Everyone says that we saved Charlie.
But in truth, she saved us in so many ways.
She saved me.
This has been, without a doubt, the most terrible, and the most beautiful 11 days of my life.
From diagnosis to the time when Charlie went to sleep for the last time.
How do you fit what you wish was an entire lifetime into 11 days?
After the shock – the soul shattering, earth stopping shock of finding out she had liver cancer, we decided to throw the book at it and try anything and everything.
But the most important thing we did, was just ‘be’.
We rarely spent a moment apart. If I had to go somewhere, it was only for a moment, and then I was right back by her side.
We talked a lot. I cried.
We cuddled and kissed, and the scratches… so many; behind the ears, under the chin, and just above her tail- her favourite spot.
Her and Hank had lots of time to sit, and snuggle. He loved her so much.
And she loved him. We’ve got so many photos of her holding his paw, just like this.
We took photos. Polaroids. Hundreds of them.
We went to the beach, watched the boys play, cuddled under blankets and stared at the sea. We watched the sunset many times.
Paul and I would laugh at all of the funny things she’s done over the years (remember how she ate that Apple and Cinnamon Tea Cake I made for Mother’s day while it was cooling on the bench? Or what about how she used to chase the horses around the race track near our old house? She was so fast!) while we were holding her, kissing her.
And we were trying everything we knew, clutching at straws, to help save her.
Giving her tinctures and remedies, herbs and teas. Exploring every available option; some of them running into the tens of thousands… we would have moved heaven and earth for her.
Sending her as much love as I possibly could muster, all of it coming from my broken heart.
When we first adopted Charlie, she was three days away from being put to sleep.
‘How could anyone do it?’ was a question that I pondered for a very long time. Here was a beautiful, innocent creature who deserved a beautiful life.
So we gave her one.
She saw lakes, rivers and beaches.
She’d been to the tops of mountains, bushwalking, to local eco-systems and the rainforest.
She’s chased possums (oh she loved stalking possums!) and barked at almost everyone- the postie, the delivery boy, little white dogs, annoying kids on skateboards, Paul’s friends (she didn’t like men very much!).
She’s eaten the best food. She’s drank mostly filtered water.
She’s had the greatest human and dog friends ever, and one of her first and best friends was Boris (who, funnily enough, is the same breed as Charlie, and both adopted). They just got each other.
She’s slept in bed with us, the king size, which we got for her…don’t you all have a bigger bed so your dog can fit?
She had toys galore. She especially loved squeaky toys… Anything she could tear apart and destroy.
She’s been wrapped in the warmest, softest blankets, slept on a gold satin pillowcase (not kidding) and got the best of everything.
And why shouldn’t she?
If I was given a second chance I’m pretty sure I would want to enjoy the finer things in life.
So as we watched our baby rapidly going downhill, we had to make a very quick, and heartbreaking decision.
On Wednesday, the 6th of August, 2014, at 4.30pm, Charlie had her last breath.
My Charlie Girl, my angel, my princess.
We sat on a hill, overlooking a valley. This was taken about 10 minutes before. She’s relaxed, knowing that it’s her time.
We could see trees, and flowers, and a horse called Velvet. He came over to watch, and lend his gentle support (you can see him in the background).
There were chickens, and guinea fowl, magpies, kookaburras, and a lorikeet called ‘Pretty Boy’.
No other sounds, just the hum of dusk approaching.
The sun was shining on our little patch of grass, where Paul and I held her. Hank sat beside us, quietly, just watching.
We cried, and sobbed, and kissed her and told her we loved her. She was exhausted; she’d been fighting so long.
Fighting as a puppy, with a horrendous first few years. Fighting all that life threw at her.
But when we met, I told her she didn’t need to fight anymore.
I would fight for her.
Toni, our incredible vet, and Robyn, her Vet Nurse were there. They stroked her face, and gave her so much love it floored us. They treated her like the delicate girl she was, holding her little paws, and crying with us.
Then, it was over, all too fast. A tiny amount of highly concentrated anaesthetic and our baby was gone.
This was the beautiful sunset, just for her.
No-one, and nothing else mattered in that moment. Just her.
I wanted the World to stop what it was doing.
I wanted cars to stop, people to stop… time to stop.
I wanted people to acknowledge her and give her the dignified send off that she deserved.
And as the sun hit the horizon, on what it seemed like the longest day ever, relief flooded through us.
(And that’s not a cloud on the right hand side- it’s in all three of the photos I took.)
We’ve gone through a whole lot of emotions. Sadness, of course, happiness and laughter, at the little things her and Hank do to make us laugh. Overwhelming gratitude that she has touched our lives in such a profound way. And love. Infinite love that never ends.
She wasn’t just a dog. I never called her that. I referred to her as a person. As much as it caused many eyes to roll, she truly was.
‘My little person’.
She was so smart, and she was always thinking. Not a moment went by that she was ‘just a dog’.
She was my secret keeper, my protector, my soul.
I had no idea what she meant to people… I couldn’t see outside of our love. But I’ve been completely overwhelmed with the love that people have expressed for her; and not just people that have met her.
Her story struck a cord with so many; an abused dog is rescued and given a second chance.
Not an original story, but one that we hear too much of.
And when I was told last night, that ‘It was a privilege to know her‘ from countless people, I knew that others felt the same way.
They are grieving with us. For her.
She gave me the gift of complete unconditional love. Never wanting anything except my love back.
She’s been the biggest part of my life for so long; the most important, and that void is open, raw and painful.
The grief has been unbearable at times.
I’ve wanted to rip out my heart, begging for the pain, the loss, the grief to subside.
The agony of your best friend dying is truly surreal; the sadness, palpable.
So for now, we cherish these photos, memories and anything we can to keep the memory of her alive.
We hold each other, and support each other.
I’d love for you to share with me below a favourite memory of Charlie (whether you’ve met her or not) of something about her, her story or her illness that’s touched your heart.
In the coming weeks, when I feel up to it, I will share Charlie’s Protocol.
There is no doubt in my mind that Charlie was ready to give up when we first welcomed her into our home. This is a cancer that has been there for a long time.
Good, organic food, clean water, the right supplements, sleep, sunshine and so much love extended her life for 4 years.
If she’d gone to any other home, she’d have given up a long time ago.
Knowledge of that has made her passing a tiny bit more bearable.
In the meantime, we’d like to express our heartfelt gratitude to:
Dr Toni Lynch and team, for your love, support and hours and hours of time you’ve spent with us
Phivo from Augustine Approved, for your exceptional knowledge of food, nutrition and cancer- Charlie loved you (and Mishka certainly didn’t put up with the white dog antics!) 😀
Richard from Alkaline World, for supplying us with the best alkaline water and your kind words
Elise from Elise Gow Photography, for taking some breathtaking family photos for us (to come)
Jade, our herbalist from jadewalker.com.au, for rushing special teas to us; it won’t be forgotten
Sara from The Space in Between, for your countless reiki healings that you sent to us in this sad time (remember when Charlie met Dexter- I’m just going to turn my head away from you now! Ha!)
And all of our friends and loved ones who called to say goodbye, ‘we love you Charlie’, or just to cry with me over the phone; our parents and families, Dee, Alex, Robyn, Sara, Hannah, Dani, Dom, Stacey, Liz (The book is incredible, thank you my love) Rachael, Michelle, Beata, Matthew, Lauren, Kye…wow. I know I’ve forgotten people, but you’re all in my hearts and I thank you for being a shoulder to cry on. Thank you for helping us to honour Charlie.
For now, my love, it’s goodbye.
A physical one, as your spirit is always with me, and your love envelops us all.
We can’t wait to kiss your face again.
Rest in peace my love.