This week began in my little world with a sad goodbye, as I gathered together with my mum, dad, brother and sister to spend a last couple of days with our family dog Ginny, before taking her to the vet to be put to sleep. At nearly 14 years old, Ginny had done so very well and led a full and happy life, but her back legs had been failing her for a while, getting progressively worse, and we knew by this point that after a couple of days in the sun, this was the kindest thing to do for her. The joy animals bring to our lives is never felt more keenly than when we are faced with a hard goodbye, and as we came together for her last few moments in the vet’s room, praising her one last time, the years of family life and us all growing up together, dogs and children alike, were brought into sharp focus. It is easy to get overwhelmed at the end of a life with the final moments, but in fact those aren’t the ones that matter.
The real moments to remember are those that took place over the years, just everyday and often even unnoticed snapshots of our shared lives. The clanging shut of the gate as we came home from school to a young and fit blur of black and tan careering down the garden path to greet us – that tan replaced over the years by white in an ever-elegant ageing. Rambling through the woods with the dogs and the cat never far behind, amusing the neighbours with the Homeward-Bound-style walks the girls always chose to make. Waking up to four black paws landing squarely on the bed, face-licking commencing. Summers in the garden with sticks and balls lazily thrown and now and then some hilarity-enducing attempts at agility courses. Bending down to tell a 9 month old puppy not to lick the plates in the dishwasher, truly believing the message to be received and understood, and smiling in exasperation when chasing away a 12-year-old dog from doing the very same so many years down the line. Each of us children packing up at different times to leave home, nervously stepping away from all the comforts there, and being greeted with such a welcome on visits back. Leaving on our wedding day with kisses goodbye to an always adoring dog, face upturned to us all as ever. Christmas dinners round the big table with wrapping everywhere and the dogs and cat Instagrammed, party hats askew and loving the festivity of the day, before all tumbling out to throw snowballs that Ginny hunted for incessantly once they landed, ever sure that she would find the ball she was sure she’d seen just in the next drift of snow, and ever the puppy she once was nomatter her age.
Looking back, it hasn’t all been plain sailing, and the last few years haven’t been the easiest for our family. In all the different phases of our lives, however, the good times have been made even better by the pets running alongside us on all our journeys, and the worse times been helped by the reassuring weight of a gentle dog’s head in a lap whenever it was needed most.
Ginny was faithful, kind and above all loving, and as our lives meander on in whatever directions they do, she will remain an unforgettable part of our family story forever.
In my own little family, we have been preparing for change too, although of a much more positive kind. We are beginning to get things packed up to move house in a few weeks’ time, bringing to an end an era here and beginning a whole new one we’re very excited to start.
We have lived in our little cottage for over six years – it’s the only place we’ve ever lived together and it’s been home to so many memories over the years. It’s quite a thought to be leaving it behind; but we are looking forward unreservedly to starting a new chapter in the new house. It’s close enough to where we are now to mean we keep our same area in many ways, but have a new village to get to know just one along from where we live now, we keep our open fire and gardens and add more space inside and hill views from the windows in the new location which I’m so looking forward to waking to every morning.
The hard work has begun sorting and beginning to pack, and it feels, with new starts on the horizon for others in our family as well as us, as if change is all around us. This one though is one I’m so optimistic about making, and we are throwing ourselves both into making the most of our last few weeks here in the house we’ve loved so much and into preparing for the new.
In the midst of it all, when the shifting of seasons becomes too much, I’m glad to be able to stand still for a moment with my boys, whether pouring morning coffee, spending evenings in in front of favourite TV programmes, taking night-time walks along the waterfront or increasingly light wanders with Charmer on the farm.
In a time of endings and beginnings, heartache and hope, I’m grateful for the family and friends, both human and animal, I have, and for all the memories too of those we’ve loved and lost.