A dog blog. Not my idea. My husband’s. Phil has lots of ideas, but this one I liked. I imagined it would be all about having fun with our new Labrador puppy Lila, but now know that the blog can’t start without the sad end of our border collie Rosie.

Rosie was to have been dead within weeks. Possibly days. No later than Christmas the vet predicted. Her tumour could cause a massive brain haemorrhage. So we promptly began the grim task of digging a grave in one of our horse paddocks. It was summer. In Australia. The ground rockhard after eleven years of record-breaking drought. Our task made even more miserable by sweltering heat.

Phil hacked at the rock with a mattock while I clawed at the loosened earth with my hands. We hated what we were doing. We snarled at each other. We feared scavenging foxes and turned the grave into a fortress lined with chicken wire to be topped with a concrete slab. We couldn’t agree on the correct size of the grave. I put a tape measure to poor Rosie. I angrily climbed into the grave myself to prove Phil wrong. It was big enough. Rosie looked on. And then defied the odds. She lived 13 months beyond Christmas.  [read more below]

[wpvideo 9EMv6hGa w=484]

Although thankful for the extra time, it was torture. I didn’t want her to bleed to death. I didn’t want her to have seizures. I wanted to call the shots, but felt overwhelmed by the responsibility. I didn’t want to do it too soon. I didn’t want to do it too late. How would I know when the time was right? I knew. Rosie suddenly turned a very sharp corner and I couldn’t get the vet here quickly enough.

She showed up in black. The vet. I said nothing but wondered whether she may have dressed for the funeral. But no, she was on her way to an evening out. I was worried about her wearing good clothes in the paddock. She wasn’t. With her bare hand, she picked up a clump of horse poo, tossed it aside and plunked herself down next to Rosie. She couldn’t have cared less that she had hay all over the back of her when she left. I am eternally grateful.

Remembering saying goodbye to Rosie makes my eyes sting. I held her long past the moment her warmth had drained away. I laid her limp body in the grave along with her lambskin bedding and toys. I’d been dreading this for the not-quite-ten years of her life. And yet I still found myself unprepared.

Phil said we should get another dog. Inconceivable. When no one was looking, I’d wander down to Rosie’s grave and lie on the grass beside it. I didn’t cry. I just lay there. Close to her. I had a crazy thought: I could dig her up and have one last look. Phil hinted that might not be advisable. Of course, he was right. And I didn’t really mean it anyway.

And then a few weeks later the state of Victoria was ravaged by bushfires. A terrible distraction. Grief shunted aside by shock. I was relieved Rosie had gone when she had. After the inferno, smoke continued to churn from the charred hills around us. The phone rang day and night. Everyone talking talking talking. Whose house had burned. Who had died how. How lucky we were to be alive. I didn’t feel lucky. I didn’t feel much at all.

[If you have received this post by email, please click “dog downunder” or “saying goodbye to Rosie” in order to view accompanying video in a web page.]