Vale The Beagle

My sister told me the story as I was driving, we were both on speaker phone. She was talking about an older couple, people she’s close to, the couple had fallen in love later in life. Both had adult children on opposite sides of the world. He was from the UK and she Australian. As retirees their romance had worked perfectly, one that perhaps many of us would dream of. Half the year in his country, half the year in hers. Pick the season, the events you didn’t want to miss, a Christmas here a Christmas there – until Covid.

They found themselves having to make a choice. It wasn’t just the decision between their children or each other – it was what if we were to get sick, really sick. Were you prepared to die away from home? Away from your family? He went back to the UK, she stayed here in Australia.

“That’s just so sad” I said to my sister as I made my way home.

She agreed with a sigh.

“I can’t believe I didn’t know that…” I trailed off not finishing my sentence. I’d been consumed with my husband’s cancer, his recovery and then facing the idea of him leaving us to return to work. We’d been through my Dad’s death, my children’s lives with year twelve study, new schools, a new house. They’d been a bit going on but still “sorry, I didn’t know, I don’t think you’ve mentioned it?”

And then my sister said it, the past twelve months in a single sentence.

“Some things are just too sad to talk about”.

I was now stationary at the traffic lights. Staring off to the distance I heard a tiny voice that I recognised as my own and said quietly “that’s how I feel about the beagle.”

The naughtiest dog in the world was 17 when she passed away. Not one of us were able to be with her. With all the sadness and heartbreak we’ve been through over the past twelve months this was the event that nearly broke us.

For those of you who have been here for awhile you’ve read the stories of the beagle, you’ve seen the videos. A rescue dog from Austin, Texas. The southern belle who created chaos with the calmness of Bette Davis. The dog who casually pulled out the kitchen drawers to make a ladder to get to the top of the stove to devour the cooling lasagne. The dog who broke three oven doors, I kid you not, three. She’d climb, rock and pull all in the endeavour of a roast dinner or a chicken casserole. The dog who made us obtain a lock for the fridge door after her love of Lurpak (at least a container a week) had her masterfully using her paws to jimmy the door open. There was the weekend in Houston where she devoured 12 donuts, four steaks and a birthday cake in the three minutes I’d gone to retrieve something from the garage. The dinner party in Doha where a girlfriend wide eyed, initially speechless began pointing across the room “that. dog. is. on. top. of. the. table.” She was the dog who chased the maintenance staff up the tree, the dog who barked and barked and barked through every child’s birthday party and event. The dog who escaped out the front door every time a visitor arrived.

“Grab the dog!” we’d yell as we sprinted behind her.

She was the dog who made her way through every overseas guests suitcases before they were smart enough to know her tricks. The dog who hid the caramello koalas and freddo frogs under the pillows of the children, the dog who devoured $100 worth of French chocolate. When I’d written about her antics a reader had quickly messaged “CHOCOLATE KILLS DOGS” in caps lock. I pondered over the entire frozen chicken and the polystyrene plate she’d eaten the week before, not this dog. Nothing kills this dog. This dog appeared to be indestructible.

Until recently.

She’d lost her hearing, her eyesight was going. Each night she’d make her way upstairs to my youngest’s room, one stair at a time. She’d lay on her bed which was at the bottom of his, and he’d cover her with the same pink blanket and there she’d stay until he woke in the morning. She’d stopped climbing up the drawers, the oven door was now safe. She was down to one slow walk a day. You could leave the front door open.

When we left Doha in a rush amongst Covid and cancer, we promised her we’d be back. Helen stayed in the house with the beagle her routine remained the same. In the first week we were home we investigated getting her back to Australia. It was futile. Time wasn’t on our side. Helen sent pictures, videos. And then the inevitable.

Helen messaged, the beagle looked different, her shape was changing, she was refusing food. G spoke to the vet, she was in pain, it was the end. G and I sat together in our house a thousand miles away looking at the final photos, Helen stayed with her to the end. “I can’t tell the children” I whispered to G. “I just, can’t”.

As a family we once again sat around the table with wide eyed children. The same table we’d delivered the cancer news. G told the story slowly, I looked at their faces closely, they looked down at their feet. I’d like to say that after all the sadness of last year they’d found mechanisms to cope with grief but it was the opposite. It was just too much. It was silent until my youngest began to speak.

“We left her” he shook his head in horror, tears now flowing “we left her there, she would have been waiting for us to come back and we didn’t come back”.

I said all the things you’re meant to say as a parent. She was loved, she knew we loved her. We’d rescued her all those years ago. Helen loved her, Helen was with her. She would have understood that we had to go, Dad was sick we had to go. And then I stopped, I’d said enough and it wasn’t going to make it any better.

This pandemic has left us all battle scarred and weary in so many different ways. We lost the beagle in January and while as a family we’ve shared stories and photos we’ve not really spoken to others about it.

Some things are just too sad to talk about.

Vale Roxie.





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