After I had moved out of the house, I used to miss Alfie like crazy. Because I could barely ever get an opportunity to visit home, I rarely got to see any of my animals (something I hated). When Christmas came along last year, I had finally put aside a large chunk of time that I’d be able to spend at home. Amongst other things, I was very much looking forward to getting some quality time with Alfie.
When I got home, I used to spend my days catching up on writing. I’d lock myself into the office in our house and do my very best not to get distracted, but Alfie would not take no for an answer. He’d scratch and jump at the door until I let him in and then he’d pace the office, coming over to me every now and again and putting his head in my lap. I’m ashamed to say that I was quite intolerant of this and would often end up putting him outside.
I suppose I was in a new stage of my life, one that hadn’t involved Alfie and I was no longer used to his pestering but it’s somewhat upsetting to think that I had become so impatient with him. I always told myself that I wouldn’t become a grumpy adult but here I was doing just that.
But inevitably, the soft child still in me would return. When I was done writing, the first thing I’d do was to go and put my arms around Alfie. Similarly, if I was all flustered, making myself food or pots of tea, I’d often walk past Alfie a few times. His ears would go up each time and his tail would wag but usually I’d just walk past, my mind occupied. Until I’d no longer be able to ignore him and would sit beside him on the ground for a few minutes, giving him love and attention.
I often felt a wave of nostalgia during this time when I looked at Alfie. He had bulked out, no longer the skinny, energetic dog he was previously. His face was now a lot whiter and his walk was more feeble. When we went outside he no longer tried to engage me to chase him around and you often found him lying on the large rug in our hall (something he also wasn’t allowed to do but that I never had the heart to scold him for, sorry Mam).
He used to be restless when he was in the sitting room with us and he also had an intense fear of the fire always looking uncertainly at it. But now he’d flake out in front of the fire for hours at a time, actually having to be coaxed to go out or to get into his bed.
Although it was lovely to see him so calm and balanced, I couldn’t help but yearn for the dog that used to absolutely wreck my head before making me burst out laughing with his behaviour.
When Christmas Eve arrived, Alfie was incredibly ill. He couldn’t walk properly and was taking horrible wheezy breaths. He camped out by the fire for the day, unable to even stand up properly. Still, he’d wag his tail and lift his ears when one of us walked by, always keen to show us his love.
My hormones were already incredibly out of whack on Christmas Eve, but seeing Alfie made me feel extremely upset. I spent the day frequently bursting into tears whenever I looked at his lack of life. At one point, I sat on the hall floor and just began to uncontrollably sob about a range of different things, feeling overwhelmed by my emotions. Poor Alfie picked himself up and dragged himself over to me, putting his head in my lap like he always used to do when I was depressed. I sat and sobbed into his face, clutching him tightly and hoping with all of my heart that we weren’t about to lose another dog on Christmas Eve.
We went to bed that night believing that we were going to wake up to poor Alfie’s body in his bed. Getting up on Christmas morning, we were all nervous as to what we would find, but to all of our surprise, he had made a miraculous recovery.
Instead of doing the usual thing of running to the sitting room to see our presents (even though we’re all adults now) we ran to Alfie and showed him so much affection. He was clearly delighted with all of the attention and he continued to delight in it when our extended family (who had also all been very worried about him) arrived.
I was home for a few weeks after that and I spent the time being a lot kinder to him, the fear of losing him always fresh on my mind. He had completely bounced back to himself. I was so grateful that he hadn’t died on Christmas because there’s no way I would have been able to feel anyway festive after that.
When it was time to return to Dublin, I packed up all of my bags and gave him an extra big hug, knowing it would probably be a long time before I’d see him again. I went up to Dublin and had my appearance on Ireland’s biggest talk show (I still feel the urge to pinch myself) on the Friday. On the Saturday, I had drinks with my friends and delighted in the pure happiness of the weekend. Then, on the Sunday morning, I got up to go for lunch with my aunty, my sister and my Grandmother. While I was on the bus, tilting my face towards the sun and still feeling overwhelmingly grateful for the weekend I’d had, my phone buzzed.
It was my Mam telling me that Alfie had died very unexpectedly during the night. I was incredibly shocked, in fact I believed she was joking at first before I realised that she’d never do that.
I felt incredibly upset at the loss, but I also couldn’t help but feel almost special in a way. After he’d nearly died on Christmas Eve, I’d given him as much love and affection as I could and he didn’t die until I’d left home. It might sound stupid, but I’d like to think I was given that extra time with him so I could get closure on the years that we’d had together, with him always providing comfort for me. I’d like to think that my unabashed love for him in those weeks following Christmas was my way of paying him back for all of that.
Alfie was a lot more than just a pet to me and although I still miss him terribly, I’m incredibly grateful that he got to spend his life with our family, who showed him nothing but love. I’m grateful that he died with all of the memories of the many things we’d done with him and that places we’d brought him over the years. And on top of all of it, I’m just so grateful that I had him there for me whenever I needed him.
When I think of Alfie, the first word that jumps to my mind is spirit. He definitely had one of the most beautiful spirits and he took every opportunity to show it off to everyone he encountered.
Alfie, I know you mostly hated resting, but I really hope that you’re doing so in peace.
Read more of The Alfie Diaries here.
Watch my video about blocking out negativity below: