Wednesday, 14 May 2014

And Tickle came home

The death of a dog is always an intensely personal experience. But I hope you will forgive me one final post about Tickle - for today has been an extraordinarily special one.

When Tickle was put to sleep on Saturday afternoon, our vet Edward asked: "Are you taking her home with you?"

"No," I said. "Dead is dead."

I really meant this. It's how I feel and, other than with my first amazing flatcoat Freddie (whose ashes still sit beside me here), I have always felt that the best place for a dead dog is in my heart, in my memory. I have never needed any physical remnant of a dog I have loved and lost.

So I walked out of the vets without her on Saturday afternoon. But I soon began to fret about it. And by Sunday night, it had begun to burn inside: I wanted Tickle back; back here with me.

I thought Jon would think I was mad. Instead he said: "No, I understand. She was lost before, and you brought her home. Now she is lost again.

"Go get her."

I called the vets yesterday morning, knowing they would have put Tickle in their freezer after I'd left on Saturday.

"Is she still with you?" I asked.

She wasn't. The veterinary "disposal" company had done their rounds early and had taken her.

"Would you like their number?" they asked.

I would.

I called them: "Do you have her?" I asked. "Am I in time?"

They said that because Tickle wasn't down for an individual cremation, she would be in an unmarked body bag, among several others. It would be hard to find her, they explained. But they asked for a description and said they would call back.

You hear so many nightmare stories about the disposal of dogs. Most of all I feared that, out of sheer expediency, they would tell me that I was too late.

But they called back two hours later to tell me they'd found her. It had meant opening several sealed bags. But they had read the blog and they did it.

For me.

For Tickle.

A lovely lady called Georgie said: "We will deliver her back to your vets tomorrow morning for you."

I sobbed my thanks. The need to have Tickle back here with me had become all-consuming.

So that was yesterday and, this morning, Jon and I went to Hungerford garden centre and picked out a young tree  - a pear tree.  And then I went, on my own, to collect Tickle.

I confess I howled all the way there, filled with foreboding about how difficult it might be to see her dead. Now I am not squeamish, but Tickle had been in a freezer for two and a half days and then, on my request, allowed to thaw.

But the moment I saw her, an extraordinary calm descended. She looked OK. She was still Tickle. So - be warned - I am including pictures of my dead dog here.

Vet nurse Sam and I carried her out to my car in a dog basket. And then I picked Tickle up and placed her on the front seat of my car.

Her place.

I drove home stroking her and talking to her. The movement of the car moved her body. She felt alive under my hand. And then I looked down and saw air bubbles coming out of her nose.  Of course it was just all the movement. But I confess for just a second or two I allowed myself the miracle before chiding myself for being so stupid.

When I got home, I carried her from the car and placed her on a blanket on the kitchen table.  The dogs came and sniffed her. They were very quiet. No doubt in my mind, they understood the significance of what was happening.

I then dressed Tickle in the red Hotterdog fleece that had swaddled her after she had broken her leg seven years ago, and carried her out to the grave we had dug in the garden. I laid her in it on a small foam dog bed and covered her with a soft blanket. We filled the hole and planted the pear tree.

And then, just as we had finished clearing up and were standing by the grave, the skies darkened.

And this happened.

A little later, I drove down to the Plain with the dogs. That darned rainbow tracked me the whole way there, messing with my atheistic, reductionist head.

It was so comforting I laughed out loud.

Whoever or whatever was responsible for that.... thank you.

Tonight, as I take the dogs out for the last time before bed, I will pass Tickle and her pear tree and whisper goodnight to my beloved girl.

Tickle is back home with me.

Where she belongs.

Related post: My friend Tickle


  1. Oh no I'm crying again haha.. oh my poor tear ducts.

    Closure is good. I never got mine so in a weird way - I feel happy for you.

  2. When we had to say goodbye to our Gordon the vet came to the house, and afterwards, at 2am, we sat on the doorstep with a stiff drink when suddenly the moon lit the most amazing cloud formation. It looked just like her face, looking down on us and letting us know she was okay. Her name, aptly, was Luna. And she was always bonkers when there was a full moon. So pleased that your beloved Tickle is home.x

  3. Jemima. Such a sad time for you. Thanks for writing about it. I am sobbing still. Can I tell you that what you have done for us? Through BRX you have given so many dogs their lives that would otherwise have been lost. And people like us would have remained ever miserable through the loss of cherished dogs. When we lost our golden retrievers Ben and Josh I was so sad I couldn't bear to have dogs and lose again. Then I saw on your website what was happening to dogs that were alive and needing homes, So now we have Benji here who would have been dead in Roscommon without your intervention. We are all very happy together. I still grieve for Ben and Josh 6 years on but I can see them every day in Benji. Thanks. Goodnight Jemima - as you say, Tickle is still around you

  4. "she wanted to bee,
    under that tree..."
    here's to dogs & rainbows

  5. She looks beautiful and peaceful again. I'm crying as well. And atheistic me wonders about that rainbow, too. Sending love to you.


  6. Recently helped my father in law bury their old golden retriever. It seems to have become my job, its the second time in the last few years that they have lost a dog and i have helped. Only this time I'm a dog owner myself, which made it so much different. I was supposed to go to work after, but after shedding a tear in the car i decided to go home and spend the day with my two dogs instead... Nothing beats the love of a dog !

  7. Crying with you once again. Do know so many people find comfort when they get their dogs home even if it's their ashes. I personally don't have ashes back and donated my dogs body for research. My comfort is that he is helping others. Whatever we do after losing our family members it hurts. Thinking of you. Know how hard this time is ��

  8. What a heartbreaking beautiful story. Thank you for sharing thoughts are with you xxxxx

  9. What a heartbreaking beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. My thoughts are with you xxxxx

  10. Tickle had one more message for you. Thank you for writing about this and sharing with us.

  11. So sorry for your loss. A truly moving tale though and, I'll confess, I did shed a tear when I saw the rainbow picture. How fitting?! RIP Tickle

  12. i'm sitting here having read this, crying..with the ashes of my two dogs in caskets beside me. i too felt the need to "bring them home". it's funny the peace we get from having them here with us isn't it. x

  13. Jemima, I hope that having Tickle back with you lessens the terrible sadness you must be feeling at this time.
    With our Mikey, once his was home again with us, I felt a huge sense of relief. Not a dog but a cat, but a shy, always scared boy I had rescued at a few weeks old. I just had to get my boy home. He was cremated and we placed his box in the corner of the living room on a bookcase next where he always sat on an evening.
    The pear tree is a beautiful tribute.

  14. Goosebumps and tears. I never go for all that Rainbow Bridge stuff but that is quite remarkable...

  15. I have been sobbing on the train twice this week. Just beautiful and has softened the heart of this cold, rational aetheist. What an extraordinary set of circumstances and timing. It's almost like the rainbow bridge was a symbol that she was following you for your walk on the Plain now that you had brought her back home....what a comfort.

    It reminds me of when my mother in law passed away from cancer. We were privileged to be with her in her last moments. Seconds after she passed, the sky darkened and the 'heavens opened'. It felt like nature was crying along with us too...

    When we are unable to articulate our depth of feeling, nature steps in to help us...there is nothing more profound or beautiful. RIP, under the tree, Tickle.

    Tickle's story also had a funny coincidence elsewhere. When I read the blog post, I was crying sat on the train and happened to see a hideous advert of a Bulldog with stenotic nares, advertising men's beauty products. I checked the website,, and noticed that they claimed there was no animal cruelty involved with the production of their products. Deeply ironic that they choose a Bulldog, who can have skin problems, to promote cosmetic skin products. So, inspired by this blog and Tickle's amazing story, rather than bitch and moan about the state of the world, I decided to contact the company and complain about their choice of advertising. I'm not sure I would have if I hadn't been so moved by Tickle's remarkable story....

  16. It is such a heartbreaking time when a dog dies. I find it hard letting go in the begining to be honest, it's like the sky has fallen in on the world.

    It always feels so desperately sad to not be able to go with them on that journey into the unknown, like you've let them down. I guess they grow wings or some such thing and have better things to do than have us around.

    We always have our dogs cremated and then mix the ashes in the ground and plant trees or long lived shrubs etc depends on the character. When Mr YY died three years ago an incredible larger than life fearless athletic Rottie cross German Shepherd we planted a Roystonia palm. That thing has grown into the biggest most robust young palm I've ever seen even amongst Roystonia....Just like he was.

    I guess I got his diet right I won't be needing trace elements thats for sure.

  17. awww (((hugs))) thinking of u reading this took me back to when l had the hard ordeal of loosing Shadow my collie of 14 half yrs 2010 still miss him <3

  18. I'm so glad Tickle was able to come home to you, again. And, Pffffft to those who scoff at the Rainbow Bridge!

  19. you did the right thing, I have always brought them home, it is such a comfort xxxxxxx God rest her soul over the Rainbow bridge xxxxxxxxxxx

  20. The fact that Tickle was still there and the rainbow - It is called a God thing!

    1. More like Karma - when you do an extraordinary amount of good in the world, it gets reciprocated. The nice people went out of their way to help Jemima, I've no doubt out of respect for what she does for dogs everyday.

      As for the rainbow?? Well, that IS extraordinary.. who can explain that? In fact, does anyone know it's derivation or how it came to be associated with doggy heaven?

  21. I have brought my last six baby's home with me, to allow myself and the other members of the family to say their goodbyes, The next day I then take them my self to Dignity Crematorium and wait to bring the ashes home with me, I could not bear the thought of them being put in plastic bags and kept in a freezer as I have with my previous pets, my last wish will be that all my baby's ashes will be put in with me when I go.

  22. Tears streaming down my face. Jemima you are one in ten million. Bless you for all the love you give these dogs. Your writing is so lucid and clear and emotive ... I would really like to read the book your ought to write one day. Long live Tickle beyond the rainbow bridge. Kea xx

  23. I have been sobbing all morning reading this lovely tribute to your beloved Tickle and only now am I able to write, although not much. I'm so pleased you changed your mind and now have Tickle back. It was obviously the right thing to do for you both. So special. Liz xx

  24. Jem you are soppy...but I must confess that I have now also shed a few tears.

    Only in England would you find such helpful people!

  25. Like you, I have always believed that they live on in our hearts and heads and there is no need to keep their physical body close by when they die.... until the last one. His name was Talann and he was very special to us. When he was ill we were faced with the prospect of possibly having to move. I couldn't bear the thought that I would leave him behind (we have always buried our dogs) so for the first time I had a dog cremated. We didn't move but his ashes sit on my desk and I find it very comforting. I talk to him all the time and I feel his presence. Like the comment from Goergina, his ashes will be put with me when I die.

  26. We have always brought our dogs home when put to sleep in the surgery. The rest of the dogs get to see them and know what has happened. For our children it lets them see death and to help them to accept it as part of living.
    Our last dog to pass was the head of the pack and to watch the pack sniff, lick and lie with him before we buried him with some of his old friends, you could feel it was very much a shared loss within our pack human and canine.
    The joy and memories and it's the naughtiest things that always bring me the fondest memories, will hopefully out weigh the pain of them leaving you.
    Thank you for sharing the passing of Tickle, many people that lose their first dog, don't understand that they will feel the grieve that they will in losing a family member or friend and thus don't realize it's normal and okay to feel like that and often hold it in, witch is never a good thing. Every dog I have had, even from many years ago, when I think of them and their passing I still well up.

  27. love you Jem thank you for sharing this beautiful moment love always Sallie Ashworth and pups Nellie and Idris xx

  28. oh god how I wish we had brought Wuffles home A big regret I shall have forever.... :-(

  29. I can't believe you are an atheist. I hope you come to Christ before it's too late.

    1. wow, how arrogant. Why can't you belief she is an atheist? What qualities do you assume atheists to have that she doesn't fit in your narrow view? Other people's religious beliefs, or lack of, are just as valid as yours. See, this is exactly why people turn against religion. I hope you come to hinduism before its too late.

      How does that feel?

    2. Fudge, I hope you come to atheism before it's too late...

      Christ, Mohamed, Buddha etc. Stories, just stories.....'religion is the opiate of the masses'. George Orwell. Keep on kidding yourself but don't think everyone else is suffering because they don't happen to follow 'Christ' or any other deity for that matter....

  30. Time for me to leave you, I won't say goodbye;
    Look for me in rainbows, high up in the sky.
    In the evening sunset, when all the world is through,
    Just look for me and love me, and I'll be close to you. x

    1. Beautiful! I always think we are forever present in memories and nature. We return from whence we came. Back to the elements. We are all stardust.

  31. I had to wait until tonight before I read your blog Jemima, I knew it would have me in floods of tears. Tickle is home with you forever, as she should be. X

  32. The comments are as moving as Tickle's journey because each of us knows the gift of love of our canine friends. We all seemingly have shed tears ready this story. Our Brittany a Collie down to six heart beats a minute seemingly needed our permission to go as our Vet shaking his head. So there were six Vets in the room and pulled to a level of awareness with medication. Kissing her and telling her it was alright to go ...Go Brittany we said, Go into the Light...still hanging on...we said do you see Pepper a old buddy collie in our home. Her tail wagged.
    Go Brittany wait for me at Rainbow Bridge there you will be able to walk again. She wagged her tail. We love you Brittany ...her eyes closed and finally her heart stopped beating. There was not a dry eye in the room. One Vet stated .."I never believed that there was a Dog Heaven with tears running down his face, She was a an amazing collie and made me a Believer. I saw it with my own eyes.

  33. What is remembered lives. She was lucky to find you.

  34. UrbanCollieChick15 May 2014 at 01:37

    You're KILLING me girl! I'm tearing up reading this!!!

  35. You know Jemima you now have people blubbing all over the planet for you and Tickle? I'm raising my hand, representing Australia :| :((.

    I'm soooooo sorry for the loss of your lovely dawgie, and yet so thrilled at the wonderful experiences you've had bringing her home. It's enough to give any reductionist paws. Um, pause.

  36. What a bittersweet story... My sincere sympathies on the loss of your special companion. I hope you find comfort and peace in your memories of the years you spent with Tickle, and I'm sure she's grateful for the life you gave her. And that rainbow fortuitously appearing... that would be enough to make anyone question. You're so fortunate to have received such an auspicious sign, whether by chance or something else, and I hope it goes a long way in helping to ease your grief.
    I have a similar story- I had to make the decision over 2 years go to have my old dog Remo, a Labrador/Newfoundland/Husky/Wolf cross, euthanized at 15 years of age. He was an incredible dog- completely loyal and loving, always calm and level-headed, one of those dogs who always seems to know how to act in any situation. He had been my best friend and companion for over half my life, and it definitely hurt to lose him. The following summer, my friends and I were at the beach swimming in the water, when I spotted a stick bobbing in the waves. Thinking of Remo and how much he loved the water, I picked it up and gave it my best "go fetch" toss, then made some remark about how there was a perfectly good stick but no Remo to fetch it. Hardly had I turned back to my friends when we saw a pink rose floating towards us. Immediately I felt a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes- not from remembering the pain of losing him, but feeling that he was still very much with me, in my memory and my heart. I've said many times that I'll always be grateful for having had him in my life.
    I looked it up later, and the pink rose, especially deep pink like the one we found, means gratitude.


  37. I get it...I totally get it. I carried my girl home, sat with her body a long time in the yard, dug her grave with my own two hands (and a lot of sweat and tears), wrapped her in a sheet special to me and her, and buried her. I needed to do that for her...for me.

    What a wonderful life Tickle had with you :) May she continue to live forever in your memories.

  38. You just did the right thing! We buried each of our dogs at the spot they liked most on our land, the spot they always liked to lay on and observe the world. We planted a rose on each grave. We tried to find a rose that most closely (by name or by characteristics) matched our deceased dog!

  39. Wishing great comfort and love to all of you who has lost loved furry frends, they are the very manifestation and definition of pure and true love and as humans, we are so blessed to have shared our lives with them. Thank God for rainbow bridge too. The loss of my last cat is a pain i would not wish on the worst person in the world. what a great love and priviledge. x

  40. I haven't cried this hard in years. I thought of my first dog. I wasn't home when she was put to sleep, I read about it much latter in a letter. The heart can feel things the head 'knows' can't be true, i too felt like she was always with me, but as time passed, I put thoughts of her away as i did the photos, it is my way, what is gone is gone, but reading about Tickle made me remember when I felt my old dead dog was young again and with me, because i wanted it to be that way so much, and people had said they believed in such.

    Such faith feels so good, it is such a comfort. Our friends are not gone but transformed into the brush of the wind, the shine of the moon, the glitter of dew on the grass, they are part of nature now, beyond any hurt or fear, they are not really dead but really better off now, happier. It is so comforting, it is a magic beyond Harry Potter's type of magic.

    But the stogie plain world takes over again. The magic dims down like a used up candle. The real world must be dealt with. The past is gone, the future is still ahead of us, and the present all around as. So the feelings of magic, of lost love, they slip away and we remember the facts of what happened but not the feelings we had at the time.

    Then you write about Tickle and it all floods bad. One can miss love for decades past.