Any joy I extracted from a life so decimated by chronic illness seemed to disappear with her. What was the point? I felt like an island, sitting alone in my chair, day and night, with only the occasional visit from Kai and Izzy. The worst time was at night, especially when we turned the light off. Without fail Bella had always come for a cuddle, somehow turning herself round on my chair so she would have her head resting in the crook of my shoulder. She'd lick me like mad. I'd fall asleep with her in my arms. She sometimes got off, but should I wake up, usually because the pain broke through, a whispered 'Bella' and she'd be back on my lap in a flash. Now there was nothing. The other three have always slept on the sofa in their usual places either side of Eric. Somehow that just made it worse. Many nights I'd sit in my chair silently sobbing for my beautiful girl who helped me get through life.
I was in a dark place, thinking the darkest of thoughts. My pain levels were worse than ever, partly because mentally I simply couldn't block out the pain as well as normal. I couldn't focus, didn't want to do anything, even archery didn't give me the pleasure it usually did. Eric, as always was my rock, he knew how I felt as he'd feel the same if it was Kayla. Every so often I look up at her photo hanging directly opposite me and talk to her. Some of you will no doubt think it's odd, perhaps mad even, to talk to a dog. But she was my best friend, Eric aside. Part of me was ripped away when she died. I honestly don't think I'll ever get over her completely, such was the bond we had.
So, what's changed?
There are several factors. Time is a healer they say, and in many ways its true. That awful physical loss hasreduced but not gone entirely. The fact I have a picture of her hanging on the cabinet opposite helps. I used to spend ages looking at her, talking to her, saying morning and good night. I still look up at her, talking with her as I would, were she here. Her memory is a permanent. That photo will remain there as long as I'm here.
Much of the credit goes to our four month old Miniature Schnauzer puppy called Millie. Eric wanted another one, to join Kai and Izzy. The breeder had a white litter coming along in a couple of months. I googled photos and was smitten. So, mid November, Millie joined us.
I tried really hard to get to know her, lay the foundations for a friendship, just as I did with Bella all those years ago. Initially it didn't seem to get me very far. Eric would have to lift her up, partly because of course she couldn't get up, but also because she didn't seem interested. Certainly not to stay for more than a minute or so. Day after day Eric would have all four dogs on the sofa with him. I remained the island, any hopes that a new puppy would help fill the void left by Bella in tatters. The excitement I felt when we got her turned to despair, and even anger. It wasn't fair!! Slightly irrational I grant you, but when you've dared to hope when already in a dark place it felt like a body blow. The darkness rubbed it's hands in glee.
She has slept on my lap from the first night we got her. But then she'd get off and I'd be lucky if she came back the rest of the day. Play proved to be the acorn. Turns out that Millie is driven by play. I put my legs down, picked up a toy and threw it. Off she went, fast as her little legs could go, picked it up and brought it back on the duvet ready to go again! An utter natural but it meant I could 'do' something with a dog again. My spirits started to lift a little. I'd already got as far as training her to jump onto the lowered leg rest of my chair so we added 'paws up' to get her to put her paws up the side of my chair so I could lift her. She quickly adapted to bringing the toy back to the side of my chair, as near to my hand as she could. Suddenly I was regularly seeing a little head appear at the side of my chair or at the bottom of my legs. 'Can we play mistress'. It was wonderful, although I exhausted myself and made my legs worse but I was determined to play whenever she wanted. The acorn was growing and with it the darkness was abating. Life felt that little bit better.
In the last few weeks everything has changed. Millie seemed to decide she liked it on my lap where she had a captive audience. She now spends pretty much all her time during the day on my lap, sleeping, playing tug and anything else we can try. I can't put into words how life changing it is. At first I thought surely I can't be this lucky, but several weeks have gone by and she's still here. No dog could ever replace Bella but I think she'd be pleased that I have another canine carer. Life is good again.
I do seem to have my Mojo back. I've certainly got the oomph to take the fight to CRPS again. I will do things despite what it costs me in pain both at the time and the inevitable payback a day (or few) after. Already my enthusiasm for archery is back, I'm shooting more regularly, and better than I have in ages. Coincidence? I've nearly finished all the pieces for my first jumper, a real achievement when I can only knit for a short time in the evenings. I'm reading books again and looking forward to the new speedway season.
In short, life does indeed go on, and I'm looking forward to it...