We lost our beautiful Bodie-Boy this week.
It was completely unexpected.
I’m half-functioning and half-tears. I miss my little woof-boy. He was a stumpy-tailed cattle-dog. They’re meant to be long-lived. He was meant to have a long, happy life with us.
Instead, he’s gone. The whole world stopped, started again, but now nothing feels right.
Bodie got sick. We didn’t realise how sick.
We thought he was constipated. We encouraged extra water, we watched his bowel movements. When he vomited more than twice, we took him to the vet and got an injection of antibiotics.
The vomiting went away, we gave him softer foods, we encouraged him, we watched his bowel movements and made sure he was still going. We knew he wasn’t 100 percent, but we weren’t too worried. He was still running and barking at cars; he was still wagging his tail.
Then two weeks later, the vomiting came back. We went back to the vet, got antibiotics in tablet form. He was still eating. We were still monitoring. He was doing the downward dog stretch and holding it. We weren’t happy, but we were looking after him.
A few days later, he cried the worst, human-sounding cries I’ve ever heard an animal make. Desperate and in pain. His ears flat again his head. He vomited his last meal from the previous day. He was suddenly in horrible, awful pain. We went straight to the vet. He got x-rays; he had a back-log of poo and no obvious obstruction or cause for the back-log. He was given anti-pain and anti-nausea injections; we got more antibiotics, a home enema kit and electrolytes.
Now, he was outright suffering. He wouldn’t eat any more. He was still drinking water, and we were making sure he got some electrolytes. He was vomiting, and hiding in all the corners of the garden to vomit in. We had no luck with the home enema or the antibiotic tablets (he was throwing them up). He had patches of sound, peaceful sleep, and patches of whimpering discomfort (though nothing like the human cries of anguish). We patted him, stroked his back, shadowed him, watched over him, stuck fresh water under his nose, made him drink, watched him not poo.
If we were sleeping or napping at night and he needed to go out again, his sister Indi would come and find one of us, to get us to open the door for him.
We took him back to the vet two days later, and they did a sedation and enema. A whole lot of black, backed-up stuff was removed from his bowels, but the vet also said it looked like there was internal bleeding. The vet said he hoped to see the vomiting stop; that would be the most encouraging thing.
The vomiting didn’t stop. As soon as we got back from the vet, Bodie vomited the only thing he had left in his gut – yellow bile stuff. We watched over him. He was tired. We watched him sleep, we patted his face and stroked his back and let him know he was loved. We put water in front of him and felt encouraged when he drank.
The vet said the next step would be an exploratory laparotomy – surgery. It seemed drastic, but Bodie wasn't eating. He was still drinking, but he was tired and noticeably thinner. He could still wag his tail, and sometimes he did. He seemed to stop vomiting, and mostly he accepted our pats, closed his eyes, sighed and went back to resting. We wanted our Bodie-Boy back to full health.
We said yes to the surgery. Bodie hadn't eaten for five days. We hoped to find an obstruction, get it removed, get all the backed-up poo removed, and get his tummy system re-set. For the first time since he got ill, Bodie didn’t want to get in the car. He was never fond of cars and car rides, but he normally went along.
Maybe he knew.
The vet rang mid-surgery and said Bodie had extreme peritonitis, and all his intestines were all stuck together. There’d been some kind of obstruction which had perforated his intestines and enflamed everything. The x-rays didn’t show anything that could have caused the obstruction, and anyway, by the time the first lot of x-rays got done, it was probably already too late.
We didn’t know. He was in horrible, horrible pain and we didn’t know.
The vet didn’t wake Bodie from the anaesthetic. And now he’s gone. He was barely seven years old. And he’s gone away from us for ever.
I don’t know which is worse. If he’d passed away at home, he wouldn’t have had the stress of that final vet visit and being away from us. But he would have suffered longer. We wouldn’t have known what was wrong and how sick he was; having some idea of how ill he was means there’s a relief in knowing he’s not suffering any more. He was in so much pain and we didn’t know.
We brought him home and buried him in the garden. We buried him with two of his favourite piggy toys, and his special kong toy (with his customised gnawed opening that gave him easier access to the treats). We put in flowers – from his daddy, from his mummy and the baba he never got to meet, and from his sister, Indi.
We miss him. I miss him. He was dearly loved with us and I know he loved us back with all his doggy heart.
He was a unique little boy, a gentle soul and my beautiful pupper. I love him and I miss him.
These are some of the things I love about my Bodie-Boy:
Your beautiful brown eyes which shone with light and intelligence, and the softest fur which made up the unique markings on your face.
Your beautiful ears had the same softest fur and were so expressive. You were on high alert when they were lifted and pointed, and you were gentle and soft when they were completely flat. I often gave in to the temptation to kiss your soft head and your ears, and you didn’t mind.
Your little stumpy-tail, which bobbed up and down like a delighted, energetic apostrophe when you were happy. Such a little tail with which you showed us all your happiness.
You gave us wiggle-bum greetings of delight. You would come towards us with flat ears and your smiling mouth and your apostrophe-tail bobbing. And when we reached you, your entire rear would wiggle violently in joyous greeting. Sometimes you apostrophe-tail-bobbed, wiggle-bummed and added a little prance as you came towards us.
When you had to do a doggy shake to relieve your doggy tension, I started calling it the “baggada-baggada” move. And if I asked you to do “baggada-baggada”, you usually would.
You never put yourself forward. You always waited your turn politely to greet us, for your cuddles, and for your food. And I always made sure you got your fair share of everything. If there was tasty food being prepared in the kitchen, sometimes you would come and sit politely nearby, sometimes you waited just outside the kitchen, and sometimes you waited on your bed. I always made sure to go and find you and give you (a bit more than) your share.
You liked to have your bedroom in a darkened room so you could sleep deeply and soundly. At night, when you were ready, you would take yourself off to your bed. Sometimes, we disturbed you a little because we couldn’t resist giving you a little pat which you accepted peacefully. Then, just like on winter nights when we disturbed you, patted you and re-covered you with your rugs, you would sigh contentedly and settle in deeper and continue to sleep.
Sometimes if you’d been asleep at the evening and you needed to wee, you would come and find us, and stand near the doorway with your little flat ears and sleepy eyes blinking in the light, looking for all the world like a little boy in his pyjamas. Sometimes, you came and gave me a sleepy affectionate nuzzle and my heart never melted so much as it did in those moments.
If we were sitting on the ground, you sometimes liked to climb onto our legs the way puppies clamber onto their fur-parents. If we said “Bodie, kiss”, you would lift your nose gently towards our face, sniffing, inhaling so carefully and delicately, as though breathing in our entire scent into your memory for the first time. You didn’t lick. Your little wet nose would touch and tickle our cheeks until I couldn’t bear it anymore, and I would giggle and squeal, and you would bob your apostrophe-tail delightedly in reply.
Sometimes, I wanted to swamp you in hugs. You usually accepted them, being the beautiful boy that you are. And sometimes during the hugs, I would see your eyes darting mischievously towards me and I knew that, if I didn’t move my face back in time, I would get a lunged nose bop on the face (plus delighted wiggly-tail, of course).
Sometimes, if you wanted our attention, you would come over and sniff us, and follow it up with a gentle, then increasingly peremptorial series of 2-3 nose bops. Your nose bops always made us smile in delight.
Sometimes, especially in winter, you wouldn’t mind sitting in my lap, so I could hug you and pat you and kiss the soft fur on the top of your head, and we would watch TV together. I would just pat your chest or back, conveying my love through touch and gentle words that I know you understood. Mostly, you didn’t stay in my lap long, but on some rare moments, you chose to stay for ages. I cherished those moments.
You were always gentle and deferring inside the house. Where Indi would bop a door open hard enough that it was the doggy-equivalent of a kick and then stand there with flat ears, wagging tail, doing the doggy-equivalent of hands-on-hips, you would gently nudge the door enough to try and see me inside and maybe whine and catch my attention, but not enough to actually open the door. I would always hurry to open the door for you.
You were so strong, but you were so gentle in spirit and really good-natured. You were stronger than Indi when you wanted to be, but you were happy to let her be bossy, and you deferred to her. Sometimes, you deferred too much. If she commandeered both doggy beds, you would stretch out on the floor instead without complaint. And when we realised what she was doing and ordered her onto only one doggy bed, you would get up and take up your share of your straight away. And yet, if Indi did push you too far, you occasionally showed her you were stronger than her, and reminded her not to get too bossy.
You had a little game that you used to like to play just with your daddy. Where your daddy would drift both his hands towards you slowly – soooo slowly – before darting in and tickling one side of your face and then the other and then darting away again. And you had to keep an eye on both his hands, watching and waiting and on alert, waiting to snaffle at whichever culprit hand came within reach first. You would get more and more excited and bark a rare, high-pitched bark that we never heard at any other time. And the game would dissolve into cuddles and giggles and tummy rubs.
When you and Indi were given treats, Indi would gobble through hers with all her speed and might. Not you, though. No, you preferred to wait - sitting patiently near it, checking it was still there, whimpering a little through your heroic self-denial, maybe allowing yourself one, maybe two, licks at the most - but not eating it. What were you waiting for? You were waiting for Indi to finish - so you could have the joy of growling at her and warning her off, and then settle in to slowly enjoy yours in front of her while growling some more, as she watched! (She wasn't above trying to steal yours, but we knew that trick and we always made sure you didn't get robbed of your share).
You would watch – really watch – TV. You would rest and watch the screen, and always get to your feet alertly with your ears all pointy when animals appeared. You would get closer and closer to the screen. One time you got up and tried to nibble at the screen (that didn’t go down well and you didn’t try that again). Another time, you checked behind the TV to see where all the sheep on the screen were disappearing to. You watched all animals on the TV. Dogs of course were a favourite. Sheep and cattle – per your traditional doggy breed’s occupation – also fascinated you.
You like to sit near us, with your back to us in your ultimate sign of trust. Sometimes you did this immediately after the wiggle-bum-prance greeting, when you then slid straight onto your back asking for a tummy rub. Cuddles also frequently degenerated into tummy rub sessions, and on one memorable occasion, I ended a tummy rub session when you sneezed in my face!
You were a country-boy. You were born in the country and it was where you were happiest. You were always happy and curious and alert during bushwalks. You loved open country and all the smells and all the tantalising scents from different dogs and other animals. And you loved adding your own wee splashes to the little bushes we walked by – even after you’d long run out of wee, you kept pausing to cock that leg over another bush. You loved lakes, dams and natural open pools of water and would plunge into them fearlessly.
You got to see a lot of things in your life. In person, you met many, many kangaroos, an echidna, a couple of snakes, cows, king parrots, cockatoos and black cockatoos. From the car, you saw and smelt emus, a goanna, sheep, goats, horses, llamas and kookaburras. You saw the bushfires in the hills around us and smelt their smoke. You saw and played in snow twice in your life, and you adored it and pranced and danced and ran around with Indi and rolled on your back. We finished a bushwalk in a summer thunderstorm once. We walked back to the car, soaked in thumping rain, thunder and lightning crashing and flashing overhead, and you and Indi led the way back, pausing occasionally to futilely shake the wet off you, and turning your heads and looking at us as if to say “why are we walking in this wet-sky-stuff again?”
You didn’t like the car rides to get to the bushwalks, but you learnt to tolerate them. You would sit in the back, your eyes bright, your ears flat, and you give audible yawns of nervous energy. You liked to stick your head out of the window, and breathe in the breeze and all the scents whooshing past. You even did this when you were ill and in pain, on your very last car trip to the vet.
The garden was your favourite place and doggy-kingdom. You loved to sit outside and survey and guard the perimetre with dedicated vigilance. You would be on alert for the slightest disturbance on the street. The slightest thing – people, dogs, bicycles, cars, cars with trailers which squeaked and banged and rattled – and you chased the sound, unleashing your very loud “oo-woo-woo” barks of territorial warning. If a car stopped outside the garden gate, you would race over, ears on high alert, and land in front of the garden on all fours ready to bark. You never, ever slept outside (until you got sick).
You hated loud noises. That was why you barked at the cars, the bikes, the loud noisy people who parked outside our house, and the cars with the noisy trailers. The even louder rumbling noises – the trucks and buses – you hated and they always sent you trotting nonchalantly and quickly back indoors. Then you would stick your head out of the back door and survey the world with squinting, suspicious eyes long after the noise had gone.
You were a dedicated chaser of the postman. The sound of the postman and his motorbike had you and running outside to bark at him in a frenzy of delight. Indi always tried to beat you out the door, but you usually got out there first, leaving her to make grumbling squeals of indignation and protest as she scrambled outside in your wake.
If I was in the garden, you often sat beside me, sometimes right at my feet, sometimes between my feet. I always felt honoured and I would frequently reach out and pat and caress your soft furry head and ears. Your ears would flatten briefly in response and straighten into alert mode again.
You were gentle and sweet, but oh my, you had a wilful, stubborn streak too. I sometimes called you “my garçon têtu” (“my stubborn boy”). You had very good selective hearing – especially when you were being called in for the night. Often, you just had to go and sniff at This And Other Important Things before you could come inside. If you had anyone in the street to oo-woo-woo at, you wouldn’t stop until you were ready to stop, thank you very much. And Indi knew to stay out of your way when you were in full oo-woo-woo mode.
You loved running. You were mind-bendingly fast, and could outpace a car doing 40 or 50 km down the street.
Not for you, the normal game of I-throw-the-ball-and-you-chase-and-bring-it-back. No, the balls were boring for you (unless they were brand new). You liked the toy piggies with their lurid, honking shrieks. I threw these, and your game – the game you invented – was to race back up the garden with it, dodging me and taking piggy to the “safe zone” further up the garden. You could zig-zag and change direction like the best rugby players, leaving me cross-footed and off-balance. Then I would chase you into the safe zone, steal piggy, hurl it down the garden again, and watch you pelt after it like the wind.
You loved hide-and-seek. You loved it when I hid and you had to find me. You loved it when I hid the piggy and you had to find it. I remember when you were a young pupper, hiding behind a clump of grass. We could see your little black face and ears, and then when Indi drew level, you leapt out with a prance onto her. You kept a love of hide-and-seek alive in me, my darling.
Sometimes if you were grooving in the garden, and didn’t know I was home until I materialised at the top of the garden, you would drop what you were doing, and flat-out sprint towards me, ears flat, mouth laughing, and then you would leap onto me in delight. And I would try and hug, pat, caress and rub you, all at the same time.
And one of my favourite things you would do with us, was when you and I sat down facing each other. Your ears would be flat, and my hands would be gently caressing and cupping your soft-furred head and ears. Sometimes, your eyes would close in complete serene happiness. Then I would exhale gently with a slow ‘hawawa’ of a whisper, and you would lean your head forward and inhale my breath. Inhale and inhale and inhale, until you reached the stuttering edges of your in-breath. It was as though you were breathing in the essence of me and memorising all of it. You did that with both of us.
I had lots of nicknames for you: Bobo, Beau-Bo, My Little Boy, My Beautiful Boy, Dit-Beau Garçon, My Wee Man, My Little Puppy-Man, Mon-Beau, My Beautiful Bodie-Boy. And they were all true.
You were, you are, my beloved Bodie-Boy and we miss you desperately and we wish you hadn’t been called away so soon.
You’ve left a Bodie-sized hole in our hearts, and I don’t know what we’ll do without you.
We love you. We miss you. I love you.
A Story for my Bodie
In the endless magic of the universe, the nebula was a lake of blue mist with clouds of gold rising above it. Dots of white sparkled and shimmered.
Cradled and nurtured inside the nebula, the little spirit was azure in colour. It was being born into being. It was being sung to by the stars, and magic and energy hummed and danced through the colours. The little spirit was growing closer to its birth.
Then one day, the stars sang extra loud, the nebula of blue lake and gold clouds brightened, and all the white dots pulsed eagerly.
A new figure appeared through the stars, running easily towards the nebula. It was dark-blue and dog-shaped. It had pointy, triangular ears and its tail was a little apostrophe, and its big heart cast a silver sheen all around it.
It greeted the little spirit with flat ears, a bobbing tail and quiet joy. “I have come from where you are going. I’m your guardian spirit and I will guide you to your new home, and I will watch over you.”
In the magic of the blue and gold nebula, the little spirit held out its hand in joy, and the dark-blue, dog-shaped spirit sat down next to it in a familiar gesture of loving protection, confidence and vigilance. Just like it used to do with its humans - and the little spirit’s future parents.