No-one tells you where old love goes – where to put it down, how to lay it to rest. If it’s possible. If you can. – Fortesa Latifi

My first love was Murphy. He might’ve been an Alsation, or maybe a bit of that mixed with something else.

I was only 3 when I last saw him. Almost half a century ago.

I came outside one morning and my mother told me Murphy was gone. He must’ve run away during the night, she said.

I vividly remember standing in the driveway looking up and down the road, certain I could see him in the distance. But it wasn’t him.

He was gone. That was that. I never saw him again and I have no photos of him.

My father was in the Air Force and we moved abroad soon afterwards. But I never forgot Murphy.

He has lived in my memory as my first best friend. The one who seemed as awed as I was when all the ladybirds covered the vegetable garden one morning. The one who splashed madly in the creek with my friends and I, making us all laugh.

The one who was always by my side.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that it finally occurred to me. He would never have left me like that. Murphy didn’t run away.

My mother confirmed it when I asked. He went to a new home because we were moving somewhere he couldn’t go.

Why hadn’t she just told me that? All those years I thought my beautiful dog had left me. I had pictured him roaming the streets, lost.

What’s the big deal, she says. She has always been careless with my feelings.

I was glad to finally know my lost dog had been safe in a new home, but our story lingered for me, unfinished.

It was a grief that had nowhere to land for almost 50 years.

Your willingness to look at your darkness is what empowers you to change. – Iyanla Vanzant

My therapist tells me that working with stories that are stuck in the body can reduce the longing for photos and reconnection.

What does that little girl in the driveway need, she asks?

She needs to know her dog is safe. She needs her dog to know she still loves him.

Who can come and tell her that, she asks. It can be anyone – a family member, a fictional character, another animal.

Denzel Washington pops into my head. My therapist enthusiastically approves.

And so Denzel crouches next to the bewildered girl to tell her the things she needs to hear that no-one ever said. Your dog is safe and happy. He won’t forget you. You will always belong to each other.

There is still a tightness around my torso, like someone has lasooed me and pulled the rope tight. What does the tightness need, my therapist asks?

It needs to hurt her mother, I say, shocked.

My therapist is on board with this. Go ahead, she says. Maybe it can be an animal.

And I close my eyes, see my body changing into a leopard, leaping at my mother, knocking her to the ground, ripping at her throat.

It’s not enough. She keeps saying the words, my beloved dog has left me behind. I drag her to the garage and cut her in half with the roller door, appalled yet compelled.

Something inside me shifts. Enough, it says. This is done. And it is.

The lasoo releases its grip. Relief. I can say goodbye to Murphy, my first love, my dog.

I hope he lived a good life. I hope he remembered me. I hope he knew I loved him. I hope to see him again in the next life, or the afterlife, or wherever we go next.

For now I let him go. My body is at peace, and that little girl in the driveway doesn’t need a photo anymore. She has him in her heart.

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