Friday, January 13, 2017


It all started in upheaval.
We had moved from American suburbia to Mayo Middle-of-Nowhere, leaving our Shadow behind. In those first four weeks I pined, dragged my fingers along the dog food packets in the shops and down the PETS section of the paper. Finally finding a litter of English Setters
Black and White, easy to spot in the green fields, in the purple and golden heather from a distance. Gorgeous temperament…like the best human on the plant multiplied by a thousand. Better, even.
You were the only one out of your siblings interested in me, peeping above the little gate into the pumphouse, to reach up to me. Clamoring all over me, once you were released. Your baby blue eyes. That one big black spot on your back. Pure white all over. To say it was love at first sight…well we chose each other.

You slept like a newborn, and were frightened of mirrors. You followed me like a shadow. On the beach, you were so light, you didn’t leave a trace. A fairy dog. I carried you when you grew tired.

As an adolescent, you were full of energy, gliding through the fields, soaring over stone walls like a deer, running along the top like a cat. You were never interested in chasing animals bigger than you, hot on the pursuit of some long gone pheasant, you would breeze past sheep and cows, invisible.

You brought me to many pheasants, without any training. Pure instinct. Running wildly, in an almost forensic grid, following the scent, stopping on a dime, the end of your fan tail twitching, the signal that yes, you had found something. Before pointing, then creeping like a cheetah closer to the bird. A large glowing bronze pheasant would fly up at the last second when you were nearly standing on their tail. But you never did catch one. That didn’t deter you from bounding along after them, across river and field.
Boy, you could run.

We’re very lucky we had you as long as we did. When you were about two, we went for a walk and another dog came running out of their house, aiming itself at me and mum. You ran up to it, protecting us, making yourself as big as possible. But he still had about 2 stone on you, and he dislocated your esophagus. We were so lucky you didn’t just die on the spot. But you weren’t ready.
You held on.

My most formative years are intricately woven with your life. It’s no secret that the first 3 years here were…tough.  Coming home to you, and having you to care about and for, is the only thing that kept me alive. Without you, I wouldn’t be here. You saved me, because you loved me.

I went to boarding school for two years, and then college. My homesickness was, largely, you-sickness. So much so, that part of my third year project was, you. I missed you so, that I recreated you out of batiked cotton and felt, metal poles and wire. Of course, if did you no justice whatsoever, and now I have a larger than life, white splotchy dog in the attic.

When I came home to you, when you were young, you would climb up onto my lap, all legs and bones and bulk. As you got older that translated into pressing the top of your head into my leg, or chest or head. You gave hugs. You gave the very best hugs.

You and Gwyn were inseparable. You followed her around like a henpecked husband. Even when she went ‘visiting’ you would be tagging along behind her, probably telling her to “come back, we’re not supposed to leave the house without the family, Oh, I’ll go with you so, but your taking the blame! We are going to be in soooooo much trouble”
You never went far, sometimes to nanny’s, and when I’d pull up in the car, you’d both jump sheepishly in, knowing that it was very very naughty…but at least you were both together. And you loved going in the car. Sometimes you’d jump in if I left the door open a second too long. Then you would happily sit for10, 15, 20 minutes at the steering wheel, jumping into the backseat, and finally out. You were a funny boy. You had a funny quirk of jumping onto the picnic table and looking in the back window at us washing dishes or making dinner. Your timing was impeccable, you always knew when it was dinner time.

At night, you went on patrol. Any noise, car, person, got a barrage of barking and howling. But there were different tones for “it’s ok, they are going away from the house” and “Mom mom mom, someone’s coming SOMEONE’S COMING DOWN THE LANE!!!”
Your bark was worse than your bite, which Squeek proved. The first week we had her, you followed her like an inquisitive child. I eventually watched from a distance, and just as you were about to scoop her up into your mouth, I said REILLY don’t eat the baby. You started licking her then.
Squeek would curl up with you, and she would come along on walks as well. Then Suzie. Four in the gang.

When Squeek passed, you stood by the grave with me. And sat down next to it when I would go visit her. Sometimes I’d see you go visit her on your own.
Then poor Gwyn the following year, the same. You would take yourself off and sit on her grave, by yourself in the rain.
Without Gwyn, you became old overnight. Or very young. You followed me closely, and had to have me in your line of vision at all times. You also became deaf. But you understood sign language very well.

You were an active dreamer. Falling asleep quickly and giving chase to rabbits and foxes and pheasants. In your dreams you could do what your body was beginning to stop being able to.

Before I went to Australia, I said my goodbyes. You had had a few funny turns, and I honestly didn’t think you would see out the month. Luckily, you were still here when I returned, having gotten a second wind, or just being WILLED to stay alive by all of us. About 6 months ago, you stopped coming down the fields, and would instead perch at a vantage point to watch me walk alone.

But this year, you had slowed down significantly. And your mobility was compromised, with back legs that were withering away, and front legs not strong enough to carry you.
In you eyes on Thursday, you said it all. Mum, everything hurts. I’m exhausted and I can’t fall asleep.

You were mine for half my life. From 14 to a few weeks shy 30. You would have been 16 this June. You have been my constant companion, my shoulder, my rock, my most greatest love, my favourite being on earth, my joy, and child.
Your love was the purest, because it was unconditional. On my worst days, you still loved me the same. And that was your gift to me. That love. That love that you had from the moment I saw you when you were a tiny, baby, to the moment you closed your eyes for the last time. And even in leaving us, you held on. Oh, you held on so tight. But so did I.

The only comfort I have is that I know you are no longer in pain. That you are free of your body that had become a prison. You are running, leaping, bounding round the fields, with Gwyn running up like a clown, flushing the pheasant before you get a chance to point, and Squeek trailing along behind. I hope one day that will bring me peace.
But right now my heart is broken.
I love you, my sweet, darling, spirit guide, my sentinel, my protection, my best friend and charge, my boy, my baby my Reilly.

I love love love you, and always will.

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