Today is a sad day. I know that I said I would continue to tell you about the best two papers at SOTS, but Kia died yesterday. Kia, my German Shepherd Dog, was my friend for 16 years. Although she had become old, and mostly lay on her big bed in the kitchen, she seemed very happy. A couple of times a day, she would come up the garden when I fed the poultry, and occasionally she would even start towards a stick—until she remembered how much effort it would be to bend down and pick it up. But yesterday, she suddenly took a turn for the worse, and her wobbly back legs were practically useless, and she gave me ‘that look’ which said she was tired, and had had enough, and it was time to say goodbye.
I worried that if she tried to get up during the night and couldn’t, or if she toileted and couldn’t move out of it, she would be very distressed. So I kissed her head, and whispered that we would meet again (because I firmly believe that God will take care of that) and we took her to the vet, and let her go peacefully.
Now I am clearing away the remains of her presence: washing her bed, finding a cupboard for the dog bowls, wondering why I bought quite so many poop bags. I have food to give away, and old towels to wash and fold. I cry a lot, and remember, and feel loss, but there is something therapeutic about the sorting of it all, something healing in the clearing up. Perhaps that’s why we need rituals when people die, we need something to do while we mourn.
Today is difficult. There is so much to miss, even of a dog who had limited her world to the kitchen and garden. The kitchen is horribly empty. When I picked up the compost bin, there was no head turned towards me, waiting to see if I was going into the garden. Kia would watch, waiting until I actually put on my coat—so she could be sure I wasn’t going to trick her and shut her into the utility room—and then she would heave herself up, and totter to the door. We would walk up the garden together, the cats coming to greet her, and she would watch me as I fed the ducks and chickens. In the past, she would bark in warning if the chickens made a fuss and tried to fly near me (she hated them flying) but recently that was too much effort, so she just watched, checking.
I realise today how often I touched her—scratching her neck every time I passed that big bed on the kitchen floor. As I use the sink, I wait for the shove of her nose in the back of my legs, reminding me to fill her water bowl. No one watches when I go to the fridge, waiting to see if something tasty is coming out, something like cold turkey, which would make it worth the effort of getting up, just in case I passed her a piece. She was very polite, and after a few attempts at stealing food as a puppy, she never stole, and never watched us eat (because I never fed her from the table).
But she knew that when we had steak, I would cut off the fat and put it in her bowl, and without fail, her nose would appear at the table just as we finished eating. I don’t know how she knew that we had finished, I guess she recognised the sound of the fat being chopped up. I don’t think we will be eating steak again for a while; it wouldn’t feel right.
German Shepherd’s are dogs with opinions, and Kia had an opinion on everything. I remember it being a surprise when she was young, how I had to learn that German Shepherd’s were different to my previous dogs. Nosier. I would open a cupboard door, and her head would be in front of mine, blocking the view, checking to see what was inside. Most visitors she liked, and would greet with enthusiasm. A few she disliked (not sure why) and she growled when she saw them. A favoured few she adored, and even in the last weeks she would stagger to greet them before returning to her bed.
Kia was always a ‘mouthy’ dog. As a puppy, it took ages to teach her not to nip (I would scream loudly, as if I was in agony, even if she gently touched me with her teeth). When an adult, she never snapped, and was gentle with the cats and chickens, but when we walked, she would sometimes take my hand in her mouth, like a child holding hands.
As a young adult, Kia had boundless energy. We walked for miles, and she would jump over stiles, and chase sticks. She was very good with livestock, and walked quietly next to me, greeting cows through the fence and looking cross when they licked her head (cows are very licky animals). Though she sometimes barked at horses. And if off the lead, I am pretty sure she would have chased sheep, so we never risked that one.
One of my fondest memories is when I came home after surgery, and was lying in bed, when I heard a noise at the door. Kia (who was not allowed upstairs) was standing there, checking. When I noticed, she tiptoed away, as if pretending it wasn’t her.
But most of my thoughts today are of the old Kia. At 16, she was old for several years, and it was a dignified, peaceful old age. It is with a sad, but very grateful heart, that I say goodbye.
Thanks for reading. Next time I will get back to those papers from SOTS (because they really were extremely interesting).
Have a good week, and take care.
Love, Anne x
I will leave you with some photos across the years. (I have grown older too!)