Friday, March 19, 2010

Alfie and riding the red dragon

A few days after the sunshine wedding (see previous post), my best pal of twelve years died at home after a difficult couple of years of age-related illnesses. If you had said to me before the wedding that Alfie was about to die, my reply would have been that it would be a relief. Both the Scribe and myself had suffered broken sleep for a couple of years coping with the demands of an old dog. It was becoming distressing to say the least to see our once dignified and proud puppy soiling himself, going blind and a bit deaf. However, we never considered putting him down as he had some quality of life and wasn't suffering. He still enjoyed the odd walk and his meals.
However, I do believe he hung on for the wedding and finally couldn't take it any more.
I found him on the kitchen floor in the early hours. We were expecting him to die very soon as he had weakened so much.
But I don't like to think about those final days for him. I like to remember our boy when he was in full health and strength. Grief and love have no logic. They take no heed of clocks, or well meaning friends. Grief and love are as logical and meaningless as a red dragon.
I was unprepared for how immense my sorrow would be over losing my friend. I miss him every second of every day and the house and my heart is an empty shell without his presence.
We buried him in the garden amongst the geraniums and sun-flowers. He went to his grave surrounded with all his favourite things around him. Around his neck I hung a special piece of jewellery from Italia. Part of my bridal bouquet also went with him.
It is alienating when you are mourning a dog. People tend to dismiss the grief and I understand that, I really do. But my grief - my bucking, biting red dragon - has no logic or reason. I can not diminish Aflie's life by not grieving fully for him.
He was an important member of this household. When we first bought our little brick cottage, I went to the dog's home and he came home with us. He was on death row as his callous owners had abandoned him there to go overseas. His stomach was red raw with allergies and he was shaking in shock. The Scribe didn't want me to take him as he said, 'he's going to die tonight.' I replied, 'He could die at my house then in comfort and dignity.’ There was something about the look in his eyes that went to my soul. I paid my $120 dollars and he went home with us to die.
Of course he didn't die. He lived for twelve more years and was a continual shadow in our house to all the domestic dramas. He was always there, the silent, always loving witness. At our heels when we were writing, or reading. Continually being trodden upon when he went deaf in his need to be near his family.
I'll never forgive myself for in the last month of his life, snapping once in the early hours as I rose wearily to clean up his mess, 'how much longer is this going to go on for? When are you going to go?' They were terrible words to utter to my most faithful friend and companion. I have wept bitterly as these words have returned to haunt me.
Whilst I ride this red dragon of grief and mourning, I was going to take another break from Tale Peddler. It felt simply too hard for me to be upbeat, cheerful and inspiring when I feel this shattered. However, I think for a Blog to be truly real, it must at times bend to the tragedies that will befall us all. The Blog helps to distract my thoughts at times from my loss. Tale Peddler was always about trying to inspire myself, and if other people became inspired in the process then so be it. It was never about putting a false, jolly blogging mask on but rather a creative scrapbook that supported my writing and life.
Alfie was a great friend. He loved the wind in his fur and car rides. He loved baked lamb dinners and sheep. He loved walks and being with his family.
We are lucky to have a very understanding young priest in this area who kindly consented to say prayers for our boy in his Masses. Alfie came a long way since his time on Death Row.
He will be forever missed and mourned in our home.


  1. so sorry for the loss of your affectionate alfie. you have written a beautiful and very astute description of grief. there is little logic or reason in most matters of the heart i guess, and that's ok. it's wonderful that you gave him such a happy life for those twelve years. p xx

  2. Thanks Pinry. I really appreciate that comment. It was a difficult post. He has left an enormous hole in my life. xx

  3. Oh! What a lovely moving tribute....and a wonderful story... I'm so sorry for your loss...especially straight after the wedding but at least you had him there for it which is one consolation. Poor little mite - but hey, you should feel so happy that you gave him those 12 extra years that he deserved. Don't beat yourself up about those words you said - you only said them because it distressed you to see him in such a way. My mum was often quite mean to our grandmother when she was deteriorating and it was only because she found it hard to deal with the fact that her mum had reversed and become this is difficult to deal with this sort of change, whoever it is and in whatever form...she feels awful for it now but at the time she couldn't help it. Maybe it is a form of early grief...

    The burial sounds very poignant and the priest - what a lovely fellow to do that...and as for blogs being just jolly places - well no, they can't be - life is life - it is not all roses...there are times when the shit hits the fan - writing about it helps and it also gives body and meaning and lets us see you more clearly as a real person. I sometimes get tired of forever joyful blog entries...they start to feel a bit fake after a while even if that is not the writer's intention....anyway big hug to you darling and come back soon when you are feeling better - will miss you xxx

  4. Thank you, Curious Cat for those words. I know you have been through your own grief and loss and so can relate as well. I appreciate you took the time to leave such a profound comment. xx

  5. RIP little Alfie.

    I still miss my dog after 8 years. We hold them in our hearts forever.

  6. Hi Josephine,

    Your pain is palpable to me and I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I had the difficult job at the end of last year putting my five year old Cavalier to sleep because of ongoing medical problems. The guilt is still overwhelming. Even tonight, before reading your post, I shed tears for him. I wrote a couple of posts for him in my blog. The Missing Bits was written about the great gaping hole he left behind when he went. Like you, I was unprepared for the loss and couldn't believe (still can't) just how much it hurts to lose such a loyal companion.

    I was lucky - I crossed paths with a wonderful animal grief counsellor and I wrote the second blog post titled Mending Socks as a tribute to her and to acknowledge the enormous grief that consumed me. Love comes in all forms. I felt many people found this a difficult concept to grasp - that I could grieve so much for a dog. But I have never loved any sentient being the way that I love my dogs. And I have never been treated so preciously as the way they have treated me through their lives.

    It's difficult to watch someone you love die - no matter what form they take. Don't be too hard on yourself for words passed. He'd want you to forgive yourself and be happy. For as you already know, dogs are the most forgiving creatures on earth. I honestly don't think we ever get over them, we just learn to move on without their physical presence.

    I know as the months have passed, it has become easier when I never believed that it would. I laughed for the first time thinking about my little fella the other day - joyful laughter at his memory. I'm sure that time will come to you, too, when you can think of him without the immense pain that is woven inside you right now.

    You gave him a beautiful life. Fulfilled a sacred contract together. Despite the difficulty of separation, you both have been blessed in loving each other. Love is love - no matter what...and it never dies.

    Take care,


  7. Dear Rachel, I am sorry to read about your dog as well. I am very touched you gave my Alfie your time.
    Lynn, it is way past my bedtime here but tomorrow I am going to read those posts on your Blog. Many thanks for taking the time to leave such a beautiful comment. I feel for your loss as well. xx

  8. Hi Jospehine, firstly I am so very sorry for this loss. We lost our dog last year and the pain continues, it just changes and you feel it in different ways. I wish I could do something to help you. Sorry again. xx

  9.'s hard for me to write this...the exact same thing happened to me last beloved old heeler died in her sleep whilst i was at work....i was heartbroken. still am. i miss her every day, and i will love her every day for the rest of my life.
    i adopted another dog at the end of last year (can i plug Pet's Haven Animal Shelter in Woodend Victoria, here?) and that has helped enormously but i still cry for my old dog at least once a week, but i also mostly now remember her with a smile.
    i'm so sorry for your

  10. Hi Simone, I do remember when you lost your lovely dog. Thanks for the comment about the pain changing. I know you know how I feel.
    Dear Cat, the above applies to you as well. Thanks dearest for that comment. Alfie was a pound dog and I always think it's better to rescue a dog on death row than buy a pet shop dog. I know one day we will get another dog as I would hate Daisy to experience growing up withot a dog but not for a few years. I miss and love Alfie so much. Thanks for the comment as it helps so much to know others out there feel exactly the same way. xx

  11. I feel you. I am a new pet owner and I ma terrified for what I will feel like when he is gone. The wedding head peices was beautiful. I am happy that he was able to live a long life.


  12. Alfie surely held out for your wedding - he wasn't going to miss that! Bless.

    I'm sorry for your loss and you described it perfectly - what losing a pet means. People who dismiss the grief are just not in the clan.

    I can sense the Brigitte Bardot in you Josephine. One fine post xxx

  13. Oh that is so sad. I am so sorry for your loss. It is always horrible losing a loved pet. It was wonderful to read about how you saved him from the home and gave him such a lovely life.

  14. i think that's why we all told you our let you know you're not alone....
    and, one day when you're ready, you will adopt another dog...i will always have a dog in my life....the house is so empty without one! xxx

  15. Josephine

    My heart breaks open for you and your dear one -- a beautiful tribute for a loving loyal critter -- a loss we who hold dear our animals can feel with you--
    To begin at the end
    a last moment of shared love, in the eyes of your dying loyal friend, conveying gratitude for your nurturing care, as all who are loved stand before him in the light of recognition - a gentle wind calls him home.


  16. Hello Twila, Nice to meet you. I shall check out your Blog. Thanks for your comment and it is a blessing he did live to an advanced age. It means of course more years to bond and mourn but you can't have it both ways!
    Thanks Sharon for your support as always. I know we are in the same clan. Love the BB comparison. I once saw pics of BB's home in Paris Match and she was sitting outside looking feisty and gorgeous as ever surrounded by crosses of all her dog friends. That woman is divine.
    Thanks Esme for your comment. I always get so much pleasure from your lovely Blog and photos.
    Cat, I agree how empty the house seems with no dog. I have a much loved cat but she is fretting for her friend as well I think it's a shame more people don't have dogs these days. I always had a dog when I was growing up and they teach children so much.
    Joanny your comment is truly beautiful. It is a real pleasure to 'meet' you and I look forward to following your beautiful Blog. xx

  17. I'm so sorry to hear about your beloved Alfie. I had an Alfie once too, a tiny black cat who was the runt of the litter and who was given only months to live. I decided to foster him, and he had a grand old life for over two years, but in the end succumbed to his congenital kidney problem. In the end of he really suffered - for a very short time, but still, I sometimes wonder if I shouldn't have been quicker in taking him to the vet... I'll never really know because his health ebbed and flowed so much so it was really quite hard to gauge it at times. And he'd bounced back so well and so often I guess I think I was giving him the best chance. But at the end, at the time, I felt so guilty..... Animals can be so dear to us. We do our best and hope it's enough but like tiny children they can only tell us in so many ways. It's clear your Alfie adored you and lived long and well in your care. I hope your red dragon ride calms down in time, and your warm memories of your sweet beastie overide the sadness of his passing. I am sure your husband is taking good care of you....

  18. Very touching post!

    Sorry for the loss of Alfie. We are never prepared for the death of someone significant to us, and when it happens it hurts terribly and leaves us with a deep hole in our heart and a feeling of emptiness in our life.
    Hope you soon overcome your grief and pain.

  19. I'm so sorry for your loss.

    I think we all hold that guilt for being dismissive at times to those we love. I think that type of regret is a universal aspect of humanity.

  20. Congratulations on your wedding - it looked like a smashing, fun time!

    So very sorry to hear you have lost Alfie - losing a long loved pet is so hard but what a lucky boy he was to have those 12 wonderful years in your special home.

    Wishing you brighter days ahead.......and you were a beautiful bride Josephine!

  21. Thanks Clara for your lovely words as always. I often wonder if I should have taken Alfie to the vet to be put down but he didn't seem to be in distress (he did hate soiling the floors as that wasn't in his nature)
    Thanks Duta for your lovely comment and visit.
    I really agree with your words, Dina. It seems to be part of the stages of grief, the regret. I know I still have it very much.
    Thanks Mary. It is always good to see you here. I'll visit you soon. xx

  22. Dear Josephine

    Thank you for your kind comments and good wishes. I am slowly catching up with everything such as my work, housework and blogging..

    I am so sorry about Alfie, you must miss him so greatly. I have had cats ever since I was a child and have quite a few over the years. Each time, devastating. They leave a big gap especially if you've had them for as long as you've had Alfie. He was lucky to have you as he must have felt and been very loved. Very sad for Daisy too. I remember how upset Miss P was when our 16 year old cat Pixie had to be put to sleep because of illness. Dreadful time all round.
    I thought it was really good of the priest to consent to have prayers for Alfie. Don't beat yourself up about what you said about Alfie, he knows he was loved. It's easy to focus on what we feel bad about, I've been there but in time you you will be able to focus on all the good things.

    You look absolutely stunning in that wedding dress, very good choice. I like the fact that it is also different in style to what we see so often. All 3 of you looked very happy. What a day it must have been, one you will cherish for always. Doesn't it go fast though...I remember the day going by in a flash...Alan & I will have been married 4 years in June.

    I hope that your cottage is coming along nicely

    Take care
    Have a lovely weekend
    Warm wishes
    Isabelle x

  23. Hello Isabelle, I remember your wedding photos. You looked so beautiful. Yes, the entire day seems a blur now. Daisy wasn't upset by Alfie's death as I think she only really knew him in his later years and only saw him as frail old dog who made a big mess. She does visit his grave every day and take him flowers however, so that's very sweet. I am sending you good vibes. Hope Miss P feels better xx

  24. I am so sorry about Alfie... what an amazing fortune for him that you and your beautiful family decided to help him so many years ago. It sounds like he lived a wonderful life... I can't imagine how hard it is- losing Gatsby would be devastating! Remain strong and know that he is still with you xo

  25. Just stopping by and thinking of you -- wishing you a Happy Easter Season --- or a sacred season of your faith.


  26. I get what you're saying about people without animals not understanding: pets are like children, especially cats and dogs that live for a long time and are constant companions. I remember being so devastated years ago when the vet rang to say that she'd examined our cat and that it would be best if he was put to sleep, as he had cancer of the throat. I could not speak a word, and simply burst into tears and handed the phone to my husband. I felt guilty about telling him off for always pulling his food off the plate onto the floor, but that must have been an easier way of eating it for him. We have another cat now, who is definitely like a child of ours. When he scratches at the door we even say to our son, "Jack, let your brother in." We're so paranoid, he's at the vet as soon as he looks a tad sick, so when he goes one day, it will be awful! So I get it. I feel for you, and I know there will be a long recovery time. But you're entitled. Keep the happy memories close to your heart, and keep a cushion nearby for hugging. Lots of love to you and yours. Wendy xxx

  27. Im so sorry for your recent loss. I understand completely about the grief you feel. We had to make the painful decision to put our dog to sleep 2 years ago. She was 15 and in the final few weeks couldnt always make it outside to use the toilet. The day we decided her quality of life was not good anymore was the hardest day ever. I dont think you ever can get over losing a much loved pet. Even though we took in a rescue dog 12 months later he can never replace our old dog. Alfie was lucky to have you and you him. My thoughts are with you. Take Care X

  28. Thanks Jennifer. Gatsby is a lovely dog. I shall give you a good tip on your Blog for when the new baby comes with Gatsby.
    Thank you, Joanny. Wishing you the best of the Holy Season as well.
    Hi Wendy, yes, animals do become your family. It is so odd as I've had other dogs I loved and lost as well but there was something very special about Alfie. It has now been weeks since he died and I still miss him as much as when he first went. xx

  29. Oh no, you poor thing - I can't imagine my life without my Mocha, and newly adopted Monty. I'm so sorry for your loss, losing a pet is always so hard, especially when they have been a part of your life for so long. I'm so glad that he got to see your wedding though, he hung on for that :) Beautiful wedding pics too, I'm getting married sometime early next year.

  30. Thanks Vintage Kitten for those kind words. I know one day we will get another dog as I get so upset over all the dogs in pounds who need good homes but not for awhile.
    Thanks for your comment and visit, Pretty Little Pictures. I'll pop over to visit you. xx

  31. Lovely tribute to your little friend. I know how you feel - we lost our dear old Dalmatian Rosie just before Christmas. The dog-shaped hole has now been filled by her successor, Polly the pup... Of course she's not the same - she's her own self and different - but I can see we're going to love her just as much.

  32. Thank you Katherine. I love that phrase, the dog-shaped hole. It is perfect. xx

  33. Darling, your comment about "my husband" brought a smile to my face and joy to my heart. I love it when newlyweds start referring to each other as such. May you live a long and happy life as husband and wife. Sorry to hear that your hubby suffers from migraines, hope married life will end his migraines. Take care love and enjoy life.

    Love & Hugs

  34. Oh dearest Josephine, I'm so truly sorry for your loss. I cannot even imagine how you're feeling right now. Alfie is such a cutie, at least you've had the priviledge of having him before:)

    Sending you big hugs

  35. I have been there after the loss of my running companion Damon was killed by a speeding car. I never ever put on my trainers to run without remembering him. I have loved reading your blog this morning and if it is ok with you I will add myself to your follow list and look forward to reading more.

  36. Firstly many many congratulations on your lovely wedding!! And then my thoughts go out to you, your post about Alfie is so moving. These last few weeks we too have been expecting one of our cats,elderly Georgie to be leaving us, so your loving words about Dear Alfie really touched my heart. So so sorry for your heartbreak, and sending your a virtual Big ol' hug.

    (p.s. Georgie has rallied, so we soldier on together, dear old friends.)

  37. Dear Duchess, married life will probably increase my husband's migraines. Just kidding. Thanks Sher, you are such a darling to stop by. And yes, Alfie is the cutest little dog. He was a very good boy.
    Ralph, it is perfectly more than okay to add yourself to my followers. I am thrilled that my 100th follower is somebody as interesting as your good self!
    Half-heard in the Stillness, pleased to hear Georgie has rallied and hope he continues to do so. Thank you for your kind comment. xx


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