblivious to this earth-shattering news, on my own in Gatwick Airport having a much needed cappuccino and catching up via Whatsapp, with my old friend Ash. With financial reckless abandon, I tapped my card on the barrier to get the Gatwick Express home, happy to be back in London and after 10 days in LA. I’d spent my final days enjoying shopping and solo cycling adventures. I felt free and strong with the wind in my IDGAF hair, like flames encircling my burrito-bloated face. After a 22 mile cycle ride along the coastline, I inhaled cali-mex food to replenish my stores and slept like a log. Life was really great.
I got back to my flat and started throwing stuff into the washing machine, feeling refreshed and excited for the working week ahead, getting back into my groove. An hour after I got home, life came crashing down, as it often does. Life can blindside us with something we are not prepared for. Mom called me with the news that Gracie had died. She had collapsed on a walk with our wonderful dog whisperer/walker, Donna. Donna rushed her to the vets where her cold body with a shallow pulse was put on a table, her fur was coming out in tufts from the stress and her gums were white. Poor Donna called my very shocked and confused mother and waited for her to quickly arrive, as the vet wanted to put Gracie to sleep. She was dying from a sudden heart attack and whilst being administered with painkillers, the vet recommended that it was kinder this way. And just like that, my little sister had gone.
The next 24 hours were a blur. I was inconsolable and on my own, processing the unimaginable, that Gracie’s once warm, furry body no longer housed my consistently favourite family member. I had barely left my bed. I couldn’t eat or drink. Gracie was our therapy dog, a little lump of love, who would follow anyone around the house like a shadow with her unathletic furry form and low-swinging waggy tail. Gracie soothed us through all ordeals from my mother leaving her abusive partner of 18 years, to bereavement and work problems. Whenever I came home, Gracie knew I was the soft touch, the one who would feed her slyly from the table and give her a whole Pedigree Denta-stick, not just her usual half. She knew we had a friendship that indulged her favourite things… I even let her sleep on my bed – after digging my bedroom door open, she would clatter in and we would lie together for as long as it took for anyone else to realise she had snuck upstairs. Like a toddler, Gracie’s silence meant she was up to no good, as when she innocently slept, her snoring sounded like a small elf sawing logs. In the absence of this snoring, silence meant she was eating your shoe or had pick-pocketed the tissue from your handbag.
Gracie was a steady presence that made our home what it was. A loving little girl whose favourite thing, possibly over dinner time or pilfering tissue or even sleeping in my bed, was the moment my mom sat down in the evening… Gracie would drape herself over my mom’s lap, resting her chin on mom’s leg. Gracie had been longing for this moment all day. She was emotionally sensitive, highly affectionate and very naughty in equal parts. We still have a child lock on the fridge and couldn’t keep a bin on the floor because she would conquer it and eat every scrap or item of packaging inside, before having explosive diarrhoea all over the garden. Gracie obviously thought the delicious contents of the bin was 100% worth it.
She was so loved by all who met her. Did she know it? Did we love her enough when she was here? She looked after all of us, but did we look after her well enough?
Donna deserves special thanks for providing Gracie with so many wonderful walks and additional love. It is a blessing that Gracie was with her other mother during her sudden collapse. Aged 12, there are many worse ways for a dog to go, and we feel so lucky that Gracie had Donna and her extended family of rescue dogs, Dylan and Mia. It is funny – dogs are the ones who often end up rescuing us. Some people have said that Gracie was lucky to have such a loving family and home, but I believe we were the lucky ones to have her. With everything my family has been through, I always used to say “I don’t know what we will do if Gracie dies”. Now I really don’t know. Beyond coming home with a puppy under my arm, I don’t have a clue who will take care of us or dig my door open in the mornings. I might go travelling by myself over Christmas. Sleeping in a jungle full of snakes seems like the easier option compared to waking up on Christmas morning with no Gracie to shred my wrapping paper and give gravy-covered peas to.
I promised myself I would not to cry at work on Friday but this resulted in an agonising tension headache and pain down the left side of my face. So much so that my top left teeth hurt and I don’t know if this is because I’m grinding them in my sleep or if grief is manifesting as unexplained pain. I feel better for crying but have cried so much and so hard already, I don’t want to cry any more. Gracie wouldn’t like it.
She was the go-to for a cuddle and a languid, lackadaisical guard dog who secretly knew more about what went on inside and outside our house, than we ever did. In her older years, Gracie started to smell like a lamb chop that had been covered in mini-cheddar biscuit crumbs. The smell of her snoozing on the sofa was so overpowering we would often walk into a room and wonder if she had left a present somewhere, but no, it was just her wiffy dog scent matured strongly with age. Her scent was a comforter, and it didn’t matter how I looked, what I had done or how long I’d been away, Gracie could not contain her excitement whenever I came home.
In the wake of her death I haven’t gone home yet. The pain is too much. I feel like a fragile, shaky leaf in the wind, every time I leave my flat. Gracie had a smooth domed head and long pretty eyelashes – both sets a different shade of blonde, framing her dark brown, gorgeous eyes. I can smell her and vividly recall the way she would become entranced with pleasure when i scratched the back of her legs and her affectionate head-cuddle where she would lovingly press her head into my shins and hope I would scratch behind the top of her luxurious spaniel ears. She would often greet me with a build-up of eye bogies in the corner of her eyes. “Has nobody sorted this out for you?” I would say to her and take her heavy spaniel ears before wiping the eye bogies away. We had a very altruistic relationship.
During the moments of her death, my mother kissed and cuddled her, telling her she was a good girl as the euthanising drug was administered. She was told with resolute belief that my grandad in heaven would take care of her now, and how very much she was loved.
Like the day I was born, my dog died on a Wednesday and I am full of woe. It wasn’t just Gracie who died, but a part of my life feels like it has also gone with her.