This isn't something I thought I would write so soon. I had hoped to write this in ten years time or more as a nostalgic look back on such a wonderful part of my life. I've lost pets before, dogs in particular, hell I've even lost grandparents and other close family members but I don't think I have felt grief like this before.

I know its strange and often implausible to understand the grief of losing a pet if you have never had them or don't particularly like dogs but for all those who have a furry legged friend or have lost one will know, they are a part of your family. A family member that is just as important as any real human counterpart; at least thats always been the way in my family.

We as a family have had dogs since I was around 9 years old however I've always been surrounded by them with my grandparents, aunts and other various close family friends so even though we didn't have our own for a while I can't really remember them not being around.
Our first dog, Harvey, we lost around 3 years ago just before we moved to another county and just before I went back to college. That was tough as it seemingly came out of nowhere, a young happy dog just out of puppyhood with an undiagnosed heart problem suddenly just didn't come back from the vets one day. It was upsetting for sure but we all seemed to move on, we had two other dogs that needed our love and attention and so the wheels of life just kept turning.

A few months later, settled into our new home our second dog Archie began to get poorly, his diagnosed cushions disease was not helping in his older age and all too soon we were saying goodbye to him also. Left alone was our sweet, young-ish dog Monty who had never been an only child and was not revelling in being alone all of a sudden; quite simply, he became depressed and sad so we knew we had to get him another buddy. I was quite vocal about not buying another puppy because there are so many adoption shelters and also I worried about Monty getting older and getting cross with an excitable puppy bouncing around. Adoption shelters are, quite rightly, fussy about letting a dog be adopted so it was trial and error until we found the dog to fit our family.

I knew the second my mum taped a photo to our front door with the words 'will you take me home?' written next to the most scruffy looking ball of fur that he was the dog for us. His name was Rufus and he had been picked up from the streets of a nearby town the day before. He was extremely poorly and was not going up for adoption for a while but we could go and see him if we wanted. I told my family there and then that he was our dog; I could just feel it.

Around two months later, umpteen visits to the shelter, bonding sessions with Monty and our cat, Tom, multiple vet check ups and a change in name to Alfie, our family grew once more.

We had Alfie for just a little over 2 and a half years. If you had asked me the day we took him home when he curled up on my lap for the 45 minute car ride that he wouldn't be around when I graduated then I would have laughed. The shelter estimated he was 5-8 years old depending on his teeth and as a cairn terrier he had at least 10 more years in him. I was so blissfully happy with our new addition because Alfie very quickly became my dog.

We were inseparable. He was everything I had ever wanted in a dog and more. I wanted a lap dog who loved to curl up, have a cuddle and fall asleep. A dog who would put his snout on my laptop when I was working, not to get in the way but to just say hello, I'm here. A dog who never strayed more than five feet away from me before turning around to make sure I was still with him. A dog who, even surrounded by people he knew, always turned to look at me to make sure I was around. I have never felt such unconditional love from an animal or a person in my life.

He trusted me completely and that never wavered, not even when I accidentally stepped on his paw once and apologised for the next four days. Every night when it was time to go to bed, he would press his head against my chin as I kissed him goodnight. He loved to be held, arching his back into your arms so he could sit upright or completely limp, head under chin like a baby. Alfie would snore, for such a little dog (boy did he have some lungs on him) and even when we napped together I didn't mind being woken up by his snuffling.

He came to my college graduation when I got my diploma to finally go to university, sat in the local cathedral having been smuggled in by my parents. He sat on my lap all the way to my new town and new home on move in day and I showed him my new room and tried to explain where I would be living for the next nine months. I knew he understood because he cried in the car all the way back to my parents house. Every time he would visit at university he began to cry when I kissed his head goodbye because he knew it would be another month or more before we were together again. I went home as much as I could but I wish I had been around more.

We had our first Christmas with him and we think his first ever, as the shelter speculated he had been badly abused before being found on the street but you couldn't tell. He didn't have a nasty bone in his body, he never once snapped or growled or showed anything but love. My mum would send me regular updates, all written by him with a little paw print emoji at the end of each email. One day she found him on the coffee table, laying in the only piece of sunlight in the entire room.

The first time we took him to the beach he ran off back to the car as he had never seen it before and it terrified him. I took him into the sea and sat down, jeans and all to show him there was nothing to be scared of. Since that day he would run and run, darting in and out of the water. Almost a year after we got him, we took him overseas. Well, we took him in a tiny airplane to the Isles of Scilly for my 21st birthday and he was absolutely no bother. He was incredibly well behaved and loved the endless sunshine and clear blue water.

When he began to get sick, I shut down. I couldn't cope with the idea that he might not get better. We kept taking him to the vets for the same answer, they couldn't find anything wrong but we knew better. On his last day at home, I was woken up early by my step dad calling my name and walked out to find Alfie collapsed by the water bowl. We switched vets and rushed him straight to the clinic who told us the worst. He had internal bleeding on his major organs which could not be repaired. They didn't know how or why it was happening just that it was. They stabilised him for a few days and I dreaded the day I had to leave to go back to my last year of university. Driving to the vets knowing that this was the last time was too much for me.

At the time I am writing this (December), its been four months since I said goodbye. I spiralled into a pretty bad depression after he had gone. I went home to see my family but that didn't help. I spent quite a few nights sobbing in my university room unable to believe that he wasn't here anymore. As I write this, I am crying. and not in a small, few tears sort of way. I keep having to take a break because my nose is running and my eyes fill so much I can't see my computer screen.

I have not felt grief like this before and I honestly don't know if I will ever stop grieving him.
I wrote an Instagram post for him equating him to my child because that is what he felt like. I feel such a hole in my life now he is gone and I'm not sure if anything will fill it, not even another dog.

I have hundreds of photos of Alfie and they are not enough. I have a handful of videos and I wish I took more. I have thousands of memories but I should have got more.
I feel robbed of our time together and for that I'm mad. I'm mad because all that sweet dog did is love us and we loved him back just as fiercely.
I wish I had more time and I miss him so much.

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