Lauren Fern Watt‘s English Mastiff was recently diagnosed with terminal bone cancer.
She knew that, relatively soon, her best friend was about to go away forever. And that’s no understatement. Fern Watt’s dog Gizelle had been with her through everything: A scary move to New York City, the new faces of college, the never-ending drama of boyfriends and the soul-searching period of her early 20s.
“This dog wasn’t just my best friend — she was my roommate and confidant. What does the vet mean she only has a few months left?” She wrote in her blog.
At first, the news was devastating. But Gizelle decided to “bury [their] worries in the dog park” and create a tribute worthy of such an amazing friend. She created a bucket-list adventure of all the things they wanted to do together before Gizelle died.
“We’d escape the city and search for waterfalls, cook lobster, and nap in the grass. We’d jump in the ocean without towels, just to enjoy the sun drying us, and never stress about details like sand in the car.”
Fern Watt said the journey not only helped her cope with losing her dog, it was an experience she’ll never forget. Here is her personal account of the experience:
A woman took her dying dog on the adventure of a lifetime
Ride in a canoeGizelle and I always used to watch The Little Mermaid together, and a favorite scene was the one where Ariel is chauffeured in a row boat by Prince Eric. So I was determined to get all 160 pounds of my easily spooked pup into a canoe. I tried to keep from wobbling as she hesitantly tip toed in one paw at a time. We weren’t quite as graceful as Ariel and Prince Eric.Lauren Fern Watt
See Times SquareLike most New Yorkers, Gizelle and I were a little repulsed by Times Square. That said, it’s still a famous New York City landmark, so I decided we would go at 6:45 a.m. before the life-size cartoon characters and tourists could clog the sidewalks. We stood at the Crossroads of the World and realized it did sparkle like it’s supposed to. It was magical.Lauren Fern Watt
Cook lobster in MaineBefore cooking them at a friend’s beach house, I freed the lobsters to tap across the kitchen floor with Gizelle. She sniffed at them like they were her dog pals, and I almost felt bad for how short-lived this friendship would be. But we kissed them each farewell before plopping them in the pot. I fed Gizelle hot buttered lobster chunks with a fork, so I’m sure she didn’t mind too much.Lauren Fern Watt
Go on a road tripGizelle loved the car, so I rented one and Gizelle, my best friend Rebecca, and I took off for a four-day girls-only road trip through New England, with no particular destination in mind. We’d take turns sticking our heads out the window, and didn’t worry about work, deadlines, or boys.Lauren Fern Watt
Cuddle as much as possibleAfter I discovered she was dying, dog hair on my once-forbidden bed and slobber on my face didn’t seem to matter as much as spending time cuddling with Gizelle. She helped teach me that love is the most wonderful gift I can receive, and it is the best thing I have to give. My lap became her desired seat, and it was awesome.Lauren Fern Watt
Spend a day at Washington Square ParkFor an entire day, Gizelle and I sat in Washington Square Park in downtown N.Y.C. and people watched. We were serenaded by a man strumming an out of tune guitar with broken strings, talked to a guy with a fish tattooed on his face, and helped a lady in a red kimono feed the pigeons and bird call at the hawks.Lauren Fern Watt
Go to a party and meet a cute boy dogGizelle had always been my wing girl for picking up guys in the East Village; now it was her turn. When I found out a friend was having a party with 19 adorable single dogs on the invite list, I knew this was Gizelle’s chance to meet someone special. Here Gizelle and the cute blonde, Auggie, are clearly flirting over a little beer pong (or in this case, paw-ng).Lauren Fern Watt
Find the best doughnut in the worldAs she got sicker, Gizelle’s appetite began to disappear and mine did, too. So when a friend told us about a family-owned doughnut-store gem, Congdon’s Donuts, we went on a quest to find it up the coast of Maine. These donuts were so fresh they took unusual shapes and had mini air-filled dough bubbles. We sat in the grass and ate the whole box. And you know what? I still don’t feel bad about it!Lauren Fern Watt
Sit on the beach in the winterI was told Gizelle wouldn't make it until Christmas, but in January we sat by the ocean in Maine as it snowed the day before she died. Part of me wondered if this was her plan all along, to take me on an adventure, knowing we’d end up on a deserted beach alone. The sky was white, the trees were bare, and even the birds were hiding. It was then I realized that I was okay with letting Gizelle go. I knew she would live on through my experiences, and that I gave her the best life I could. And that to me was infinitely healing.Lauren Fern Watt