Wednesday 25 April 2018

Goodbye to Tia

I have been avoiding this blog. Dreading the writing of it, for I know what it will be about.

I can only hope that it will be cathartic.

A couple of weeks ago, I had my beloved old dog put to sleep. Tia was 15 and a half, and had become increasingly frail over the preceding months, and the inevitable could no longer be delayed.

I'm writing this post with tears streaming down my face, such is the weight of my loss. And yet, the pain is almost nothing compared to how my soul would bleed on the times I saw her standing in the middle of the room, lost in some canine dementia, unaware of who I was, or how much she was loved. It broke my heart and still does.  

For more than two years, since her first stroke, I had told myself that the day of her demise was coming, that perhaps she wouldn't just pass away in her sleep, but that I'd be forced to make the terrible decision that all animal-lovers dread.

But still, every morning she would greet me with tail wagging, even though her cataracts must have made me look fuzzy to her. She had also grown progressively deaf during the last couple of years, and it pained me to think that she couldn't even take comfort in the familiarity of my voice in those last weeks and months.

And the parallels with her decline and that of my aged father have been most cruel. To see someone you love recoil from you in terror when you try to hold their hand... well the particular agony of that is almost indescribable.

So it was that I came to be saying goodbye to my faithful dog and packing up my father's house all in the space of two days. Honestly, I was broken. Utterly and completely bereft.

I shunned my friends - they didn't and still don't know what to say to me, how to help me. And in truth I'm not that sure I want to be helped.

Mine is a particularly strange scenario. Always more in tune with animals than with people, I have a natural affinity with them that isn't matched in my interactions with humans. Not that I don't like people, but to say they worry me, is probably the best description I could give to explain how I feel.

Animals don't worry me. They approach me with unsubtle abandon. Unknown cats in the street will sidle up to me, allow themselves to be picked up and petted and once put back down, will often walk some way with me on my path, before we part company. I have been called a witch in the past for this affinity, and maybe the name-callers weren't far wrong, for there is a certain other-worldliness to this easy familiarity. I'm aware that I give myself to animals, and that they reciprocate this affection in a way most people cannot comprehend.

And bizarre as this may sound to you, this is similar to the bond I share with my father. For he is not my natural father, but rather the man who chose to take me on as his own when he married my mother. Now, alone and divorced from her, he has continued to be my dad these long years. So the dementia which is slowly robbing him of the essence of who he is, is an exceptionally cruel cut. Sometimes he doesn't know that we chose each other to be family, just like me and Tia did.

If you are one of those people who will recoil at my putting my love for my dog and my love for my dad together in one sentence, as if the love for one should be so much greater than the love for the other, feel free to discontinue reading. There is space in my heart for both...

But there were feelings other than my own to consider too. My children had grown up with Tia in their lives and my other dog, Roxie had been adopted when Tia was already firmly established in the household. But they coped. Better than I did, actually.

I don't think I will ever forget the lightness of her in my arms in those final moments; of the limpness of her body as I carried her from the vets and back to the car, the poor, tired, emaciated feel of her...

But I will hold forever in my heart the joy of watching her as a young dog running across lush fields, of patting her and kissing her little velvety head;  the unique comfort she provided
me on those nights I had to bury my face in her fur and cry - for there have been many; of how she would lick my tears and somehow make me hold on until the morning.

For all those times and more - Tia Capuano, I salute you.  RIP until we meet again. xxx

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