Just a Dog


I keep telling myself, sternly, ‘she was just a dog.’

But even dogs leave gaps. And in my often lonely life, where company is rare and precious, gaps gouged let an icy draught in.

I got Pili 9 years ago when life was at its loneliest in the Outpost; Hat had just gone to Real School.

I took a plane to the north, hitched a lift across the border, scooped up an Andrex puppy and got a lift all the way home again; 1 000 kilometers with a yellow bundle that gravitated between back seat and my lap.  She made me laugh the moment she arrived.  She whined at the foot of my high bed until I scooped her quietly up so she could lie softly, triumphantly, at on top of the duvet. Six months said my husband, ‘she can sleep there for six months’. We made it to nine before he noticed.

She tormented the cats. Adored water. Watched television.

From the Outpost we did thousands and thousands and thousands of miles together. In the four years when our lives slid sideways and I found myself lurching from house to house, home to home, one place to another, she was my constant; she was more constant, more present than my husband who often found himself in another part of the world to me for the show must go on and bills must be paid.

We walked on beaches (so that she bore a perennial habit to hunt for something, anything, even in a puddle, lest a fish or an urchin or an eel lie within muddy shallows; her two front paws paddling and her tail wagging). We walked through bush thick with the rattle of leaves so that I only knew where she was for the clatter of undergrowth or the cackle of indignant guinea fowl that she sent skywards. And then later, I’d sip a beer and pick fat ticks from her yellow coat.

She was the best traveller, in cars, in planes. She lay curled obediently beside me, a cat, another dog, a case, a crate of chickens and waited until we got there. Wherever there was. Sleeping, her snoring was occasionally interrupted by a flock of francolin only she could see but which I knew she was chasing for the twitch of her feet.

And then, quite suddenly, and before her time, she got sick and she died.

I got back from the vets and wept as I picked her golden hairs from the seat of my car where she had moulted in that short last journey.

Then I whistled up Jip and walked for miles beneath the mountain. Sometime Jip looked back, her black brow furrowed in puzzlement, ‘Where’s Pil?’ and sometimes, because I forgot about the recent gap, I whistled and called. ‘Come dogs!’ remembering too late, there is only one.  I watch the horizon for a bit, the dust, the sky, if I watch and wait long enough, can I will her into view?

Just a dog?

Just a mum?



11 Responses to “Just a Dog”

  1. Steph Horner Says:

    Rubbish news for you. May she rest in peace. They are never, “just a dog”. Nice to hear from you again. Steph

  2. NS Says:

    ❤️ There’s no such thing as “just a dog” when you love them.

  3. Addy Says:

    So sorry. I know only too well what a huge hole a dog leaves. I still miss my dog 6 years after he passed.

  4. Mecha Says:

    I’m so so sorry. My love and prayers to you and yours.

  5. Ceri Says:

    Never just a dog. Always a friend and deserving to be mourned and remembered. Wishing you well

  6. Sabine Says:

    We had Sheba, she was also “just a dog” and she looked like Pili. She died a long time ago. We talk about her regularly, she has never left us and we have (had) many others since.

  7. Leilani Weatherington Says:

    So sorry. And yes, they burrow their way into your heart, and the canyon left when they are gone is huge. We still mourn our little Schnauzer.

  8. Kelly Says:

    Oh the loss of a beloved friend. I am sorry. Dogs are woven into our lives so completely that the rupture feels endlessly surprising and devastating. Months after my 20 year old staffie died I am still calling her or moving carefully around where I expect her to be (almost constantly at my feet). There is an intimacy and acceptance between us and our dogs that is as extraordinary as the loss is painful. Of all creatures, I wish dogs could live forever as the gods they truly are.

  9. Potty Mummy Says:

    So sorry to hear this. x

  10. katedsy Says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful companion.

  11. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thank you all. I still keep looking back and whilstling for her …

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