I've been taking Jess to the beach since she was a 12 week old pup. For the first few years she had plenty of bounce in her step, would run along the shoreline, chase sticks and balls and occasionally even play with other dogs. I walked her when I was pregnant, with a baby strapped to my chest, with toddlers running around me and alone, many times alone. It was my escape from the 6pm madness at home, the early Saturday morning routine, the Sunday afternoon ease. Jess and I would come home sandy and glistening and better for our beach walk.
As she got older arthritis started to bother her legs from running through the sand. She slowed down and we stopped going as much. Time passed. Things changed.
I wasn't quite prepared for how large the gaps would be in my world when I left my family. How shameful it still feels to write those words. Initially it was the grief of not being a constant in my childrens life. Not being with them half the time - what sort of a mother does that make me? Truthfully - a better one. The time I have with the kids is quality, not quantity. It's funner and more relaxed and they are meeting their Mum again - Clare Bizley. I think we all like her.
Yesterday I took Jess, aged almost 9, to the beach for our first walk in a long time. We are both a bit fatter and slower, but the delight we shared driving together to our spot was palpable. She stays close on the walk, but every now and then runs into the sea and looks at me to join her. She lets other dogs say hello but then moves on quickly - not here to make friends. Just here to walk with my Clare.
Sometimes she gets ahead and I see her turn back to look for me. I call her and she bounds in for a quick pat then back to business - let's walk lady. I feel a sense of loss at the time that has passed without us walking together. I have let her down. Then I see her, smiling at me and I am overwhelmed with the joy of the moment. What does it matter now that we didn't walk yesterday. We are walking now, together again.