I can't quite believe that today happened. Today I had to say goodbye to my best friend Archie, and it hurts like hell.
I feel like I've had my guts ripped out, my heart aches and every time I look at the empty space where his bed was my heart sinks a little lower and can't help crying.
We adopted Archie in January 2011 from Salisbury Dogs Trust after we had visited the centre on a whim, which I think was Amy's way of trying to keep my longing to adopt a rescue dog sated for a while.
After a couple of visits to the Dogs Trust I think the idea of having a dog started to appeal to her, and we decided we would adopt an older dog to give them a happy retirement home.
We initially took a dog called Oakley for a test walk, but we found that he needed more training that we were unable to give. As we were leaving we spotted a Dog of the Month section with a poster asking "Would you be my valentine?"
Underneath the sign was a gorgeous face with big brown eyes looking quite sad.I looked at Amy and asked "What about that greyhound?"
We walked over and read his Bio - Archie, ex-racer rescue greyhound. Loveable gentle older gent who loves walks, a comfy bed and lots of cuddles. A true couch potato.I already knew that he was the one.
We took him for a test walk and it just solidified what I already knew. Something just clicked with him, and I knew I wanted to give this guy a home.
We enquired at the desk to get the ball rolling for adoption.
The next weekend while the adoption process was taking place, I went back to take him for another walk. When he saw me he stood up and started licking the glass and looked excited to see me. One of the volunteers remarked that he never did that with any visitor, and a big smile crossed my face, I think he knew I was going to take him home.
When we adopted Archie and walked him out of the centre we walked to the car and he leapt into it with the happiest face I've seen on a pooch.
When we got home he quickly made himself at home, and looked quite content.
I quickly bonded with Archie, and quite strongly too. He was a big goof ball but so so gentle and gave the best cuddles a dog could give.
We would play chase, hide and seek and fetch in the garden, he became my close companion and best friend.
After I left the army and moved to Wootton Bassett, I was out of work for a while and had no friends in the area. He was the only company I had for a few months and in that time we bonded even closer as we spent nearly all day every day together, and I would often find myself having a full conversation with him.
Every day we would walk to his favourite place at Jubilee Lake, and once there he would lead me to a shaded bench where he liked to sit and watch the world go by.
I would also send Amy photos through the day of us playing and goofing around.
How I'll always remember Archie
Unfortunately as the short years went on Archie developed problems with walking due to arthritis , an apparently common ailment among ex racers. We visited the vet on numerous occasions and treated Archie with different medication, but the effects of the medication never lasted that long.
It then got to a point where getting up from his bed became a struggle and we once again visited the vet, they did a small test which they had done before by lifting his back paw and curling his toes underneath his foot. He had done this many times before and had immediately put his paw back....this he time he didn't, and my heart sank. I knew it wasn't good.
The vet said they could try him with medication to try to ease the pain, but I knew a hard decision was going to have to be made. Archie was into his teens and we had to take into consideration what was going to be best for him.
Amy and I discussed the options over the weekend, and a very very hard choice was made.
We thought it was going to be unfair to Archie to keep him in pain any longer, his back legs were very weak and he had begun falling due to the stress of his arthritis on his back legs.
And so we decided it was time.
So for his last day, I drove him to the lake this morning as he could no longer walk there. I set out a blanket where we both lay side by side and watched the world go by together for one last time.Amy, Archie and I took a slow walk around our regular route together, he ate all the junk food he wanted...lots of dog treats, biscuits, yoghurt (which was favourite only second to ice cream), then an ice cream. And we cuddled for most of the afternoon. He was given loads of fuss from Amy, myself and my mum who would always spoil him.
I lay next to him until we got the call to say the vet was on his way, I held him closer as tears rolled down my cheeks and reassured him that it was going to be ok.
The vet came, and Archie gave his paw to administer the injection as I lay on his bed with him holding him close telling him he was a good boy and I loved him, until he gently and quietly slipped away in my arms.
My heart shattered, Amy and I broke down, but I knew we had made the right choice for him no matter how painful that choice was.
I will always miss my friend and still can't believe he's gone. But I take comfort in the fact that we gave Archie a few final happy years as a part of our family in his retirement home.
Rest in peace my boy, I miss and love you.