Hi everyone, it’s me – Fiji’s mom, Lois.
This is an incredibly difficult post to write. It is written with pain and grief, and yet with a sense of profound joy and love. I had to let my beloved guide dog Fiji go after a short illness. She went into liver failure from an undiagnosed chronic liver condition that may or may not have been cancer, and passed away in my arms on 27 October 2023.
It’s hard to quantify the full impact that her passing has had on me. My sense of loss is natural – Fiji was such a part of every day. Yet sometimes that loss makes me catch my breath – reaching out to where I expect to find her curled up on her blanket, skirting around the space where her food bowl used to be, waiting for her to follow Onyx and Allie when I let them outside, or having her watch as I pour her fresh water because she wouldn’t drink otherwise. There are so many moments I can almost feel her right there next to me. Only she’s gone.
Fiji was such a wonderfully eccentric dog. She had so many unique mannerisms. When my alarm went off in the morning, she would jump up and nuzzle me as if encouraging me to leap into each new day with her. At mealtimes, she would spin in circles until her bowl was placed before her, and then dive into the meal with gleeful abandon. If I was applying make-up before going out, she would always be underfoot, just in case I might have forgotten that she wanted to come along. And, as I began to gather my bag and keys, she would begin barking and running to and from the front door, telling me to hurry up already.
Of course, there was her love of ice, known in our home as crunch-water, coming running whenever she heard the rattle of the ice-tray.
And then, her absolute focus when working – her glancing back at me when we were walking as if to encourage me through the trickier parts of a route, and her immense joy and pride when she was on harness and doing what she loved best – guiding me.
All of these are gaps in my world that nothing can fill. And, if I’m honest, I don’t want anything else to fill them. Because they are uniquely Fiji’s.
Already people are asking me when I will replace her. And that’s just not possible, because Fiji was just so perfectly uniquely herself. If I decide to get another guide dog, which I’m not sure of at this stage, it will be a totally different dog with its own unique personality and quirks. And that is as it should be. So, no, I will never replace Fiji, nor do I wish to.
In time I will probably update Fiji’s Paws for Thought book, to include all of her posts, including this final one, and complete her story. Doing so will also give me the chance to make a few changes and additions that will improve the manuscript and incorporate feedback I’ve received from readers and reviewers. Amongst these additions will be information on the actual training of guide dogs. But I can’t even think of doing that at the moment. I need the time to move beyond my current phase of grief to when the joy of my memories of Fiji are less tinged with loss.
One thing I know for sure, Fiji will always be part of my life and will remain part of the story I tell. I know too that this will be the last Paws for Thought blog post. Because that too was Fiji’s alone.
So, goodbye beautiful girl. I can never express how grateful I am for all that we did together and will always treasure my memories of the time I spent with my gorgeous Fiji.