It’s been a strange week. It has felt slightly like a never-ending nightmare, a hamster wheel of grief, strange dreams, sleepless nights and finding strange comfort in rituals and coincidences.
Last month, I was merrily posting happy updates to Lola’s Instagram and mine about our adventures together and late last week, I was posting an Instagram story of her ashes arriving in the office. She was put to sleep last Monday in Somerset. One of the strange comforts I have indulged myself in was the fact that as they injected the deadly dose of anaesthetic into her already limp, cancer ridden, body, I was gazing across to hills, not quite Exmoor, her beloved hunting ground, but in times of grief, why let the truth get between you and a peaceful moment.
Lola, my beautiful, loving, loyal working cocker spaniel has been in my sons and my life for 10 years. In the early days, we spent most of our time careering around the country to sporting estates where, after her training at boarding school with Paul Rawlings, she picked partridge, pheasant and grouse and enhanced my shoot day beyond belief. It wasn’t just the time we were out in field together, it was, amongst many things, the long car journeys to and from the far flung estates and the ever eager, beautiful face filled with anticipation that greeted me on a shoot day in wherever we were staying.
It wasn’t all plain sailing such as when we arrived on Exmoor for two back to back days only to discover Lola had come into heat and was turning four-legged heads in all the wrong ways. One of the gun’s randy companions, spent most of the day in the boot, howling with frustration, whilst, some of the picker uppers dogs were terribly distracted whilst anywhere near our peg. Even when she was confined to the back of the car, the whiff of desire still drove the boys mad. I wouldn’t change anything at all.
Lola then became the best fishing buddy a girl could have. She would sit patiently beside me literally willing those trout to bite. We spent many days on The Test together, with friends and with clients. Patrick, Lola and I even camped together in a pop up tent earlier in the summer. That was her idea of heaven. We had nowhere to hide and the idea of anywhere apart from snuggled between the two of us in our cosy cocoon was unthinkable.
We spent her last summer together in France. It was perfect. We drove down and packed the car with as much clothing and furniture we could stuff in. Lola’s space was literally, her little bed, behind our ears and this to her was perfection. She couldn’t have been closer to us, which was just how she loved it. 13 hours and she hardly moved, just content as ever to be part of the gang, part of the family. We had a daily routine which consisted of croissants in bed, the odd crumb naturally shared with Lola, chores around the village and then we would head to the lake. Lac de Montbel is a beautiful, expansive reservoir 5 minutes from Chalabre on the border of the Aude and Ariege departments of south west France. Surrounded by mountains and with beautiful turquoise swimming water, she would happily spend most of the day in the water, chasing balls and splashing around. Most days she would adopt some French children to play with, her gentle, loving, eager nature making them fall in love with her and trust her instantly. We would then head, on the way home, two minutes down the road, to our little walnut grove so we could all wash off in our sparkling little river and check the crayfish pots. We would spend ages splashing about together and Lola loved it so much. Some evenings we would throw down a rug and open a bottle of wine. Lola would happily chase sticks and jump into the water intermittently until we got home.
Through this whole devastating process, I have gained huge comfort from always knowing the life she lived was full and love for her was overflowing. Lola could have written a book although frankly I’m glad she didn’t 😉 She had more than a few tales to tell.
In the past week, rituals and planning have become important for all of us. It was an easy decision what to do with her ashes. I was worried about my state of wobbliness when they were delivered to the office. However, on the contrary, I felt huge relief and comfort that she was back with us.
It was important to me that Conor was involved at every step during her brief and fatal illness and I am so proud at the strength and support he has shown during what is his first true love lost. He accompanied me to the vets on multiple occasions, had her sleep with him on one of her worse nights, stayed by her side when I had to go out and therefore I wanted him to be very much part of what happened to her ashes. I could not be more proud of the man he has become.
We will keep some ashes with us at all times at home. I love having her there and remembering all the wonderful experiences we shared. We are travelling to France just after Christmas and plan to scatter some of her ashes, together as a family, in the little walnut grove we have there with the river she so adored to splash about in and chase sticks carried by the current. It will then be forever known as LOLA’S GROVE.
Light always comes from darkness and I have been overwhelmed by the wonderful messages I have received. Lola had a formidable little black book with a sprinkling of stardust and people’s kindness has known no bounds. It has really touched all of us, but especially me. It has also provided a weird and vital sense of privacy as a simple message is so comforting to read although a call would probably have been a little too much to bear after Lola was first put to sleep. It has completely changed my outlook on social media and the comfort I have felt reading the comments and seeing the likes has been immeasurable although overshadowed by the joy of having an excuse to look through treasured photos to post of all the amazing things we did and revel in Lola’s sheer beauty and warmth. I have realised how kind people are. I may well spam social media for some time to come with Lola pics but I am also grateful to have so many pics of Lola catalogued for time on Facebook and Instagram.
I am definitely keen for Lola to leave a legacy. I have some private goals I would like to achieve and her memory will forever provide joy and comfort in being able to share such undiluted love. A friend reached out with a message I will never forget and he said that the terrible scar she leaves will turn into a wonderful tattoo on our hearts. I’m taking that!
We are definitely a household that needs a dog so we will see what the New Year brings although everyone needs some cocker love in their life and Lola will need someone to take over the helm on her Instagram account @LolaZambuni.