I should feel lucky to have had three great loves who’ve loved me unconditionally but having just recently lost Chloe at 15 years old my heart feels broken and although it hasn’t yet been two months since she left us, the loss feels greater the more time passes leading me to think about all three of the dogs we’ve loved, lost and forever treasure.
My first great love, and loss, was Bonnie.
A quirky Cocker Spaniel, in any and all senses of the word. She was a funny character, I’m not 100% sure anyone, myself included, ever fully knew her. We adopted her at two-years old from a show kennels my cousin worked at. Bred from Crufts winning stock, she decided life in the ring wasn’t for her.
When I think back I liken her personality to Columbo. A persona that screamed simplicity, but underneath those massive ears and curly mophead lay a cunning mind whirring away.
I remember once while living in Suffolk playing cricket outside one Summer’s night. We left the door open and Bonnie and Jackson followed pottering around. Mid-way through what was most likely a shocking attempt at playing cricket from myself, I saw Bonnie creeping back inside then coming out and thought no more about it until I saw her repeat the action a few more times. I decided to creep up and investigate when she went back inside one more time. She had opened a hole in the bottom of a 30kg bag of food and was treating it like a self-service buffet.
Classic Bonnie move. In fact most classic Bonnie moments involve her opening and stealing a ham hock from the fridge, stealing and eating a loaf of bread at nano speed, before getting to older age and being unable to catch a treat dropped from hand height to her but opening her mouth and making that lip smacking sound we all know too well about five second too late.
My second great love and loss was Jackson.
He wasn’t my dog, not really, not to begin with anyway. Ryan had him from a puppy but when I first met Ryan in his dog training days, Jackson went everywhere he did. He was four-years old then and Jackson and I became friends, mainly through feeding him Skips crisps initially (at the time I didn’t realise Ryan’s diet mainly consisted of Skips, Supernoodles and orange Club biscuits).
Jackson has an aura about him derived from his statuesque nature and everyone who met him has a Jackson story. In fact the ‘Nervous Twitch’ mentioned in K9 Magazine’s last Dogosaurus was inspired by him.
He was a kind, protective, funny boy who made me laugh more times than I can count. Jackson battled cancer, and won, before passing suddenly one weekend just over nine-years ago aged 13 years old.
After he beat the disease we took him on a celebratory pet friendly break to Newton Abbot in Dorset. A weekend of pottering about (him) and falling in water (Chloe, his daughter). One of the funniest moments that weekend came when we were packing up to leave, it’s something we only spotted in the photos afterwards and the sequence of shots has led us to put our own dialogue with voices and accents, of course, to them.
For some reason Jackson took exception to something a dog in the distance said so Chloe peered over to check it out, while his grumpy old man face stayed put.
The next photo in the sequence was of Chloe running out of the car to check on things, while the third photo showed her back in the car with a satisfied (almost smug-like) look on her face as ‘daddy’s little girl’.
Chloe really did idolise her dad. She changed personality after he passed and although noticeable at the time, now that Mia has been left by Chloe, she too has changed personality. Chloe is my third love and most recent loss.
Indulgent this feature may be, I’ve been reading a lot about coping with the loss of a pet recently to try and give my mind some sort of order once again. One thing I cannot find the answer to is if I am alone in the grief feeling so overwhelming and all consuming weeks afterwards. After reading this article by Joe Yonan I was inspired to share.
At the time we had to say goodbye to Chloe, it was after a year long illness. We were told she had a combination of canine spondylosis and degenerative myelopathy which affected her spine with the effects worsening over time. In fact, looking back she hit all three stages from development to the latter stage pretty much bang on schedule as other dog owners had relayed in their own experiences.
Throughout the three stages of the disease progressing, Chloe needed more care and to the end was unable to walk or hold herself up late afternoon/early evening in particular so our day was scheduled around Chloe’s needs and what she needed and when. If only she’d been younger to take advantage she would have loved it…
We tried to manage her rest as well as we could, and sometimes it worked. If she would rest after breakfast she would be fine until lunchtime. She was a stickler for routine paying no attention to the clocks going back, but when they went forward she whole-heartedly agreed. She would start her countdown to tea around 10 to 3 in the afternoon. It used to amuse me and I’d get used to hearing the banging of her tail outside my office door or against my desk. You literally could set your clock to Chloe-time.
In the latter stage of the disease, her mind was the same but her body was failing her and we knew would only get worse, yet I didn’t truly prepare myself for a time when she wouldn’t be here.
As the disease progressed, Chloe-time worked against her. She would still want to get up and walk around, but she couldn’t cope with the pacing.
I am lucky in that working at home wasn’t an issue so for most of Chloe’s life we’ve spend every day with her and I cherish that. Or will do in the weeks or months to come I think with much more ease. Just now I’d do anything to get another 15 years with my special girl.
With Chloe we had three markers on what we would look out for to make sure she was still enjoying life and had quality of life, and when it got to the point that she was no longer able to cope we felt we had no choice but to make a decision to let her go because if we didn’t, it would have just been for ourselves rather than her, and she loved so fully and unconditionally, this was one final thing we could do for her.
It left us with broken hearts and a hole as big as her heart.
I think in the first few weeks I threw myself into work. With such a lot to do, I felt I could do more good through National Dog Adoption Month helping more dogs to find new homes and more owners to find their canine soulmate. At night times with the house so much quieter without Chloe’s presence, I just worked some more and Mia, who idolised Chloe as much as Chloe did Jackson really, was lost without her and slept for most of the time.
As November began, my work load began to slow and I found myself albeit busy during the day, I was running out of excuses.
I wonder if in the early weeks I distracted myself too much, or if perhaps I was mindful of the decision being the right one for her whereas now, although that’s still the case, the loss is greater because time has passed and what I’m left with now isn’t the Chloe on 29th September who needed us to help her, but the Chloe I remember for 15 years worth of fun, beauty and spirit, her love of all things orange in her younger days, her ability to have her eyes closes in most photos taken, and so much more besides.
Chloe once shouted at Andrew Castle from her dressing room backstage at GMTV while accompanying Mia (she sat with her back to the camera on a live appearance once also).
She once trod in and upturned a water bowl on Big Brother’s Little Brother backstage after being given a tour behind set by Dermot O’Leary. She also once attempted to usher someone out of our house because his presence delayed her teatime. I think I’ve said enough of her stickler for routine!
She had the biggest heart and biggest, most beautiful brown eyes and I will forever miss her. She gave the best cuddles and I miss her presence every moment of every day. I hope she knows just how much she taught us about living life the Chloe way.
If you too have lost a pet, share your special moments below here. I’d love to hear your own canine’s shenanigans and hope the antics of Bonnie, Jackson and Chloe here have amused you.