Losing Billie

Yesterday was Billie’s birthday.

She would’ve been seven years old…or 49 in human years.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  1. Ellen says:

    My dearest (((Beth))) I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Billie must have been such a sweet loving dog. You write about her with so many loving words. This post has brought tears in my eyes. I can relate to you pain so well since about three month ago we have lost our Dog Tara
    I can only say in time this will heal but allow yourself to mourn her
    Big but gentle hugs also for Em

    • Beth says:

      *thank you Ellen*
      This is awful for me… for Emma, even worse I think. I’ve never known her without Billie beside her – they were true soul mates those two.
      And I remember well your mixed feelings when you got little Joffee, and how it sat with the pain of losing Tara. I know Em and I will have another dog one day. Right now – I can’t even imagine.
      Thank you for your kind words.

  2. Eli says:

    Oh Beth, my heart sank when I saw the title of this post. I’m so, so sorry. I only met Billie twice, but she made such an impression. And no, not just because she tried to bite that woman in the restaurant! She was such a quiet dog, but one who left you in no doubt that she had a massive, powerful personality. That time in the restaurant, she’d just had an awful stressful afternoon with falling in the canal and throwing up…and she was dealing with all that stress with such calm courtesy. Then someone trod on her and she really just had to take a stand, dammit! But even then, she managed to do it without even snagging the woman’s dress or tights. I know it’s a weird little memory to throw into the mix of Billie’s life, but I really liked that moment, it gave me such a strong sense of Billie as a dog to be reckoned with, a complex and tolerant and emotional and lovely being. Also, she had the softest ears I have ever felt.

    Reading your farewell to her made me cry (particularly, for some reason, the photo of the water without Billie in it). Much love to you and Em, and to Billie.

  3. katabulous says:

    This was so heartbreaking to read. I’ve recently lost a pet myself, and can completely empathise with what you’re feeling. I’m really sorry for your loss. Thank you for posting this. It’s really beautiful.


  4. Sarah Dawn says:

    I am so sorry for your loss Beth. :`( Dogs have a way of touching our lives so profoundly. Their capacity for unconditional love and compassion is inspiring. Sending lots of love to you and Em. <3

  5. emily says:

    Beth and Emma, I want to send you both love and sympathy for the loss of Billie. What a wonderful animal friend to have touch your life! Thank you for sharing your feelings and memories.

  6. Maggie says:

    Tears are in my eyes as I read this, the loss of a special dog, the laughter and the pain, she will always have a space in my heart. Thank you for sharing her x x

  7. Majie Swindell says:

    Oh, oh, oh . . . losing a treasured fur person is as painful as losing any person in your life – heartfelt blessings from me and my Birddog Clan (catz & dogz), my family. Holding you in my prayer basket this week, sending love and quiet space to grieve. Pets are angels when they are with us in the body and they are angels watching over us when they are crossed over.
    Majie and Lucy- “You got some splaining to do,” Bobbie Lee – “Don’t pee on that,” Roxie – “time to get out of bed old girl,” Wayah – “if you bite me again I’m gona bite you back,” Bear – “rocking with the band,” Roxanne – “the Queen of Everything.” Sending you the laying on of paws, we feel you and Em and send love to you both. Blessed Be – and we also think you are an incredible talented excellent blogger, top of the heap, so glad to have found you! You are not alone.

  8. Alison says:

    I could feel the tears coming as I read this, Beth. I’m so very sorry to hear of your loss. Having lost a beloved pet – no, not just a pet, a part of my family – I have a sense of what you might be feeling. Thinking of you (and of Billie, playing somewhere with my Katie). x

  9. Jason says:

    So sad to hear about Billie. I’m crying here missing my own dog terribly now. He sounds like a beautiful spirit and a great teacher. Sending you both tons of love. Jason

  10. Kim Van Dyke says:

    There are few worse pains than losing a friend whose loyalty knew no bounds. While I know she will always be watching over you both, I hope Billie comes back into your life someday, and you will know instantly that it’s her. The ones that love us so are never very far away. I will leave a bag of treats at our local shelter in her honor today. xx

  11. Kim Tarot says:

    I am so sorry for your lost. When I read your blog it literally brought tears to my eyes. Last year I had to put my dog down and it was extremely painful. I feel your pain. But you know what? We are one of the lucky one’s for having had the experience of sharing some portion of ours lives with a loving pet. Feel better.

  12. Mary L says:

    So sorry for your loss of Billie… even though I don’t really believe in an afterlife, whenever I hear about a departed fur friend I imagine them hanging out with my own greatly-loved Scrap in a giant animal park of love and awesome. I’m sure Scrap and Billie will be great friends.

  13. Matt says:

    So, so sorry for your loss. It sounds like she had a life full of nothing but love and joy. Sending love and light your way, xx

  14. Diane Norris says:

    Love and healing to you both. It’s so sad when a family member dies but know that they are with you while ever you still feel their love.

  15. raggedpoet says:

    A beautiful tribute and that final photo….. wow, but I can’t help but being in tears… The loss of those whom we are very close to is so hard to bear for us fragile earthlings. So many times I have said never again, no more animals, no more relationships, because I can;t bear the pain of letting go… but that applies to my children, my friends and everyone dear to me, so the alternative to the pain and heartache of loss doesn’t bear thinking about. All I know is that I choose to say yes to love. Bug hugs Beth sweetheart xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

    • Beth says:

      Thank you Bobby. I agree…the pain is terrible, but to not have had the love in the first place? Love (usually) neccessarily means pain and loss somewhere along the line…but like you, I’ll always choose to experience all of those feelings. xxxx

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