I will have to look for more stories in blogs, I think, because so far most of what I have read has been quite dramatic.
I know I said on Day Minus-One that I was stopping because we were getting a puppy, but the step before that is the more important one.
I stopped drinking because my dog died, but it was not an immediate decision. It's really only now that I see it as cause and effect.
Something big had to change in my life so that I was not quite the same person, because that person was the one who vested so very much in the fact that her dog loved her without limits and wanted nothing more than to be with her.
That sounds soppy doesn't it? You need to know though, that I am country-tough about pets and this was the exception that proved the rule. We just found each other, that's all.
She was the only creature, human or animal, who - at least in the last five years - made me feel unconditionally loved and worthwhile. That isn't to say that I have not been loved, but with teenaged children and a long running marriage, and a thankless job followed by a struggle to work out how to run my own business, it's pretty easy to believe you're just a utility.
Of course, the alcohol wouldn't have helped with the worthlessness either...
But May was always there. Always. And there was nothing I could do or say that would ever dent that devotion. And when I woke up in the middle of the night I would feel for her with my feet and within a few minutes I could fall asleep again. She was my calm.
After she died I didn't do very well. Perhaps strangely, I didn't really drink more than usual, but I also took less and less pleasure in it. Everything was sour. Nothing was lively. I began to sense self-destruction and the seeds for sobriety were sown.
I wrote something, about three days after she was gone, because my heart was breaking over the space beside me where she should have been. I'd just seen one of those A letter to... articles in The Guardian and it felt like the right thing to do.
A letter to … my dog, who saved me.
I’m country born, and so were you, but we met in the city when your family lost their farm and you needed a home.
We had a dog already, always one. My mother used to say, ‘if you have one dog, you’ve got a friend, but if you have two dogs you’ve got two dogs’. Like many clever things she said, it turned out to be wrong.
You were meant to be pack for our slightly anxious dog, and to chill with the kids.
But instead, you chose me.
I didn’t encourage you, but perhaps you could tell that no one else was choosing me then. Not my weary husband; not my fight-to-be-free teens; not my former career.
You, an outside dog for your first five years, landed your 30kg at my feet in bed on your second night and never left.
“She’s a woman’s dog,” your first owner told me, “she’ll know when you’re sad”. I believed her, because she’d known a lot of sadness, but I didn’t really understand until it happened.
The tap of your toenails, the jink of your name tag, the huffle of your evening sighs. Big Labrador eyes watchful for cheese or a carrot end flipped your way. For four years I immersed in your sounds, sight, smell, and snowy drifts of hair. I had to accept you actually wanted to be with me. I couldn’t resist the peace you gave me, you were my calm, my flow, my other self.
My younger daughter declared: “I’m going to fall in love with the man who looks at me like that dog looks at you, Mum”. Everyone knew there was an affair going on in our house. You tap-tap-tapped behind me on the wood floors, never far off.
I called you Silly Old Lady, I called you Great Big Dope, I called you My Love, and My Loyal.
And so: you were lying behind my armchair where you caught the fan’s breeze but knew immediately if I got up.
Only you weren’t, really, because an unknown number rang my phone and when I ignored it my husband’s rang and he answered and I was running before he hung up.
“Yes, she’s ours,” I’d heard, and, “Yes, we’re on the Connection Road too”. I passed the mailbox chanting no, no, no, because that shape on the road in the headlights couldn’t be you.
There was blood below you, dark shine on the lit bitumen, coming from nowhere I could see. You were clean, soft, and the man said, “She’s gone I think”, but you were still breathing.
I cradled you, your eyes on me. You breathed three, four more times.
I don’t want a plaque, or your ashes, or to plant a rosebush. You weren’t my baby. I wasn’t your mum. I won’t keep your collar in a box.
All I want to keep is the peace we made together, but I am broken now and it has all spilled away.