I have always been an animal lover and for some reason dogs have always been my ’true love’. Dogs embrace everything I love about animals – beauty, loyalty and never-ending devotion and love.
In my life, so far, I have had three wonderful dogs but my most special companion has been my liver and white Springer Spaniel, Millie, who has passed away, aged nearly 14 years.
We had a connection right form her birth. She grew up with our children and she lived through our family’s joys and sadness, the ups and downs, that life brought our way. She was by my side during my parents’ passing, our childrens’21sts, our children’s university graduations and she was there for me when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Then, when I had a recurrence, she was there for me again.
During eight months of chemotherapy and radiation she hardly left my side. She taught me to relax, to go with the moment, to take deep breaths and to ‘smell the flowers.’ She didn’t care if I was sick, angry, upset or anxious she just sat by me and nuzzled in. She always wagged her tail and ’smiled’ at me. She always watched me and anticipated my moves. When I lost my hair, and I hardly recognised myself, she always knew me. During my chemotherapy treatment she too lost her hair. The vet was amazed and had no explanation for this. I did. We were connected. My family called her CC – cancer companion. She gave me permission to take naps, to slow down my life and to delight in simple joys like walking to the letterbox. She taught me never to pretend to be something I’m not.
Our bond was that we became inseparable and I promised her that I would look after her in old age (a promise I kept), just as she had been by my side during my cancer journey. When my hair grew back, so did hers. Mine came back grey and so did hers.
A dog can teach us many things, but a companion can teach us how to live life, like when you feel happy to run and dance around and to wag ’your entire body’.
My Millie Magic passed away peacefully, in my arms, two days before Christmas and I lost my shadow. When I look at her beautiful photo and our eyes connect, I see her smiling. She remembers the good times, the connection, the loyalty and the love that we shared and so do I.