Two weeks ago, I said goodbye to my beloved pup, Stringer Bell. Back in July, he was diagnosed with advanced lymphoma and given two months to live. I knew the moment was coming, but even if they’d given him 10 years, I don’t think I’d have been ready to say goodbye. To say I adored my pup would be an understatement. Making the decision to end his pain was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I know it was right. Anyone who’s ever lost a pet can relate to the pain I feel right now. While I ride out these waves of grief, I wanted to document how happy Stringer Bell made me.
From the moment I brought him home from the breeder, I had a special bond with Stringer. I played with him diligently, watched him grow every day and did my best to train him (though I was a total sucker for that cute face, so we never got far past him learning to master ‘sit’). His biggest challenge for a while was becoming brave enough to go down the step into the kitchen – his little legs weren’t long enough and he’d teeter on the edge of it with a worried face until I lifted him down.
I took him everywhere with me. He was a savvy London commuter, mastering the tube with ease. He’d walk onto escalators and sit on a step til it was time to get off – every person who walked past him would smile or stroke him. We walked miles, sprinted through Autumnal leaves in the park, played with every toy in the garden til they wore out or broke. If I was Batman, he was the best Robin there ever was.
We’d be silly and fun and he could be an absolute lunatic, but he was so in tune with my emotions. If I was down or stressed, he’d be calm and stay close to me. If I cried, he come straight over and curl up in my lap. I’d say ‘I love you’ and he’d squint his eyes at me as though he heard and understood every damn word.
At the beginning of this year, he started having stomach problems, struggling to do his business. The vet and I went round in circles, tried various medication and didn’t get anywhere. I switched vets and it just so happened, the first time I took him to this new vet, Stringer had a very swollen neck. The vet did blood tests. By the time I took him back for his second visit, the diagnosis had come back: advanced Lymphoma. The vets couldn’t quite believe it themselves. There’d been nothing in his history that would indicate this is where we’d end up. He was only three.
The vet had to choke back tears as she told me he had two months to live. I was inconsolable. I have a tattoo of Stringer’s ears on my arm and I traced the outline of it with my fingers as I sobbed in the vet’s office. ‘I thought he’d be with me til I’m in my 50s’, I said. Everything I’d imagined in my life over the next 15 or so years, Stringer was meant to be right there with me. Thinking about his absence in that moment – I think I literally felt my heart break.
But if he only had two months, I was going to make it the best two months I could. There were moments of hope in there. One of his blood tests at one point showed that he was almost in remission. He responded to his treatment so well. That’s my pup! He’s gonna show ’em! He’s a medical miracle – he can come back from this!
But then, the meds just seemed to not work anymore. His stomach problem wouldn’t go away. He was now at the point where he was bleeding every time he did his business. The vet said it was likely the cancer had spread to his bowel.
He was still playful, but he’d tire out quicker. I couldn’t take him for the long walks we loved so much because we’d get part way into it and he’d have blood all down his legs.
On Saturday October 29th, I was going to take him to work with me as always. We got a couple of blocks from my house and I just knew he wasn’t going to make it. That afternoon, I lay with him on my bed and stroked him. He seemed tired. He seemed done. And I wept as I realised, it was time.
I called my parents and the vet, they all agreed with my decision. My parents jumped in their car and drove like bats out of hell from Leeds to London to be with us. We decided was wanted a day to celebrate his life. So on the Sunday, we had an ‘awake wake’. Loads of my friends came over throughout the day. My flat was like Grand Central Station, with people stopping by to play with Stringer and give him final cuddles.
Stringer loved that day. He was so happy. He loved people and was lapping up all the attention. By the end of it, he was knackered and for the first time in a while, he slept through the night.
Monday came around and we took him into the garden for one last run around. Then it was time to take him to the vet. They’d made a little bed for him. I lay him down on it and got him comfortable. I held him in my arms until he took his last breath, constantly whispering in his ear how much I loved him.
Almost two weeks on, my heart still aches, the tears are still frequent. I miss him terribly. It feels a bit like I lost a limb. I keep thinking I’ve forgotten something every time I leave the house. But in the haze of it all, I’ve realised that just like some friendships are life long, some are seasonal. Stringer came into my life for probably the most significant three years I’ve ever had.
He saw me through a break up. He was with me when I uprooted my life and had to start all over again. He calmed my nerves when I panicked about how broke I was and how I was ever gonna make it. He stayed by my side as my confidence grew and I carved out a career path for myself. He was there with quiet reassurance when I had wobbles and epic silliness during celebrations. In June, I was offered the position as ELLE’s Fitness Editor, a job I feel like I’ve waited my whole life for. Stringer’s diagnosis came in July. It’s as if he waited. He hung in there, to make sure I made it, to be certain I was gonna be OK.
So, though his life here was short, it was beautifully timed. He might’ve been here for just a season, but I’ll cherish our friendship forever.