21 April 2013
On Friday I said goodbye to Bronson, my friend and companion. I had forgotten how hard grief is, how heavy your heart feels in your chest, how every breath is slow and ponderous, and how the world feels harsh and intrusive in its very ordinariness. Everything looks the same, but somehow you feel isolated and apart from it, not quite comfortable in your own skin. Life isn’t the same without your best mate beside you.
I got Bronson when I was grieving the death of my father, and even on the first day I saw him, that loveable little pup taught me an important lesson. I hadn’t intended to get a dog – I already had a Boxer, a brindle called Mollie, but a friend told me her parents had brought home a new puppy, and she said there was one left in the litter. He was adorable, she said, and they wished they could have taken him too.
Did I want or need another dog? No, but going to see him was a good distraction from the grief I was feeling, and maybe a puppy would help with my heartbreak. It was Dad who taught me how special companion dogs are. It seemed fitting somehow, so my sister Sue and I drove up to see the baby Boxer. He was cute alright, a bouncing red boy with a black muzzle and white blaze. Cute yes, but not quite right. What I really wanted was another brindle, more like Mollie. I said goodbye and we drove away.
Five miles up the road, my inner voice was screaming at me. “What are you doing? Leaving this boy because he doesn’t have the right look? You’re shallow. Turn around and go back.”
I did, and Bronson’s been with me ever since. The lesson of that day remains with me. It’s what’s inside that counts.
Bronson was a dog with a huge personality and a massive love of life. Enthusiastic, rambunctious, and naughty, he stole my heart with his antics. In the early days, he snuck into a houseguest’s bedroom, and extracted her bra from her suitcase, then ran through the house with it dangling tantalisingly from his mouth. Tea towels were his favourite game – he’d snatch them from my hands as I was drying dishes, and run through the house and yard shaking it, always just out of my grasp. I don’t know how many tea towels I went through during his life – it was more fun to play his game than to admonish and train him out of this foible. Another weakness was toilet rolls – he knew the sounds of the roll becoming empty – and would batter at a half closed door to get at them, much to the chagrin of guests using the bathroom.
His appetite was legendary. He loved mealtimes – both his and mine – and had a particular passion for duck jerky treats, Smackos, oranges, grapefruit, and the occasional cordless phone. He’d often bury his favourite treats, and my garden is filled with holes to prove it.
He was the most loyal companion anyone could imagine. When I left for work in the morning, he’s stand at the end of the driveway, until my car was out of sight, and when I came home in the evenings he’d be waiting to greet me, his whole body quivering with delight. It didn’t matter if I was out for hours or only five minutes – each new meeting was rapturous, with the promise of a new game. He’d follow me from room to room, always making sure to guard any open doors. Same at bedtime – he’d sleep on the end of my bed, always facing the door in case someone came to kill me in the middle of the night. He’d slept on my bed for the past six years, since my first Boxer Mollie died, and Bronson had become my living, breathing teddy bear. We both grieved hard, and helped each other through the pain.
Bronson loved everyone, greeting family and friends enthusiastically when they visited, always believing it was him they’d come to see. He also loved his ‘doctor’. Last weekend his vet and I discussed his health, which had been declining for some time, after a major tumour was removed two years ago. We knew he didn’t have much longer, and I wondered if it was still okay to walk him, as his breathing was becoming laboured. The vet’s advice was to let him mooch around but not exert himself. Treat him like an old man lying in a sun lounger at a resort.
In that spirit I took him to the beach for a quiet walk, but Bronson had other ideas. I found a secluded spot on the beach with no other dogs, and not too many people. I took him off the lead, and he ambled beside me, staying to heel, unusual for him. As he shuffled along he touched my calf with his nose intermittently, to let me know he was there beside me.
As we walked along I listened to the water lapping against the sand, and stared into the waves, feeling at one with nature, then with a start realised Bronson was no longer beside me. I turned and looked down, and then across at the water. He was indulging his other love, and was swimming out with the tide, strongly and surely, towards a couple paddle boarding. He didn’t stop when he reached the man, but tried to clamber on his board, knocking him into the water. I cried out in anguish and embarrassment, but as he so often did, he ignored me, and continued on to the woman, who, alarmed at the fate of her companion, paddled quickly into deeper water.
Back on the beach, Bronson shook himself off and looked at me with pride shining out of his deep brown eyes. The dunked paddle boarder joined us and said what fine dog he was. Yes, I acknowledged, he was a fine dog. He might be old and sick, but he still had the cheeky spirit he had as a pup.
That was our last outing. Over the next week he deteriorated and I recognised it was time to let him go. As he died cradled in my arms, Sue beside us, I wondered how my own heart could keep beating.
I know the time will come when I forget, again, how hard grief is. But I’ll never forget Bronson.
Goodbye my good guard dog, my beautiful little man, my best friend, my baby. Thanks for walking alongside me the past ten years, through some hard times, through some pain, and through some healing. Thanks for filling my life with love, with loyalty and with laughter. I’ll never forget you and the joy you brought me.
So sad to hear about Bronson Di. I had a wee cry over this. He was a much loved and lucky dog to have found the ultimate soft touch. That boy had you wound round his little paw…. I hope Dolce isnt feeling too sad without her buddy. xx
Thanks for your lovely message Sue, really appreciated. x
He was exceptionally beautiful and I am very glad I knew him. He had what I can only describe as a gentle force when he shoved himself against you. I can assure you he will be greatly missed by your friends.
Thanks Stanley, you, Ami and Keith were his beloved friends from England. Love to you and your beautiful Max. x
Oh Di…what beautiful words for beautiful Bronson. Remember your times together with joy not sadness…he was the luckiest dog ever to have you!
Thanks Jilly for your lovely message and your support. Means the world to me. x
Di, I am so sorry for your loss. I chuckled (the bra story!) and cried while reading your beautiful tribute to Bronson. I’ve been a dog person my whole life and know how difficult it is to say “goodbye” to such special friends. I just went and gave all three of my cocker spaniels a hug and told them how much I loved them.
I’m glad that you have Dolce to help you through this difficult time. Sending lots of positive, healing thoughts to both of you!
Thanks for your beautiful message Tracie. As you know, our dogs have a special place in our hearts and bring us so much love. Big woofs to your three babies from Dolce. x
Di, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Stay strong, and please let’s grab a cup of coffee together some time today…
Thanks for your support Alex, really appreciated. di x
I’m SO sorry about Bronson.
But I can’t read this at the moment.
Thanks Jo, really appreciate all your support. Am thinking of you too with your lovely cat and hoping things go well. di x
So so sorry to hear that you have lost your beloved Bronson. Dogs are family, and take over our hearts in a big way. Your tribute is just beautiful – I wish I had known him, he sounds like a real character. Sending you big hugs and warm fuzzies, and big Westie smooches from Daisy xxx
Thanks so much for your lovely message Janet. Love back to you and Daisy x
Di, so sorry to hear this. A beautiful tribute to Bronson whom I know was an incredibly special and important part of your life. So many happy memories to cherish and I loved (and can associate with) the tea towel bit 😉
Thinking of ya,
Thanks so much Matt for your message. They leave indelible footprints across our hearts, as you’re finding out with your beautiful Marley x
Really sorry to hear the news. But I don’t believe you have lost him. In Buddhism, we believe in impermanence and reincarnation. I believe he being so attached to you, he will return to you, perhaps in a different form. He’s been a charming dog, protecting you and gave you happiness for the past 10 years. He’s fulfilled his role and he may be reborn in a better realm. You should look at his death in a different perspective. With the connection and the love for you, he will come into your life again in the future. Sorry if this sound strange. But this is what I believe. Hope this will help you look at his death in a positive light.
With metta (loving kindness)
Thanks Kelsey for your lovely message. It doesn’t sound strange, it gives me great comfort at this time x
Sorry for your loss. I am sure we will miss him so much. I met Bronson once, he is a big but sweet boy. I remembered he tried to sit on Jenny’s feet and that was so cute. We will cherish those happy memories forever.
Eric & Jenny
Thanks so much Eric and Jenny. Really appreciate your lovely message. He was overwhelming, but loved all ‘his’ visitors x
I love what you wrote Di, I feel the same about our pooch and I remember the day at TNZ when you said you were going to take a look at Bronson :). So glad Frida’s brother was taken in by you – an amazing dog loving gal with an exceptionally big heart when it comes to fur-children – you made the perfect pair. xox
Thanks so much Gem. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have had this special little man in my life xx
How sad for you Di. A truly difficult time. My thoughts and prayers are with you. He was clearly a very special dog.
Thanks for your lovely message Elisabeth, I really appreciate it x
My heart goes out to you during this difficult wrenching time. What a devoted puppy mummy you are, helping Bronson through the last phase of his life. I know it would have been the way he would have chosen, having you by his side to see him through. Hope Dolce Dane is a comfort to you and vice versa – Bronson’s soul will continue to warm your hearts. xox
Thanks Sharlene, beautiful message. Don’t know what I would do without Dolce. She is grieving too and we’re staying close to each other x
He was such a special boy – and loved you so unconditionally I know your heart must be breaking. I remember clearly the day you brought this tiny little pup home and thinking what a handsome boy he was. Stay strong and hold onto the memories. Thinking of you, Nan, Steve and Natalie xxx
Thanks Nan, Steve and Natalie for your lovely message, and the calls. Couldn’t get through this without your support x
We remember our time being looked after by Bronson so fondly. He was such a strong character (‘The other way Bronson!’), so wise, beautiful and, above all, intelligent (we have the proof!). Lots of love to you and Dolce, Keith & Ami xxx
Thanks Ami and Keith. He loved you both, and I always suspected you were better at games than I was. My favourite photo of Bronson is the one of Keith and him, and I’ll treasure it always. di xx
Goodbye Bronsy Boy
nearly 10 years of fun and much laughter over your antics. Being pulled around by you whilst we were trying to walk you as you tried to chase every cat or dog or just pull on the lead- always such a fun walk(not!). Bronson the boxer who strangers thought looked scary- yet was bossed by Mollie,Dollie and Winnie as he was such a big baby.
Another dog gone from our family but always remembered with love, cuddles and many memories from the kids growing up
we’ll miss you Brons but how blessed we’ve all been to have you in our lives
Grief hurts so much because we loved them so deeply
Sue,Craig, Brad, Paige, Courts, Winnie xxxxxx
Sue, thanks for being with me at the beginning of Bronson’s life with us – and at the end. He loved you all so much and was blessed to have so many people who adored him. Couldn’t get through this without the love and support of my wonderful family – thank you all xx
So sad to hear that you have lost Bronson. Our pets are a big part of our family and it is hard to let them go. We send our kind thoughts to you. Memories are precious.
Hugs and kisses from the Boyle family