"Crumble, what would I do without you?"
Love, loss and a song.
The words “what would I do without you?” were said by me out loud often to Crumble. Even when she was alive and well I feared the day I would lose her. Dogs have such horribly short lives. We were super close but she loved and protected the rest of the McGinty’s in equal measure.
Now, as I am (I hope) stoically trying to deal with the stark reality of the question, I am struggling greatly to find an answer. I hear the opening lines of the Merchant of Venice (the only Shakespeare I’ve ever known anything about) in my head. But the difference between me and Antonio is that I do know “why I am so sad.”
Crumble died just before Christmas of 2021 but it was pre-Christmas 2014 when our lives connected. The band Darlia had come in to BBC Radio Lancashire to record a session with me for BBC Introducing. Their sound engineer had a Jack Russel with him and I fell in love with it. The dog was so playful, fun, expressive and such a joy to be around. It spent various parts of the evening trying to hang off my hand bag (slung over my shoulder) as I walked around the “radio theatre.” He was adorable.
Later that night I googled and found a pup locally. Two lovely farming folk (who I’ve been in touch with since Crumble’s death) explained to me her story. She had gone to a family who had another dog but it didn’t work out so she got sent back. This was enough for me. I knew I needed this dog. The one that was rejected. So without telling a soul, I just drove to a remote farm near Garstang and got her. This is pretty unusual behaviour for me, I always talk through big decisions with my better half.
Not just about me
The other less selfish reason for getting a third dog (when we had Pickle and Twiglet already) was that Pickle (a rescue dog) was beginning to slow down and Twiglet needed a little buddy.
Crumble and Twiglet would become so close. Crumble loved Twigs and Twigs loved Crumble. They were a funny pairing. Twiglet, submissive and a long way down the spectrum. Crumble defiant and intelligent who would have fought a bear if they’d threatened any of us but especially for Twiglet.
Crumble lived a full, spirited and happy 7 years but then she started acting in an unusual way and died only a few months later, not long after we had established it was probably a brain tumour.
It’s time to go
In the months before she died she had some disturbing, horrible fits. Then in the last few weeks she gradually withdrew. She’d find little places around the house where she felt safe. She was always happy to make her way to where we were but she needed re-assurance and coaxing. She didn’t seem to be in pain but she was struggling to walk in a straight line sometimes and found it difficult to be picked up although she did let us from time to time. However, despite the anxiety I could see her feeling, she would battle through her poorly life day after day. I sat with her for weeks just talking and stroking her and feeding her croissants and tuna. My incredible wife did the same, day by day, Crumble seemed to somehow get through, so we kept hoping it was a virus or at least whatever it was would just go away.
Then one day she’d had enough. She’d decided it was time and let me know, so with the help of an amazing vet who came to the house we helped her go. She left this world as beautiful as she entered it and even in the last minutes of her life she kept coming over to me as I cried and begged some higher being to make her well or give me just a little more time with her. She was comforting me, I have never felt so selfish in my life. Despite her suffering from hyper sensitivity by this point, she let me put my hand gently on her head and just connect for the last few moments of her life. We looked at each other eye to eye on the floor in my office for minutes. It was shattering but also comforting that I could share her last breaths and bear witness that her suffering was at an end. The vet was incredible and made a brutal moment just a little more bearable.
Crumble was my emotional support dog, my pal, my companion and I love her so much now as I write this. The grief since she died has not gone away. The tears I shed are not for the deep sadness I feel but for the 10 years or so of happy life Crumble missed out on. I cry for the times we might have had, the grand kids she’d have loved and the day to day routines of having a Jack Russel in my life. She was a towering figure of a dog. Tiny but with a massive heart, feisty yet vulnerable and did I mention that I love her so very much?
Crumble = happy humans
She made most humans happy. She loved old people and children and they loved her. She knew a dickhead when she saw it and like me, was usually happy to inform them of their categorisation. I’d mumble it under my breath and throw a false smile but she’d bark it at them. “You dickhead!” in dog speak. She seemed to understand what I said to her and I learned to speak some Jack Russel. She knew when I was down and would come over to comfort me and I knew when she was anxious and would do the same. She was just ace. I could go on and on and on.
Crumble, I will always miss your love, your spirit, your innocent joy and you just always being there for me. I even miss your occasional crazy barking. Until our energies meet again in some other plane… you were the very best of dogs but I don’t know when I will ever stop crying over losing you in such a sudden and brutal way.
This painful chest crushing grief is the untimely bill for 7 years of joy with an amazing and unexpected little pal. I have to learn to cope and I will but God I miss that dog with every fibre of my being. My brain is still pin-balling round the 5 stages of grief but I am so glad I did a crazy, impetuous thing 7 years ago and got my little Crumby. I feel so grateful to have had her in my life.
She was the very best of tiny dogs.
Music for recovery
I always say music helps recovery from anything. I’ve listened to a lot of music (as I always do) since Crumble’s death but one or two songs just smack me in the face and make me think of her.
One of them is ‘And I fell back alone’ this is (I assume) a song about the end of a relationship by a brilliant band called World Party. Somehow my grief stricken brain has tidily managed to fit many of the lyrics to the loss of my partner in crime Crumble.
Karl Wallinger, genius
Enjoy the tune below. Yes, it is a little sad but it also contains some very beautiful lyrical sentiments about parting.
“It's time to make a wish
And let it float on down the stream
And we can cry a little
For a time that could have been.”
and this one about… the human condition.
“You can't see the bottom from the top.
You don't see the edge before you drop.”
That line smashes home how fragile life is but the next step from that realisation is to learn from loss that we can be better people every day and the fragility of life can become a positive focal point for action not a negative drag or distraction.
So the answer to the question, “Crumble, what would I do without you?” Seems to be to carry on and be grateful for the life I have and those 7 years with the best tiny dog in the world, ever.
Although painful, writing this and finding the pictures has been cathartic and helpful to me. So, maybe somebody, somewhere will read this and take something positive from it.
“Forever doesn’t mean forever, it just means maybe some other time or place.”
Until we meet again
Call it faith, hope or delusion but I’m still sure I’ll be with Crumble in “some other time or place” and for now maybe some songs, some pictures and some words can keep her some of her volcanic energy flow with me every day.
Crumble, I will never stop learning from, loving and celebrating you.
You fucking legend.
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