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Episode 7: Martina

I got my dog when I was around five years old. We got it after a pretty severe robbery. And I think it was a way of providing security to the family because in South America, people use dogs to guard the house. It was also a gift so it's not something that we looked for but someone came to us like a friend of my family, and said hey, my female dog is having puppies: here's one for you. Yeah, something we wanted, he was useful at the time, he made us feel safe. He was also like a gift we could not refuse. His name was Toby.

My earliest memory of Toby was when we went to visit him when he was in the womb, So, the friend of the family invited us over to see the mother when she was pregnant and we would go every weekend to see well either the pregnant mother, or the already born pupies so we could like we would watch them grow as the weeks passed. So those who were my earliest memories of the dogs. As he grew he became pretty crazy. He was so wild that he would jump out of the rolling car's window, it was pretty crazy I don't know how he never died on those. Yeah.

When he died last year, I noticed that he was the one presence, or, I don't want to say individual because he's not a human being he was for me an individual. He was the one individual that was gonna be there for me always you know like I knew that his love was always going to be unconditional: an unconditional friend.

I think it's different from human friendship because with people you grew apart or you grow together, or, you know? time passes and you're not the same people. But the relationship that you can have with an animal goes beyond your likes and dislikes or how you develop as a person, or where you go. It's just, it's so it goes so into the essence of you, like, the dog likes me for me, not because I'm, I have classes with him or because I see him twice a week or something you know?

Last year he became really really sick. As soon as I got to uni he got very sick. He started taking morphine, and we had to increase the dose. People were, rightly so concerned of how I was going to take the passing, because he was literally like my best friend. And eventually, I think my mom called the vet and the vet said it's in your hands to end the suffering for him. Well, that's when it hit her it hit all of us he's never going to be healthy again. So my mom scheduled the appointment to put him to sleep, afterwards she told me to come home this weekend, so I did. We went for dinner and she was like I have to tell you something important, she told me that she scheduled an appointment to put him to sleep.

I didn't really… I guess I needed time to process the emotion.

I don't think I cried that weekend at all. I just spent the weekend with my mom and my sister and Toby. But as soon as I got back to my apartment in Rotterdam: I cried and I put sad music (I put my breakup playlist on).

It was… it was pretty bad. But I think I needed that moment for myself to really mourn him. Is that how you say it? To mourn him, to grieve and before he was even gone.

I remember I went back again. On the day that he was going to be put to sleep….

Right, …. we walked in one last time we gave him the treats that he liked. And then it was almost as if he knew that he was gonna die because a lot of people that loved him came over to the house. He approached every single one and kissed them like he was literally saying goodbye to everyone.

I had never experienced death, like face to face before, and I don't think it's comparable with human death but it was a very unique thing to experience.

It was my mom's idea that I lay next to him while he was put to sleep. So we sort of just … so he laid there and I put my head across from his, like looking at him, looking in his eyes. As he was falling asleep we both, Toby and I, laid down at the same time. I would be the last thing he saw. I wasn't crying, everyone around me was crying; my mom was crying, my sister was crying, the neighbors were crying …. I guess I put on my strong face so that he wouldn't see a crying face as he was dying because it was already a pretty anxious experience.

It was pretty horrible to see, you know his last breath, and then everything that happens when a dog is put to sleep, because it's not something, it's not a natural thing … you're forcing death, basically. So it's not, it's not pleasant at all, I was really surprised because while it was happening, but then after it happened I also didn't cry.

That… that surprised everyone, and everyone told me “Hey you can express your emotions and that you don't have to hold it in”. But in that moment: it was almost as if he, Toby, was telling me, I'm still here like he was dying but I could hear him. I could hear him tell me.

To be honest I still hear him, I hear him say “I'm still hear it, I'm not leaving you I'm going inside of you, I'll always love you and be a part of you”. That gave me such peace and tranquility, to think, this is not like the end. He's taking another form. I remember that even though the material is, is, is gone. He's still with me.

In that moment, surrounded by family and friends, his material presence was going to be gone, he was dying but he, in that moment, was still there and I think that's what didn't make me cry because it wasn't as if he was disappearing forever...

Yeah, I don't remember when I went home if I cried or not I just remember it was…

I was surprisingly peaceful after that. It wasn't like I was grieving him or anything.

I'm not saying that “Oh, it was so peaceful and so nice and whatever…” No it wasn't nice it was, was very unpleasant, it was sad. It was really sad. But just because I think this can be unpleasant doesn't mean it can't be peaceful. Death and Grief and anything really, can be both horrible, horrific and beautiful at the same time. For me it wasn't like death, per se, it was just like a transition... Huh (pensive sound, she looks up), that's how I experienced it.

I have never told anyone this before, I have not verbalized it, because everyone asked me why didn't you cry and I think this is, this was too crazy to say in the moment, like my dog Toby, he told me, “I'm not leaving”.

As a kid I would spend a lot of hours with a dog. And I've never been a very talkative member of the family, I know that my sister talks a lot more than me. So I would express myself more with Toby like I would go play with Toby. If I had something important to say I would tell it to the dog, you know, like I wouldn't tell people, I would tell the dog, because Toby was very important. Or I would play with the dog and think about my things as if I were talking to a friend, you know, yeah. Whenever I was worried I would go hug the dog with my worry and I would feel the empathy from him.

He is as much family as anyone else could be… Yeah. There was a dog. His name was Toby.

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