Recently my dog Minnie died at home after a short illness.
It’s taken me over a week to begin composing this message because her death has hit me (and my husband Martin) so hard. Minnie lived with us for just over a decade and we thought we had another 2-6 years together.
Perhaps people are surprised that I didn’t immediately share the news to social media, but I was too raw to discuss it, and grief for me has a private dimension.
Instead I informed close friends and family, and went about all the sad duties that fall upon you when a pet dies – including deciding how to dispose of her remains, cancelling her pet insurance policy, and sorting through her toys and food for donation. I diverted some of the dreadful energy that comes from such a shock into cleaning the house.
All of this takes time and exacts a certain toll. Yet, these tasks also serve a simple function of cementing the stark reality of her passing.
Every floor you vacuum, every squeaky bone you give away, every paper you sign erases the signs of her presence a little more from your daily life.
People adapt. It’s the mechanism by which we survive sudden changes, and yet at times it feels like a terrible betrayal.
Martin and I discovered Minnie at an animal shelter in Co. Mayo, and we brought home a scared and anxious young dog – as I think is evident from the picture above, which is one of the first we took of her.
She required a lot of time and patience to overcome her insecurites, but I now believe you can help any dog through their issues as long as you get the right help and are willing to put in the effort. It’s not easy, but as Martin and I discovered, it was worth it.
Since I work from home Minnie was an integral part of my daily routine. Her absence is an inescapable void – from her immediate reaction to my movements, and her regular check-ups on me throughout the day. At least the postwoman no longer has to fear Minnie’s howling welcome (but it’s something I now miss).
Unlike some pets you take dogs into the world with you. They accompany you on your excursions, and become part of your social circle. I made friends because of my walks with Minnie.
One of the things I immediately observed about being in the company of a dog is that people interact with you in a way they don’t when you are solo. I had more conversations with people when I was with Minnie than I did without her.
And alas, that’s where I find myself now: without her.
Here’s a lovely video from 2009 of Martin playing fetch with Minnie down in Coole Park. It demonstrates some of the joy and fun we had together.