Belle's life was ended by a vet she had never met, in a small town where noone knew her name, surrounded by an unfamiliar landscape she didn't get the chance to explore. She was old, in pain and ready to go. I, on the other hand, being human and selfish was not ready to let go of her and felt that the breath had been sucked from me and my heart would burst from my throat.
The other dogs viewed her body, sniffed and moved on. Her son, Bug, rolled on his back for a belly rub. They accepted the change from life to death instinctively and without grief - maybe they know something I don't.
Change is hard for me. Which is an odd one as my husband Steve and I have forced change on ourselves from the time we met. We have constantly been reshaping our lives, moving, making plans. All of which seem to be leading somewhere we don't yet know - that place where we can say: "Yes, this is where I want to live out my days, this is where I want to be put in the ground at the end of it. This is home."
Putting Belle in the ground on the 20 acres of Okanogan Highlands that we have just moved to was unsettling to me. Being from Scotland, and having lived in rainy western Washington state for the past four years I am finding the beautiful, remote mountainside we are living on so different than what I am used to. The heat, the dry grasses and the thin film of dust which covers us, our two boys and all the animals isn't what I'm used to and I have not embraced these things yet. The crickets drowning out the sound of the birds unnerves me. When we first arrived I dismissed the soil as too thin and rocky to suppport a vegetable garden. I'm not sure this is where we are meant to end up and if we do move Belle won't be coming with us and we won't have her grave to sit next to or be able to press our hands into the dirt above her as if we could still pat her.
But when we dug down to bury her, I realised the soil was deeper and more fertile than I had believed. Maybe something will take root here.
Time will tell.
I feel disoriented without my companion for the past thirteen years. But I believe everything happens for a reason. Maybe she is teaching me that the only way to know you are found, that you have ended up in life exactly where you are supposed to be - is to first get completely lost.