In loving memory of pet pooch Shiny
In the quiet corners of memory there’s a faithful companion who has left an indelible mark on our lives – our four-legged confidant who wagged her tail through our highs and lows. Shiny, a loyal presence in our family for 13 years, has ventured into the realm of memories, in doing so triggering a roller coaster of emotions.
Loving a dog is to embrace an unspoken bond, an unwavering connection that thrives on genuine, unfiltered affection. Those who’ve been fortunate enough to share their days with a ‘soulmate dog’ recognise that this companionship, while bringing joy, also carries the inevitable ache of goodbye.
Grief, in all its rawness, has a peculiar way of opening our hearts to a multitude of emotions. Each grief journey is unique, and no one can ever truly prepare for the loss of a family pet.
In the quiet moments of each morning, as I walk down the stairs, an emptiness tugs at my heart. It’s a void that mirrors the corner where Shiny’s pink doggy basket once nestled. Amid the frantic desire to etch every memory into permanence, I find myself longing for the familiar sounds – the soft sound of her little paws, the daily ritual of her morning slumber, her ritualistic corner turns on walks, and her high-pitched, vigilant warning bark.
But the reality persists – our beloved dog remains forever absent after 13 years of companionship.
My youngest daughter’s first thought upon waking during that initial week was a melancholic acknowledgment of Shiny’s absence. Yet, as the shock faded, a different, deeper sorrow took its place. This wasn’t breaking news; it was an irreversible truth. The guilt of adjusting to life without Shiny weighed heavy. The guilt of adapting to her absence, of creating a new normal, devoid of her physical presence.
Guilt and awkwardness often accompany the death of a pet. The world is full of real tragedies, and the sorrow of losing a pet sometimes seems self-indulgent. There are no standard measures for grief when a pet departs – no formal leave, no universally recognised timeline during which one’s humanity seems temporarily unattainable.
I’ve long understood that private sorrow can confuse many, met with fear of its contagious nature or frustration at its ability to dampen spirits. “Aren’t you over that yet?” they might ask, their empathy faltering when the source of sorrow is “just” a pet.
In the days following Shiny’s passing, there were those who hurriedly shifted the conversation, not comprehending the depth of our loss. A neighbour’s response, “Oh, is that all?” stung with indifference.
Nevertheless, amid the maze of emotions, I’ve been heartened by the realisation that a dog, in fact, becomes an integral part of one’s family. Nobody’s dog is “just a dog.” This empathy has been a soothing balm, encouraging me to embrace the grief, rather than brush it aside.
Shiny was the first living being we, as a family, wholeheartedly loved before the arrival of our third daughter. She was a resilient, snow-white rescue terrier, marked by her grace and a touch of feistiness. I remember the day my husband brought her home from the shelter. What drew him to Shiny was her fierce independence in that cage, a take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards him, neither demanding attention nor pleading to be taken home.
Nicole, our second-born, christened her Shiny, because of her glistening snow-white coat. Tatiana, our first-born, cherished her beyond measure, and together they crafted a strong and loving bond that time would only strengthen.
Then came Electra, ushering a paradigm shift. Amid the unyielding demands of parenting, Shiny’s once-unwavering spotlight somehow dimmed. Guilt tiptoed in, a silent visitor. Could we have showered more love upon her amid the chaos? In the tumult, Shiny’s quiet and graceful presence persisted, a silent witness to life’s myriad moments.
Grief, as it tends to do, cracks us open, allowing a torrent of emotions to spill forth.
A dog’s love is pure and uncomplicated. How could we have conveyed to Shiny that our love endured? How could we have comforted her when she was experiencing separation anxiety?
The most challenging aspect of a dog’s passing is the practicality, a stark reminder of the divide between human and animal. I loved her, I was the one who carried her to the vet, only later realising that the very rug I placed her on would become her shroud.
I’m familiar with the awkwardness of time slowing down during moments of crisis. What struck me about Shiny’s passing was the swiftness of it all – there were no lingering moments. She didn’t fade away; she simply switched off. The vet wrapped her in her final cocoon, and I left the room in tears. Parenting, I am graciously learning, often entails experiencing a multitude of emotions simultaneously without surrendering to any single one.
In that heartbreaking instant, I was preoccupied with managing my children’s grief while being overwhelmed by my own. Our youngest daughter later remarked that she had never seen me so pained. This felt impactful.
A dog’s final gift to its family is the lesson of loss – the understanding that a story’s worth isn’t diminished by its ending. Love persists. Our children have been gifted a range of emotions, and watching them unravel this emotional knot has been both challenging and extraordinary.
Our eldest daughter, often recognised for her tendency to suppress challenging emotions, found her outlet for grief through providing support and solace to us. She channeled her emotions into caring for our other rescue dog, Moglis, displaying her affectionate and nurturing side in a distinctly maternal manner. Our second-born took on the noble role of comforting our youngest, explaining how grief can lead to personal growth and evoke complex, bittersweet feelings. With her gentle and compassionate demeanour, she helped our little one understand that among the tears and heartache, there exists an opportunity to cultivate resilience, empathy and a deeper understanding of life’s complexities.
As for our youngest, amid the innocence of her grieving heart, she finds solace in creative ways to honour her departed companion. On her phone, Shiny’s presence remains as a screensaver – a digital keepsake that captures their lasting bond. In the vast canvas of a starlit August sky, she baptised the brightest stars with the name Shiny, crafting a celestial tribute that bridges the realms of heaven and heart. Her connection with Shiny extends to the natural world, where signs take on profound meaning. She deciphers messages from nature – feathers carried on the wind, and white butterflies that flutter with purpose. These signs, like whispered reassurances, convey that Shiny’s spirit remains close. Her coping mechanisms reflect the extraordinary resilience of a child’s heart, embodying a beautiful and enduring connection between a child and her beloved four-legged companion.
I am confident that all three of our girls will emerge from this experience as more resilient and compassionate individuals, their lives enriched by Shiny’s presence and the lessons that accompany the profound loss they’ve weathered.
For me, the loss of our dog serves as a strong reminder of the importance of the tangible in a world where the virtual often threatens to consume us. Grief is profoundly physical. Memories and stories offer solace, but it’s the warmth of a living body that we forever miss – the sounds, the scents (some more cherished than others). Our home now feels still, almost stagnant, no longer graced by her warm, furry presence.
I glimpse her in the shadows, hear her in the echoes, and feel her in the scratches on the door. The physical form of our beloved dog may be gone, but her essence lives on within us, interwoven into the lives of my children.
I’m grateful for the invaluable lessons she taught us – for her unwavering love, and for the grief that, though it may feel unmerited, has taught us more than we could have imagined.
I believe that somewhere, beyond the horizon of our sight, Shiny races free, liberated from the chains of anxiety, basking in boundless treats and the warmth of eternal hugs.
Farewell Shiny. You are deeply missed.