I'm afraid this will be a break from my normal, infrequent blogging that generally revolves around me trying to get you to buy whatever book I've just dribbled on to the market (which hardly works anyway). This is a much more personal post. It doesn't fit with the usual theme, it might even be considered self-indulgent but it's my blog and I'm going to indulge.
I just need to have this written down somewhere, publicly, even if no one ever reads it.
Warning: contains much sadness
Almost exactly eleven years ago, my mum was looking for a dog to have as a companion. Suffering as she was from terminal cancer and all its accompanying treatments, as well as two arthritic hips that had been replaced, the dog needed to be calm, easy-going and friendly - nothing too rambunctious or energetic.
She went with my nan to her local Dogs Trust, a charity for finding homes for dogs, to find one to adopt. While they were there, one of the ones they saw a small, quiet Jack Russell, with broad shoulders, little stubby legs and floppy ears, and my mum...wasn't all that taken so they left empty-handed.
My nan, however, was a lot more enamoured with the little terrier, and badgered my mum into reconsidering. They went back the next day and adopted the Jack Russell, and my mum took her home, named her Midge and made her part of our family. It was one of the best decisions she ever made.
My mum ended up with a dog who was friendly, playful, incredibly easy-going and a joy to have around. She could not have asked for a better companion and I believe to this day that, in those last three years of her life, it was Midge who kept her sane and gave her a reason to get up in the morning.
I feel a huge debt of gratitude to Midge for helping make that time more bearable for my mum.
Once my mum died, in October of 2008, Midge came to me. And again, the presence of such a friendly, loving dog helped to make a horrible time more bearable. She has been my constant companion ever since and I treasure every moment. And I would trade everything I possess to have more of them.
A couple of weeks ago, her appetite started to decline, probably precipitated by a combination of bad teeth - something that had caused her problems in the past - and a long-standing heart murmur that once prompted a vet to complain that it was too loud for her to make out the heartbeat properly. Despite the vet giving her antibiotics for any lingering tooth infection, and steroids to try and boost her appetite, and despite me constantly waving assorted delicious treats in front of her face, she would still only eat in fits and starts and lost a lot of weight.
Eventually, I could persuade her to take nothing but water and she no longer had the strength to stand unaided.
Yesterday afternoon I took her to my local vets, and very calmly and peacefully they sent her off to sleep. Although the vets did all they could to make itt was perhaps the hardest thing I've ever had to do.
Now my house feels empty and quiet. I keep looking over at her bed to check that she's doing okay, except that instead of a pair of brown eyes looking expectantly back at me because it's getting near lunchtime, the bed is empty, and this is wrong.
When I finally went to bed at 3 o clock this morning, having put it off as long as I could by binge-watching Supergirl, I lay in the dark and listened out for the familiar sound of her breathing, and the snoring that was always disproportionately loud for such a small dog, and instead there was silence, and that too was wrong.
From where I sit I can see her water bowl. I need to refill it because it's looking a little empty, but I don't because there's no point, and this is also wrong.
Nothing is right anymore, everything is out of kilter and different and I want my little Midge back.
The universe doesn't work like that, however, so instead I distract myself with computer games and YouTube and Supergirl, and when those sudden, sharp stabs of grief intrude I try to think about all the good times and the happiness that she brought me and my family over the years.
I will hold on to the memories of the walks we took, of the way your little legs would scamper across the ground, even of the times you managed to find something truly, truly rancid to roll in; and the times spent playing tug of war with the old football that you stole off two boys who were having a kick about, prompting my mum to have to hand a fiver over to them because you managed to puncture it; and the times when you would clamber up on to my bed and try to dig your way under the duvet first thing in the morning.
Midge, you were the sweetest of dogs and the finest of companions. Thank you, and I hope I was able to give you a good and loving home. Your presence made my life infinitely better and I miss you more than I can put into words.
Farewell, little sausage.