The Silent Support Army; A Series About My Life As War Veteran’s Wife.
There is the Silent Support Army, a small but distinguished community of people who support our Defence personnel, and then there are those who also offer support. Either directly or indirectly our pets are with us every step of the way.
Always quick to offer a cheesy grin, a paw to shake or a good old beating with his whippy tail
Last Sunday we lost our beautiful fur child Hefner. He was a nine-year-old liver spot Dalmatian who fell ill and passed away unexpectedly. It was a shock to all us and that shock extended to all that knew him. He was a our special child, always quick to offer a cheesy grin, a paw to shake or a good old beating with his whippy tail. For anyone who knows me, knows that black is my thing. I wear black on any day that ends in ‘Y’ and for me, leaving the house without a thick layer of white hair takes a level strategic planning likened to that of a special forces operation… Now that I don’t have him to provide an endless supply,I find myself trapped in memories of his passing every time I find a strand woven into the fabric of my clothes.
We have spent a great deal of time reflecting on the paw print he left on our hearts, moving back and forth between the laughter and the tears as we remember the time spent with him, the places we went and the things we saw together. This rollercoaster of emotions got me to thinking about the role that our fur babies play in our lives and if they ever really know what they mean to us. When I peel back another layer of grief in my head, I think about those that support ‘the support army’. The ones are that are always there by our sides delivering an endless supply of love that we don’t even realise.
While he is off doing his thing, who supports me?
I think about the love, support and understanding that I extend unconditionally to my husband in the course of his work. Extending the freedom to chase your dreams and ambitions, in my eyes, is essential for any relationship to work and as his ‘person’ providing a strong support network helps him achieve his dreams. But while he is off doing his thing, who supports me? I know that my beautiful daughter ‘T’ does. She always has. What I have also come to realise over the past week was that sitting in the shadows offering the same unconditional love and support is our pets. Hef supported me while I supported his dad.
I’m not moving to discount the relationship owners have with their pets, what I am wondering is if military WAGs share a bond with their pets that has an extra facet? I know he was like a child to me, to the point that my husband and I referred to each other as his mum and dad and my daughter was his sister (We might seem a bit weird, but it works for us). I couldn’t face the world on Monday. The though of being and adult was too much to bear and so took the day to spend time with my family to adjust emotionally to the void that he has left behind. So you will now understand my heartbreak when I tell you when I returned to work on Tuesday I was faced with the puzzled looks and questions about my absence with the, “but he was just a dog” comments …(Insert sounds of crickets here) this individual is no longer on my Christmas card list and if there was a physical button to ‘uncolleague’ them, I would have pushed it. I would have exercised that option right there and then. Let’s just say that I keep my interactions with this person to minimum now and when I am required to engage, my responses are cool enough that even Elsa from Frozen would feel the freshness! So while my daughter came home from work with arms filled with flowers, cupcakes and cards from her workmates to not only support her, but for all of us in our little family, I came home with a heart that was even more broken … if that is even possible, thankful to those at work who wiped away my tears (and their own too, Hef tended to get under the skin of all who knew him) and pissed off at those that questioned the importance of his existence and put my work tasks above my emotional wellbeing.
Ten months for him in Afghanistan and 10 months of me of wearing his footy guernsey to bed.
I’m a thinker. I like to think about stuff, I always have. I like to look for the similarities in things, in events. I like to watch interactions and tried to understand why, why do we do the things we do, and who gets to choose. Clearly I have too much time on my hands because if I didn’t I wouldn’t try to rationalise everything. I think back to a time in November 2012. It was a Friday afternoon and my love had just returned home from the sandpit. Ten months for him in Afghanistan and ten months of me of wearing his footy guernsey to bed and holding a telephone to go to sleep had come to an end.
Hefner was with us then and so too was our darling little dachshund Belle. She was more like the queen bee, she ruled our roost and we loved every minute of it. We took the dogs to the beach on the Sunday, she bounced around, dipped her toes in the ocean (that’s dachshund speak for ‘went for a swim’) and enjoyed her puppy size serving of ice – cream at cold rock on the way home. It was a great few hours. A family creating memories, a memory that we look back on now as one we should have been more present for. We often know we are creating memories, but do we ever really ‘sit’ in that moment in time? The very next afternoon, three days after her dad got home…we lost our beautiful Queen B…just like that…just like Hef, she was gone.
It’s been feeling a little like groundhog day lately. My love hadn’t been home for a few weeks, he’s getting ready to deploy again and our weekends together are few and far between. He arrived home on Friday night and by Sunday morning, Hef was gone. So this is a call out to all the animal whispers out there, let me ask you this. “Do our pets know?” “Do they know when their favourite people will all be together so they can say goodbye? “
“How did Belle know?” “How did Hef know?” “How did they know he’d be home?”
I’m don’t know the answer. I’m not sure I will ever know the answer and I’m not sure I’m supposed to.
This one’s for you Hef
‘Tu Me Manques’
‘you are missing from me’