In the latest of our series of mini interviews with friends of The Ralph Site we heard from Shelley Mowbray, who has given us some wise words of advice for anyone experiencing the loss of a much-loved companion.
1. Do you currently share your home with any pets? If so, please tell us about them.
Sadly no – after losing Archie, our beautiful fourteen and a half year old Cavalier King Charles last June, as a family we are still not ready to open our home to another little fur-puppy…yet!
2. What was the name of your first pet?
Lassie. She was a stunning tri-colour border collie and I had her from a puppy when I was three years old.
3.Why did you choose the name?
I think she was named after the popular children’s TV programme ‘Lassie’.
4.Cats, dogs, or another species? Can you choose?! And why?
It’s always dogs for me. We’ve had many pets over the years – hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs and birds – but my heart will always be won over by the unconditional love of a dog.
5.What is your favourite memory of an animal who has shared your life?
Oh my goodness, Archie gave us fourteen and a half years of precious memories, but my absolute favourite would be the excitement he had about Christmas.. Archie adored Christmas! From laying on my wrapping paper while I tried to gift wrap, to crawling under the tree and getting covered in pine needles, and not forgetting the overwhelming excitement of opening his presents. When Santa had been on Christmas Eve, Archie would sit by his pile of pressies and, like our girls, he would be allowed to open one gift before bedtime. He would hold the present in his little paws, while ripping off the paper and throwing it over his shoulder!
On Christmas morning he would run downstairs in front of me and wait patiently by his gifts until I’d made breakfast and the family was downstairs, when the mayhem of parcel opening would begin. We had the exact same ritual every single year. Who said dogs don’t have memories?! Archie personified the magic of Christmas for us.
There are many little memories I shall miss. I miss his snoring. I miss how he would wait for me on the stairs with his legs crossed like a grumpy old man when I’d been gone longer than was doggy acceptable. I miss his commando walk across the carpet, I miss our snuggles and the smell of his warm neck when he had just woken up. A lifetime of ‘little misses’ that make up my memories.
6.Which three words would you choose to describe him?
Loyal, patient and lovable.
On one of our many visits to the vets in Archie’s later years, the vet looked into his eyes and said, “This boy has a beautiful soul”. If I could sum him up, it is with those words.
7.What is your favourite fictional animal and why?
Pooh bear. Wise old Pooh, with his many quotes full of wisdom. My children adored him.
8.If you could be any animal, which one would you choose and why?
A dog. My husband has always said he thinks I was one in a previous life (in the nicest possible way, you understand!) as I always curl up in front of the fire to toast my bones in the winter. It was a fight between me and Archie who got the closest. He always won of course!
9.What advice would you give to someone who is grieving for a much-loved pet?
Let yourself grieve, allow yourself to cry and talk about your pet to keep him alive in your heart. Many people who are not lucky enough to have known the deep love of a pet family member will not understand this. You may see their eyes roll, or get the comment “it was only a dog/cat” or “aren’t you over it yet?” All these things are said and thought by people who have missed out on so much. The love we share with our pets is often deeper than the love we have for some humans. I grieved so deeply for Archie I literally thought I would fall apart. I was lucky to have a husband who took a week off work to be with me and share in the sadness, and two beautiful girls who shared my pain too.
Do not feel you have to hide your pain. Grief is grief no matter whether in human or animal form, and should be accepted and respected as such.
10.When and how did you come across The Ralph Site? What do you think is the most important role of The Ralph Site community?
I came across the site while I was wracked with grief and guilt at having had to make the hardest decision to help our Archie cross over to the Rainbow Bridge. Even though I had the support and love of my family, I was grieving so much deeper than anyone else. That’s not to belittle my family, they would agree with me. My husband and girls went back to work and kept themselves busy, but my life for fourteen years (especially the last two years) had totally revolved around Archie. I wondered round the empty house in a daze, not understanding why I felt so totally bereft.
I googled and then facebook searched ‘pet loss’, and there was my answer – The Ralph Site has been my rock. I know I can go on there at any time of day or night, whether it’s to put up a random memory or photograph, or to share my utmost sadness when the grief has been too much that day, and there will always be someone there – not judging me, but with a kind word and a listening ear. Sharing photos of Archie and having a lovely comment underneath it may not mean much to some, but to me it means the world. It means someone has looked at my beloved boy and seen what I see and miss.
The most important role of the site, I feel, is providing support and understanding. Letting each other know its OK to grieve. It’s OK to want to scream at the world and ask why? It’s OK to just not be OK today. Understanding the grief of our pet family is unique; it’s why this site is so important. I was explaining it to my eldest daughter and she was very sceptical about sharing my pictures and feelings about Archie. Only after explaining to her that The Ralph Site had actually got me through those excruciatingly sad moments that I didn’t want to burden anyone else with, that I hadn’t wanted to make the family around me sad by bringing up my sadness, that I could talk and comfort others in the same situation with a kind word, did she get it.
Thank you Shailen for The Ralph Site.
I shall always be forever grateful x
We’ll be featuring regular mini-interviews with friends of The Ralph Site in future; so do keep an eye out every first and third week of each month!
Until next time, very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support