In lives like ours, defined by and with animals, how are we to live without them?
That is my question to the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, as she mourns the loss of her last corgi, a 14 year old named Willow who was put to sleep due to cancer complications. While this is sad and, in some ways, unremarkable, what is most tragic about this story is the loss of dogs from a life: the 92 year old will no longer own corgis tied to her family.
Queen Elizabeth has had corgis since 1936. Willow was from a lineage that she bred for fourteen generations before announcing she would stop the practice in 2009. She had seven corgis who died throughout the years and Willow, her last, is now gone. She noted she stopped breeding the pets because she “doesn’t want to leave any behind.”
She is reportedly “heartbroken” regarding the turn of events. Vanity Fair explains.
“She has mourned every one of her corgis over the years, but she has been more upset about Willow’s death than any of them,” the Palace source says. “It is probably because Willow was the last link to her parents and a pastime that goes back to her own childhood. It really does feel like the end of an era.” A courtier adds: “Willow represents a significant thread running through the Queen’s life from her teenage years to her 90s. For many, many years she bred and raised corgis, and to think that the last one has now gone is something of a milestone.”
The sadness. The tragedy of the aging human and their dogs.
Willow is survived by three dogs: two corgi-daschund mixes named Vulcan and Candy and another corgi named Whisper who the Queen agreed to adopt after the owner passed away. The Queen is not all alone nor without a dog but this deep history of hers is now gone: she has lost her family dogs.
The loss of a dog – of any animal – is a difficult one and age is the cruelest player in this game. When your dog – a lifeline, a push to be and do and go and see – has gone away, what is the person to make of themselves? The Queen will continue, sure, but as it goes: nothing lasts forever. Another era ends. I cannot imagine the deep sadness, the final goodbye, the giant pill in the throat of life’s walls closing in.
Poor Willow. Poor us.