Time for Therapy


Since Dukey died, I’ve been finding it hard to do anything.

Since Dukey died, I’ve been finding it hard.

Since Dukey died

I hate those words. My beautiful, darling boy. Gone.

It’s a salty, soggy journey – sometimes a trickle, then a flood. Sometimes a dry gulch and within seconds, with no warning, a bounding beck with crashing sobs…I feel embarrassed – he was my dog, not a child. Not a person. There’s no international disaster being reported on social media. My grief feels out of control, out of proportion. But my guts still squeeze with the pain, my head hurts and my eyes leak tears at flashes of memory, as waves of sorrow crash over me.

I’m sick thinking about it and sick of thinking about it. I must be such a terrific bore. I tell myself that I can’t cry forever – that I can be sad but I can’t let it be all of me – this blue bundle of overwhelmed, sorry and pathetic.

As if I ever managed to control my heart. or my emotions – oh, how we laugh at that thought…

I know what helps, though…

…Writing is my therapy, my way of starting to work through those emotions, starting to let it out…I wrote a small piece to let people know about Dukey, and got literally hundreds of messages of surprise, sorrow and sympathy – and love. So much love. They made me cry, and smile, and cry. People are so kind. And I guess we all know what it’s like to lose those characters who are special to us, whether they are human or animal… And I know that some of those people are going through their own swampy lowlands…So thank you to all the wonderful people who shared my sorrow and sent love and hugs, it means so much to know that you’re there…

…Despite the feeling that I never actually wanted to see anyone again, ever (apart from Mr Pat whose permanently wet shoulder is testament to how much I can cry), I know that I need people. Especially my close friends. So, we were very happy to see Amanda and to go to the pub with Jerry. That walk back up the hill would have been a good distraction – if I didn’t miss being hauled up the hill by the strongest dog in the world. For me, though, being with people chases my focus away from me and that is a great thing, even if I wasn’t particularly good company and kept forgetting what people had just said… Mr Pat was on a mission to convert Jerry to rum – it may have worked…

…And on that theme, I went to work, as planned. And yes, I cried all over Annwen within 5 minutes of getting there (it was her fault – she’d bought me socks with pictures of Dukey & Flash on them). And yes, a few times I couldn’t say anything when people asked how I was or had I enjoyed my annual leave. And yes, I had the occasional cry in the loo. But it’s good to be with other people and I do love my patients – there’s nothing like someone else’s pain to help your own. I spend an awful lot of time at work – they put up with a lot – but they are all absolute stars. And great therapists…

…We also got ourselves some ducks (Indian runner/khaki Campbell crosses). They’re both young drakes – 2 to 3 months old. They were being bullied by the dominant male in the Mortal Man, Troutbeck, duck pen. Bill & Ben have settled in well and even take themselves off to bed in the barn every night. They’re a lovely addition to the family, just adorable, and I’m hoping will eat lots of slugs and snails in the garden. And we’ve definitely had the weather for them…

…One evening, Mr Pat and I even managed to go out for a meal at Zefirelli’s, followed by a film – 1917. The meal was probably a mistake – I wasn’t hungry and Himself ate most of it for me. We had a rather nosy neighbour at a nearby table who couldn’t resist photo-bombing when we were being a bit stupid – I was admiring the almost prehensile abilities of Mr Pat’s nose at the time. Seriously, if you saw what those nostrils can do… The ghost of my sense of humour reassured me that I hadn’t completely drowned inside. Later, I lost myself in the film and didn’t even threaten to fall asleep at any moment. It’s a great story and the cinematography is amazing – go and see it. I was absorbed by the sombre mood and the grief which followed the situation and possibly felt it even more acutely than usual. Even so, it’s a great film. Perhaps that’s why…

…I tried to find some solace in the garden. It feels like it’s been a very long and very damp winter. Apparently I say this every year. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The signs are unmistakable now and that boosted my mood a little. Who could fail to be cheered by primroses, daffodils, budding forsythia and thrusting, glossy purple crocuses? There’s a ton of work to be done out there – I just couldn’t make myself do any of it. There’s time yet…

I was still miserable, though. More interrupted than constant but enduring before – in a rare moment of compassion – the Universe smiled.

For 2 whole days, the sun shone. Two. Whole. Days.

I still had to go to work but Mr Pat and I managed a pre-dawn walk up to the cattle grid and I only cried once. The next day, we walked in actual daylight with actual sunshine breaking through and I nearly didn’t cry at all.

Last weekend, Kath arrived, bearing Creme Eggs, flowers & Bailey the Spaniel, who belongs to another friend, Nicola. Bailey & Dukey loved each other other – there were always embarrassing scenes of mutual kissing and adoration. It was almost 2 weeks after Dukey died and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to cope with another black and white dog in the house. I shouldn’t have worried – they’re completely different dogs with completely different ways of being – except for the begging for food bit… What an expressive face – I must admit I laughed a lot at his pub ‘smile’…

After brekkie, we took ourselves off for a walk. It was hard to tear Kath away from series 3 of The Crown – but we managed…It was fresh and breezy in parts – but it’s always good to be outside. It turns out that Kath has never walked round the Tarn. We’ll definitely have to remedy that in the future…

And god knows, our critters are easy to love and focus on. Cuddling a furry or hairy thing is easy and instantly gratifying. And very comforting. There’s plenty of research which demonstrates the relaxation effect of pet therapy, though I’m not sure how much that’s lessened by having to clean cat puke up or empty the litter tray…

This house of ‘whitewashed rubble’, oak beams and draughts is about 370 years old, and built on the site of something much older. Of course there has been sadness and joy, mirth and misery in this home amongst the hills. And I imagine that all of us have looked on these mountains with awe, wonder, occasional fear, and irritation. They’re a haven and an inspiration, these mountains. They’re magnificent, beautiful, dangerous and deadly. And totally impersonal. You can shout, scream, cry and plead all you like – they don’t bend with you in pity, they don’t share your joys, they don’t move. They look on, unchanging and solid.

And that’s the most wonderful thing of all – they’re mountains. Their faces might change with the seasons but they’re there. And I can draw strength from that solidity, that permanence. I don’t understand how that helps, I don’t understand how their rugged beauty makes my spirit soar – but it does.

I am not past grieving for my gorgeous boy, not by any stretch of the imagination – I cry at the drop of a hat, at the merest hint of sadness in others’ lives, or because I miss that big head resting on my knee in the morning. His lead hangs by the front door and his harness is on the coat hook – I may never move them. A whiff of Dukey smell and I’m in bits. He is forever running free – the happiest soul in the valley – whilst I am still determinedly earthbound. But this life – filled with love, friendship, beauty & laughter – is good, and I’m very grateful for it. To any of you out there who are sad or unhappy, or anxious and worried, I am with you. To any out there who are strong, thank you ❤

Published by Sue Lee

The challenges of living off grid at the top of The Big Hill at Blea Tarn in the Langdale valley with a few furries & my other half, Mr Pat.

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