On the 28th of July we said goodbye to Cadel. The cancer spread from his bone into his bloodstream, where it tore through his body. Saying goodbye was, I think, the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. His body was ravaged but his mind was the same as ever. Happy, enthusiastic for life and full of love. It felt wrong to euthanise a mind that still sought life with so much passion. But of course it was the right decision. We made the decision as soon as we received the cancer diagnosis that we would not let Cadel suffer. I’m grateful to say that we ensured he never did.
It’s taken me this long to write to you about Cadel’s death; I tried several times to write this post but every time I did I only got a few sentences in before having to stop. I couldn’t find the right words; in many ways I still can’t. How can I write about a dog that changed my life dramatically? Words don’t do his life justice.
Born to breeders in another state to mine, I paid to have Cadel flown here. It took two flights across the better part of a day, but eventually he made it here. He was terrified. 10 weeks of age, shut in a cage, shunted from airport to tarmacs and into planes. His toys were stolen by a baggage handler, leaving him alone with nothing familiar. There was a delay in me being able to collect Cadel, as the person authorised to pass him into my care was late to work. When I was finally allowed to go to him, he did not want to get out of the cage. I crouched down, trying to encourage him out. Eventually I pulled him out. As I stood up he gripped me in a bear hug and that was that. It was love at first sight for the both of us.
Over time Cadel became aware of my anxiety and did everything he could to ease it. Mostly that meant being by my side at all times, or being in the same room as me, watching me and making sure I was ok. Even when he was asleep he was aware of my movements, waking if he felt I was moving about anxiously or perhaps I’d begun crying.
If I had a bad day I’d sit with him, he’d hug me and encourage me to pat him. If I cried, he licked my tears away and nestled into my body, calming me. His presence was often enough to lessen the anxiety I was feeling.
Our relationship wasn’t all about anxiety. He loved life passionately, both his own and his life with us and was always a happy dog. We’d laugh together, over his antics or mine, run around the backyard throwing a rope toy over and over. Every morning at 6am he’d wake me up, encouraging Zena to get up too, and the three of us would go for a walk. I’m not a morning person but I cherished those walks. Sometimes it felt like we were the only people in the world as we watched the sun rising with every step we took.
Adjusting to life without Cadel has been difficult. I feel like I’ve lost a limb. No longer is he there to greet me at the door, tail wagging, excited to see me again. No more hugs whenever he or I wanted them. No more food stolen from the bench when I wasn’t looking (an entire birthday cake I made for myself last year for example), no more trilling when he wanted something or drool whilst waiting for food. So many no mores. Most days I’ve felt lost, unsure how to proceed with life. So many things feel pointless without Cadel.
Eventually we made the decision to get a puppy. Zena was lonely, perhaps as much as I was, and we didn’t want her to become depressed. With that decision, Theo entered our life, bringing with him an incredible amount of love, energy and joy. He is settling in nicely and I look forward to seeing what kind of dog he becomes. He has reminded me that there is much to love in this world, starting of course with him.
Whatever you do, hug those you love dearly. Cherish your moments. You just never know when you will be called upon to say goodbye.