Just under three weeks ago now, I gave my final goodbye kisses and cuddles to one of the most important people in my life. Saffy may have not been a human, but there's no doubt that she fulfilled the roles of sister, best friend, counselor and mentor at times in my life. So much more than a pet, Saffy filled my life with smiles and laughter for twelve years, and in this tribute to her I want to do justice to every single way she helped to make my life a brighter place.
The puppy who never grew up, a "full-on dog", wannabe meerkat, mountain goat, frog and at times truffle hunting pig; Saffron Amber Willis was truly one of a kind. Her many individual quirks were known by many, from how she would never fail to lick our neighbour Anne's ears, to how she had to be given her biscuit filled "Dum-Dum" after we had had our dinner each night, and from how she could often be seen standing on the back of the sofa at our old house surveying her estate (the driveway) to her eyelash-fluttering ways in soliciting biscuits from almost everyone she met out on a walk, most notably the primary school's lollipop lady. Touching the hearts of everyone who got to know her, Saffy's family grew so much bigger than just myself and my Mum, to include neighbours, family friends, and the reception team at the veterinary surgery she frequented since she was a puppy. In fact, Saffy was a true regular at the vets, spending three days there on a drip after stealing a whole bunch of grapes, having multiple X-rays and emergency appointments for the scrapes and scraps she got into with her mischievous ways. Every time though, Saffy bounced back and returned to full health until she eventually was diagnosed with Kidney failure, heart problems, and the lymphoma. Even when suffering from cancer, this puppy would still play, bark, and amuse us, as she got slower and more tired. On her last day, she still woofed at us, kissed us, and loved us whole-heatedly.
I have enough happy memories of Saffy to fill reems and reems of paper, but what I am most grateful of from her is her caring spirit. In the depths of my anorexia, in the fog of my panic attacks, in the aftermath of other soul-destroying experiences, I could always count on her to be by my side, and to put up with me holding her as my tears spilled onto her fur. She would make me smile when I felt that I had nothing left to live for, and would sit right next to me as I convulsed in blinding fits and spasms during my worst episodes of anxiety. I am by no means the only person who Saffy offered comfort to in times of distress; she was worth her weight in gold to all of us. I should mention especially how much Lilli, who came into our lives as a tiny kitten in September 2015, looked up to and worshiped her Saffy. Lilli feels this loss deeply, and I wish I could help her to understand that her big doggy sister can't come back to accompany her on her explorations in the garden. Lilli was never far from gentle Saffy's side.
I doubt that I will ever get used to life without the pure heart of my miracle baby. I still find myself looking forward to seeing her every morning when I am at home; how she would lift her head sleepily from wherever she was snuggled, greeting me with the waggiest tail, the stickiest kisses, and the most enthusiastic bounces punctuated with playful growls. I miss the noise of her collar, the patter of her padding paws, even her stinky breath-cannon. In spite of all of this, however, I know that life goes on without Saffy, and that cannot be stopped. Throughout her twelve years, we gave her the most wonderful, pampered and adored lifestyle that any dog could hope for, and as a wise friend of mine said "she may not have been there for all of my life, but I was there for all of hers". One day, I will not hurt as much over the loss of the canine love of my life, but will instead be able to embrace her legacy as something ongoing, that will never leave me.
RIP Saffy, May 8th 2004 - July 31st 2016.
Below is a slideshow of a selection of pictures of Saffy from my Instagram account, @gggabatha.