I knew moving away from home for a year would mean missing out on time with family and friends, celebrations and special moments, like my sister getting engaged!
But what I didn’t expect was not being able to say goodbye to my dog, who after bringing our family twelve wonderful, loving and tail-wagging years, had to be put down today.
After my sister asked what I think was every single day for five years to get a dog, my parents decided we were both old enough to take care of a dog and we drove to pick up our little guy.
Now when I say little guy, Harley was teeny tiny when we bought him and I remember putting the Foxtel remote next to him and realising he was the same size as it.
My family had dogs when I was little but when we moved, we had to give our dog Lulu away to a family friend. I think I was around eight when this happened and I don’t really remember ever getting her to give her away.
But I still remember picking up Harley and bringing him home and discovering his strange little quirks and personality. One memory I fondly have is how much my Nonno loved Harley, too.
Harley hated being picked up without asking him first (one of his many quirks) but once you did, he’d actually jump into your arms and rest his head on your shoulder. However, with my Nonno, he would happily be grabbed off the floor and placed in the nook of my Nonno’s arm where he’d spend hours if he could.
A few weeks ago I woke up to a long message from my sister explaining Harley had spent the morning at the vet as his legs stopped being able to support him. The vet ran every test she could think of and they all concluded he was fit and healthy despite his legs not working.
She advised it could be something affecting his nerves and could resolve itself in a week, six months or never. With that my mum and sister spent everyday hand feeding him, massaging his legs to keep them moving and spoiling him with cuddles, but he wasn’t getting any better.
This morning I woke and was doing my usual post-wake up scroll when I received a video call from my mum. My family was at the vet with Harley whose condition had deteriorated over the past week and whilst originally wasn’t in pain and was coping well, he became distressed and wasn’t a happy pup anymore.
My family made the difficult but necessary call to say goodbye and put him out of any pain and stress.
So that was this morning and I haven’t stopped crying all day. The weather in Paris is gloomy, grey and rainy and perfectly sums up how I’m feeling.
A few years ago my Nonno’s bird died and whilst I was sad that the last part of my Nonno had left us, this is the first time I’ve lost a pet and wow, it is really shit.
I spent half an hour laying in Florian’s arms just sobbing without knowing what to say or how to process these feelings. For the first time in seven months, I felt the immense distance between me and my family and I felt so useless. I then spent the rest of the day sitting on the lounge not doing much and now here I am with my keyboard in front of me.
Whilst I’ve tried to remind myself that death is an inevitable part of life, losing a pet really breaks a special part in your heart that’s filled with all the love they’ve brought you during their life.
If you have a dog, you’ll know how easy it is to just fall in love with everything they bring to your family. From their wagging tails when you come home to their snuggles on the lounge and when they sneak onto your bed, dogs really are the best friend you can have.
I came across a New York Times article about this very thing and read that losing a pet in your 20’s and early 30s comes with a startling depth. Often people in this age bracket see their dog as one constant through their life during their biggest growth years. Harley has seen deaths, breakups and a break-in, new boyfriends, family lunches and dinners, proposals and a wedding.
Harley was twelve years old and for a little dog I know that’s a good run for a little dog, but he became part of the family and you just expect him to always be around.
I’m grateful I gave him a big cuddle before I left Sydney but not being able to say farewell before he passed is tough and I feel so much sadness for my family who was there with him. Whilst they would have wanted to be there to make him feel loved and comfortable, I think seeing your dog take his last breath isn’t something that leaves your memory.
I’ll just take each day one at a time and remember the laughter and love he brought our family over the last decade and a bit.
For those dog owners reading this, go grab your furry friend and give them a big hug.
I’ll miss ya little guy.