Yesterday was Billie’s birthday.
She would’ve been seven years old…or 49 in human years.
The prime of her life, I’d say…though she was an eternal puppy at heart.
But last Sunday, after a totally normal morning with a nice long walk, a trip to the shops and a snooze on the sofa, she suffered a massive seizure.
We rushed her to the vets (thanks to a wonderful neighbour who did some incredible and totally illegal driving) and she was put into intensive care. Vetinary staff watched over her for 48 hours. Sadly, yesterday, Em and I agreed to let her die – a decision we felt she had made for herself some time earlier. She was no longer present in her body, having suffered a huge amount of brain damage.
We will never know why Billie left us, or what caused her seizure. All we know is that she waited til Em and I were together before any of this happened, as she always did.
I never wanted a dog.
I’d resisted Billie for so long, thinking that having a dog would interrupt my flow, pin me down, hold me back. It was just too much responsibility, too much to worry about when I wanted to focus on myself. When Em was off to the States for several months for work, I continually said that I couldn’t take her on. I left it til the very night before she was due to go to her new home before cracking, before realising she was part of my family, before realising she had already made herself my dog, and agreeing to take her in.
And as we said goodbye to Em at the station and walked home slowly along the canal, I knew we had become inseparable.
We were. I’d just moved to a new city, and I decided right away only to go to dog-friendly places. I took some freelance work simply because they allowed dogs in the office. I built my entire routine around taking her for four walks a day and we were a regular fixture at Kosmonaut and other doggy internet bars in town. I worked out exactly how many treats I needed to take out with me so I could leave her outside the post office where I mailed tarot stuff to my customers. She came everywhere with me…and she helped me to make new friends right away in this strange new city.
And I never once felt pinned down, interrupted or held back. Because Billie was 100% a joy to be around.
Billie was a real Knight of Cups
Her mission in life seemed to be to love us and look after us, which she always, always did. As Emma put it, she was a ‘higher spiritual plane’ dog. Billie always knew what was up – and usually, how to fix it. She absorbed so much stress and sadness when Em or I were in pain, and she knew just how to be, where to lick, when to snuggle up close and when to give space, to make things better.
All she ever wanted was to be close to Em or I – preferably both of us. I remember when we were moving our boats, each with our different roles – I’d be on the land working a lock, whilst Em handled the boat…and she would spend ages trying to round the two of us up, get us back together. She had a real sense of family, and of her place in that family.
Here’s what Billie taught me in the three years I was lucky enough to know her…
Unconditional love and kindness. Billie was my first dog, so this was the first time I had ever understood the unflinching power of a dog’s love for its person. Billie treated Em and I as though we could do no wrong, and her priority in life was generosity, and showing us her love. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a friend quite as committed as Billie.
Presence in the moment. Billie endured many disappointments. A toy which sunk and couldn’t be retrieved from the canal. Me accidentally stepping on her foot with my big boots. Having to wait alone on the boat when I went out for a shower. But the second the problem was over, it was forgotten. Billie didn’t bear grudges or get in moods. She just lived moment to moment, experiencing life as it was.
The joy of service. Billie was never happier than when she was fulfilling a role or task Em or I had given her. What made her happy was to please us, whether that was carrying a cup, fetching a stick, getting off the bed, getting in the bed or any number of helpful tasks. Serving others makes me feel good too, and I want to channel more of Billie’s devotion to service in my daily life.
There was so much more. So much that emerges every time I think I can see her in the corner of my eye. Every time I step out of the boat and instinctively step to the side so she can bound out beside me. Every time I walk across the park and forget that she’s not scooting around for food, checking every few moments that I’m following behind.
Billie was a big, beautiful ball of daft doggy love.
I had no idea how much she could bring to my life, or how painful it could be to lose such a devoted and wonderful friend.
We said goodbye properly yesterday, on her birthday, walking up to Gaddings Dam in the freezing snow.
It was a walk we had done together so many times. Billie was there the night Em and I got together. She was there when we celebrated our honeymoon. She was there before we fell in love and went camping and swimming as friends. And for every winter Sunday or summer afternoon walk when we felt like going to the place where sky and earth and water collide.
Em buried a bone she had loved. We called out our goodbyes and our love. And we knew that she would always be with us.
Goodbye Billie. I love you with all my heart.
I’m a 30-something writer, artist, tarot reader, and perpetual explorer of the space between thought, feeling, and action.
I believe that spirituality and ritual are for everybody. I’m about the journey, in all of its messy, non-linear, chaotic iterations. I am excited by anticapitalist business and living with my whole entire self present. I use tarot cards to bring forth hidden truth, and ritual to affirm my commitment, over and over, to my ever-shifting path.