Opinion: The overwhelming grief that comes with losing your four-legged best friend

Mar 31 2023, 7:43 pm

Written for Daily Hive by Rachel Thexton, president of Thexton PR.

I lost my 16-year-old best friend last week. As his heart stopped peacefully while Ray Charles played on the vet office computer in a dimly lit room designed for these kinds of moments, my heart stopped too. Grief huge and overbearing rose through me from my feet to the top of my head and I knelt over in pain, weeping.

I looked at my best friend as he lay looking the same as he does when sleepy, his black and brown coat still shiny and his eyes open but vacant with a different kind of sleep. The veterinarian asked if I wanted more time to be with my boy before they took him away, but I declined. He was no longer in the room.

His little 12-pound chihuahua/terrier body remained but the boy I knew who would race circles at top speed in fields, or lick my face compulsively if I cried, was somewhere else. Where? I did not know. I only knew that he had left an empty space at my feet where he followed every step that I took for 16 years, two months, and 11 days.


Thexton, with Bandit

Bandit was a gentle, lively, and lovable dog who came with me everywhere. He often sat in his bag in boardrooms while I met with clients, lay underneath the seat in front of me in airplanes when I travelled to another city and jumped up onto the hotel bed with enthusiasm when we stayed somewhere new for the night. If I went to the bathroom and closed the door, he would scratch the door until he was let in. I quickly learned that it was easier, and quieter, to simply bring him with me into every room I went, never closing the door behind me.

At night, he burrowed under the covers along the side of my legs and as the sun rose, he would come up from the blankets and cuddle next to my chest, where no matter how my heart beat that day, his warm body sat still and constant next to it. I always knew he was a dog and that I would outlive him. I was told that his life expectancy was closer to twelve years but I knew that he would prove that estimate wrong. Bandit was once hit by a fast-driving car in our residential neighbourhood after running after another dog. The car fled and I raced him to an emergency clinic, determined that he was hurt terribly. He left the clinic with only a couple of small scratches on his paws.

He was my wingman and my constant and not even a careless racing driver would take him from his role as my boy.

We used to call him Houdini as he had the ability to escape and find me wherever I was, once leaving a locked boat by climbing on the backs of my mom’s dogs and escaping through the ceiling window. He followed my scent to the restaurant a half kilometre away where I was having lunch. I found him roaming the kitchen area looking for me, likely hoping for some food to drop from the prep table above.

Bandit was my silent confidant and snuggler during dark times in my life when many close to me had left and I was struggling through periods in my life that were inconvenient and confusing for humans I trusted to understand and support. My boy made me drag myself out of bed and to the park so he could run and sniff when I didn’t want to do much of anything. Bandit gave me piece after piece of hope when I had very little hope left.

He was there when my children were born and gently sniffed them, laying next to them at times watching and wondering who had joined our family…eventually accepting that there were more of us now and he would be there for us all. Bandit never left my side until March 20, 2023, when I had to make the tough decision to allow him comfort due to a chronic illness and let him move on to watch me from a new place.


One of Thexton’s children with Bandit

I still hear his claws on the floors behind me, get up to let him out in the morning and I look to make sure that his water dish is full and fresh. Those habits will stay with me for a long time.

His photos are everywhere, memories of him flood my head and heart, and today I am finding it hard to imagine a life without my best friend. I miss him more than I can express in words; his smell, his soft feel in my arms, and even the sound of his soothing soft snores as he slept…always at my side…never far enough that I could miss him. Today I miss him. Today I weep.

Bandit was not just a dog. He was my dog and my best friend. He will forever hold that spot and will never be replaced. I wish that he was here to comfort me through this pain I feel today – the first time I have experienced pain in over 16 years without his big brown eyes watching me closely and letting me know that the sun will rise and we would walk together….into the next day.

I love you, Bandit. You are only the best dog there ever was and I thank you for every second I had by your side.

Be good and rest easy my boy.

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