Last time I wrote to you I was very, very sad. But I didn’t want to upset you so I kept our Sprout newsletter brief. You see, my precious little dog Jordie wasn’t well, and I knew we didn’t have long left together.
Back in April while on the plane home from Bali, I saw a picture in my mind’s eye. It was just a flash, but it was very clear… I saw Jordie sitting in the passenger seat of a van… looking a lot like this…
As it turned out, she’d deteriorated while I was away for those six days and I wasn’t certain if she’d pull through the week. I took her to a specialist, and then watched in awe as my brave little girl pulled through in her customary fashion (in her close to 16 years she’d had lupus, epileptic fits, lost an eye in a car accident and now had Lymphoma ~ a form of cancer).
Two weeks later I found the perfect van, decked it out, and we got the go ahead from the vet to go on a road-trip. So off we set.
Amongst close friends I called the Sprout Tour 2013 “Jordie’s Last Harrah”.
My time in the van was really about spending quality, memorable one-on-one time with Jordie. She’s helped me through so many transitions, some of which we quite difficult and traumatic, and I wanted to make this transition as gentle, peaceful and full of as much love as possible. For both of us.
Thankfully, it was.
Each day was an adventure, just the way we both like life to be, and we had a truly wonderful time. In a way there was a lot of work too, getting up to feed her every few hours through the night (a side-effect of the corticosteriods she was on was she woke up feeling incredibly hungry.)
‘Thrump’ she’d burst into the ally from under the bed, ‘Grrrrrrr,’ she’d growl until I’d get up and give her some food then take her outside under the stars for a pee. I would laugh at her antics, although some nights it was amazing if I got more than four hours sleep. I didn’t mind. She was my closest companion and I was following my heart which was more important than sleep.
(I got Jordie when she was 8 weeks old. She was a a gift from my mum when I was just 15.)
The high-light of our trip was going to Tasmania, where it was really about her and me and not much of anything else. For two and a half weeks I didn’t have to work, although I did film most of the Fairy Garden course, and each day we got to go for walks in new environments, see new sights, and smell new smells.
It was puppy dog heaven. It was great for me too.
All in all we travelled over 5583 kilometers visiting beaches, parks, capital cities, art galleries, friends and family. We travelled on the Spirit of Tasmania, sang in the van, photographed the landscape under a full moon, chased faries, painted paintings, ate yummy food, walked city streets, climbed over rocks at secluded bays, met random strangers and had a ball of fun and adventure.
I felt the grief in my heart shift from panic at how I would even survive without her (it sounds dramatic, but that is how I felt at first), to taking tentative steps to see the possibility of getting another dog, to realising there could come a time when it might not be fair for Jordie not to let her go.
I read some loving articles about preparing for the end of your dog’s life and cried a little, pretty much every day.
Back on the mainland, she stopped eating her food. I took her to another specialist in Melbourne, and we tried her on a very low dose of chemo to try to help reduce the size of the swollen lymph glands throughout her body and especially under her chin. It didn’t help.
She wasn’t in pain, but I could tell she felt pretty sick. It was a roller-coaster ride home. I didn’t know if we’d make it to the Sprout Tour Rest Stop at the Radfords’ in Albert NSW (we did, more about that in another post), or even if we’d make it back to my little cottage in time.
I desperately wanted her to see some of our loved ones in Brisbane & the Sunshine Coast before she passed away. She did. We had moments in the park. Visits to my family. Tasty morsels and hand-fed treats.
And then, the day after getting home, I made the most difficult phone call of my life. I couldn’t get any words out. The vet nurse said ‘Hello? Hello? Is anyone there?’.
I stammered out my name, “You don’t sound very good, Nicola” she said.
“I’ve just got home from a holiday with Jordie. We had a wonderful time, but she’s not well. I think it’s time, Brooke,” I said. She cried too. Arrangements were made for that evening.
I called my closest girlfriend, Christy, who had been planning to come up to celebrate our 20 year anniversary of being friends, and she moved mountains to be here one night earlier, to be with us to the end.
I washed my hair. Put on my best clothes. Lay on the bed and held Jordie, telling her how much I loved her (for the umpteenth time), how much she’d been a wonderful companion, and how I was going to be ok now. I had a home, a business I loved, my health, my ex and I were friends, and my family was ok now. She’d helped me through it all.
She could go peacefully.
She understood. I felt she told me I’d been a great owner and thanked me for making life so much fun.
I lit candles in a semi-circle, played Enigma and Putumayo Presents Yoga, and our vet who also loved her, his name is Buzz, came to my home.
It was the best it could have been.
I held her little head and my sobs in until Buzz said, “She’s gone, Nic.” Christy held me. We all poured a glass of Pinot Noir I’d bought in Freycinet National Park in Tassie, and reminisced. It was painful, it was also a relief. I’d been so nervous about her being in any pain or hurting herself for so many months.
Christy stayed with me for three nights. We celebrated our friendship’s anniversary at The Spirit House, a Thai restaurant I’ve wanted to go to for years, walked along the beach, looked in shops along Hastings street, bought a beautiful friendship ring, and then, on the last day she was here, I Googled “Cavoodle puppies, Sunshine Coast.” Just to see photos and if any were around (I’d fallen in love with Ruby, Hayley Carr’s Cavoodle puppy, on the Sprout Tour drive down south.)
(That’s me and Christy when we met in Hawaii 20 years ago. I was 11 and she was 15. We are soul sisters. We’ve been through thick and thin, births, deaths, marriages, illnesses, break-ups and so many laughs we often make each other cry. She was the perfect support for this painful transition.)
A new listing of Cavoodle pups had been posted the day before. There were seven little puppies, just an hour up the road from me, at a woman’s home in the country.
I was bouncing with enthusiasm. Christy was joking there’s really no such thing as ‘puppy browsing’. But I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I knew I’d get another dog. I’d just wanted to wait until after my little girl was gone so I could give her all my attention right up until the end. I’d done that.
We hoped in the car, followed Google maps and turned down a dirt driveway and found seven little puppies waiting outside the house.
It was actually quite emotional, trying to choose. At one stage Christy and I thought we may need to see another litter. Then, I picked up ‘Runty’ and turned away from the others for a few steps.
My heart murmured “I love you already,” and she looked me in the eye. “Would you like to be my friend?” I asked out loud. She kept looking at my with her black eyes and didn’t wiggle away from my hands.
I spun around. “I think I’ll take this one!”
My soul had led me to Lacey Jane.
She’s so precious. On our first night together, my first night at home without Jordie or Christy, Lacey slept quietly in her little basket beside my bed. She’s a very gentle, peaceful spirit and it all feels very good. Very real. Very gentle. And with a future that’s bright.
I’m ok. Jordie was ok. And now Lacey Jane is here.
In one week I’ve gone from hand-feeding my dear 16 year old dog to keep her alive, to hand-feeding a 9.5 week old playful puppy tasty treats to begin to train her. The similarities are made easier, the tears still come, but the smiles do too, because I listened to my heart, followed my soul’s little flashes of vision, and stayed gentle along the way.
Transitions don’t have to be how we see them on TV, or hear them sung of in pop songs.
They don’t have to be all tragedy with no conscious input from our part. With awareness, love and gentleness, we can ease the pain enormously.
I’ve had many transitions in my life.
In my teenage years most of them were thrust into my world without so much as a moment’s notice. It took a heavy toll on my nervous system and my levels of joy, energy and health in the long run. I didn’t want to go through extra grief when Jordie passed away. I didn’t want to lose my footing for months or years because I hadn’t prepared as well as I could (I’ve spoken with people who’ve experienced 6 to 12 months of depression after losing their dogs.)
So instead I chose what was a bit of an unconventional path, and journeyed with her in a van for two months saying goodbye. I was following my little bit of intuition and it paid off.
Then, when I knew it was time to let her go, I was so overwhelmed with grief at the thought of having her go on a veterinary table, I asked my soul if there was a more gentle way. That’s when I saw a picture with candles, music and Christy. It made the transition so much easier. Like a sacred ceremony and as peaceful as possible.
Sprouter, if you are facing a loss, a break-up, a diagnosis, or a death, check in with your soul and see if there are any unconventional ways that you can move ahead gently. It doesn’t have to be how you’ve seen it done before. It can be done with dignity, honouring yourself and others, and with great love.
Be kind to yourself, Sprouter.
In loving memory of Jordie… You were the most amazing dog I’ve ever known. I was so blessed by having and loving you.
xxxxx All my love. xxxx
PS. Lacey Jane already loves the garden. She seems to have a taste for pumpkin leaves, freshly cut grass and dandelion.