To say I’m devastated about the sudden and sad passing of Carrie Fisher is no exaggeration. Growing up I only ever knew her as Princess Leia, who my dad (and probably everyone else’s dad) fancied from Star Wars. In more recent years I’ve learned more about this amazing woman and the trials she went through very publicly with addiction and mental illness. It was hard NOT to look up to her, especially as I read about her candid tales of self-destruction and the dark, sharp humour she presented. If I was to survive my worst days I wanted to be like Carrie Fisher.
Over the coming days and weeks, you’re going to read a lot of people’s own personal stories of grief for this icon. Her story meant a lot to so many and her role on Star Wars was no small feat. Yes, she was a princess – but nothing like the ones we’d seen up until we met the fiery and fearless Leia Organa.
I was with Husband and some friends last night as we played some Magic and I marvelled over some new art goodies I’d treated myself to (art has been a big part of my life again recently, something I’ll talk about in a future post) when I looked through Facebook on my phone and very literally cried out in horror. ‘Carrie Fisher passes away at age 60.’ I had been horrified when she had a heart attack days ago, but I was hopeful that being stabilised meant she would make a recovery and we would have her back. I was immediately saddened by the news, but oddly my thoughts didn’t fall to Star Wars, her battle with bipolar disorder or even having only seen her days before on TV.
I thought of her dog, Gary. And then I had to stop myself from bursting into tears.
Gary was Carrie’s floppy-tongued French bulldog, a stoic little chap that followed her everywhere she went. It wasn’t uncommon to see him by her side on the red carpet, TV appearances and on social media too. It was no secret that this dog was a lifeline to Carrie when she needed one most, not only as a therapy dog for her bipolar disorder but as someone who needed her just as much. “Gary is like my heart. Gary is very devoted to me and that calms me down,” she had said in an interview. They were loyal to one another, and now Carrie was gone.
How would he know she was gone?
It made me think of my own pups. Shandy and Lady had always been in the background as I went through my teenage years, I found myself having to tell my mom to take it easy on them both as they presented with anxiety after my dad died. They were disobedient, often ignoring her as she’d shout, and sometimes they would try to escape despite Mom insisting they were ‘house-dogs.’ There were times where she wanted to get rid of them. Manipulative Ex wanted rid of them. They were noisy nightmares. I was asked to get rid of them once while Mom was in hospital. I couldn’t do it. In some of my darkest hours, they were there for me when all the people who supposedly loved me had left me. I didn’t understand these dogs; but it wasn’t their fault that they were brought into our family and left to their own existence. I loved them. My mom wasn’t cruel, she didn’t beat them or physically harm them, but she was old and frail (as much as she wouldn’t admit to it) and two young, demanding dogs were too much for her. But that wasn’t their fault and I wouldn’t see them abandoned for it.
When Mom died, my brother T insisted that I get rid of them. I wouldn’t be able to look after them, they would be a burden, they would be nothing but trouble. Those dogs gave me a reason to live. My dad was gone, my mom was gone, people had come and gone from their lives and they would never understand why – I wasn’t going to do the same to them. When I howled with grief upon returning home from the hospital when Mom passed away, Shandy and Lady joined me. I cried with my dogs as Husband comforted us all. I wasn’t sending them anywhere. I had just lost the last piece of the family I had known, losing them would have given me nothing left to live for. I was suicidal every single day for months. I wanted to stay in bed and rot away, some days I didn’t eat and some days I ate too much. I wouldn’t shower or change my clothes. But I would get up regardless, because Shandy and Lady needed feeding as did the cats. They would all need to be let out to do their business, the cats would need fresh litter, they would also need warmth and comfort.
When we had no heating in the house, I would have all four of them (even antisocial cats Munch and Pip) under the quilt with me to huddle for warmth with a tiny, shitty electric heater in the middle of the room. I’d do this night and day, and when I took the flat that is now my home, I kept their welfare in mind. Before Shandy passed away nearly two years ago, I worked with Husband to bring their more ‘destructive behaviours’ in check. All it took was patience and love. I’ve never been prouder of those pups, and I would never have sent them away or left them behind.
The love of a dog in the bleakest of times can be a beacon that you never expected. And seeing Carrie with Gary was a reminder of what I went through with my pups and what I would give to have Shandy back with her sister. I couldn’t imagine their faces if I left one day and never came back.