Sadly we have had many deaths around us these past couple of years, so let's talk about Dogs, Death and Grieving.
On Friday, 26th May 2023, at 5:56 pm, our dear stepfather, father, father-in-law and friend Rich / Pots left this world, starting his journey in another. His sister Diana, my daughter Lorelai and I were by his side whilst his daughter raced back to be with him.
Hannah, his darling daughter, and I had taken turns to always be with him. We had an incredible family team supporting us with it, too, my husband Ben, his stepson, Ben's brother Emile, Richard's Neice and Nephew Kimberley and Johnathon, his sister Auntie Diana, Emile's wife Maia and Hannah's Husband Dave. Not to forget Richard's dearest friends, Roz & Alan, Elaine, Lyn & Mike and Morven. It is a testament to what an incredible man he was that there was no hesitation to rally around and be with him.
On Saturday, 29th April, Lorelai and I went to stay with him and subsequently took him to the hospital that evening. Within a month, it is unthinkable to write that he passed. Having spent two weeks at St Peter's Hospital and then two more weeks at Thames Hospice. None of us could believe what we were seeing in front of our eyes. Our darling father and friend deteriorated daily and, throughout it all, remained humble and kind and cared more for others than ever for himself. He never uttered a harsh word or complained. His final words were, "Fed Up". Take that in for a moment. Despite the unfairness of the situation, the speed the disease took over, and the discomfort and frustration he felt, he remained the caring, kind and compassionate man we all knew and loved. The day before he passed, he said, "I am so sorry. I hope this doesn't remind you of your mummy". How can you be dying, knowing you are dying, and still thinking about how it affects those around you? Well, that is the legacy Rich leaves behind. He brought us all closer together than we have ever been before. With our daily messages, hugs at handover and sharing of love, this continues today, with none of us ready to stop the messages and all wanting to keep this newfound closeness.
In preparation for his passing, Hannah and I asked the hospice if his dog could be there when he passed or soon after to help with her grieving. They could not have been more accommodating. Not only did she stay with Lorelai and me overnight in the hospice numerous times, but she also visited him daily, and after he passed, Ben brought her in with him and his brother. We let her go up and sit beside his bed, then after we had all been together in his room for a little while, she went up to him again, put her front paws up on the bed, sniffed all over his face, paying close attention to his nose and mouth, then every so gently laid her paw on his chest. It was one of the most moving moments I have ever witnessed. She is not a gentle dog; being a red setter, she uses her paws to get your attention and has given many people a Potchine-shaped claw mark. But, at that moment, between her and her 'Daddy,' she was so gentle and careful. Whether you believe it or not, it felt like she knew he was gone, and it was her way of saying, 'Safe travels, I love you'.
Why am I sharing all this with you? Well, we rarely speak about death, and as my business name came from the magic I witnessed with my dogs and mummy, I have always felt it best to be open and honest with all my clients, past, present and future.
Rich's dog and three grandchildren played a prominent part in his funeral. Not long after, another dog was lying by the side of my Father-in-law, Barry, in New Orleans, providing comfort and watching over him in his final days. The unconditional love our dogs bring to us is so special that I feel it is vital we talk about how to be there for them and help them grieve too.
Whether this is allowing them to visit the person or animal whilst or after they have passed, or giving them space to change routine and just be quiet for a while. As with humans grief is individual and whilst I prepare this week to escourt my best friends dog to her husband's funeral I am so thankful that we are slowly starting to talk more about death and in turn how it affects our animals. Phil (pictured with Drummer here) loved competing in Flyball and in order to celebrate the family it gave him within his funeral his whole team are wearing their colours and have created a tennis ball wreath, Drummer is attending for his final farewell and the funeral directors didn't hesitate at all when we asked. It is so refreshing. Our dogs do so much for us, the least we can do is try and remember their grief and support them through it too.