For Olive

Goodbye, baby.

Sparta, Greece - March 9th 2024

We said goodbye to our beautiful little girl today. Goodbye for good. 

We said a kind of goodbye when she was diagnosed with cancer last April. When she was given weeks, maybe a month, to live. But that wasn’t enough for her, so she took the best part of a year. There was a whole world out there, so much grass to roll on, so many sunbeams to bask in, countless more hours of skritches and snugs and tummy rubs.

It was easy to forget that Olive was going to die. We knew she was supposed to, but she just – kept on living. And living well. She barely even slowed down until the cancer reached her brain, not long after her 12th birthday. Twelve! That’s 64 in dog years. In French Bulldog years: aeons. It took multiple seizures for us to truly accept her mortality, to face up to the dying part of her death. Even though meds could manage these symptoms of her terminal illness, when we saw the toll this untreatable condition was taking on her, that’s when we realised: it’s her time.

Olive came to us with the nickname “the Terminator”, and a tiny triangle scar on the bridge of her nose from scrapping with her brothers and sisters. It didn’t stop her, she just kept on playing. She probably didn’t even feel it, she was having that much fun. Even at the end, she loved being rubbed on that hollow between her eyes, soothed and snoozy. She’d relax into it, as if gently reminded of all the rough and tumble and fun and games still to come.

The runt of her litter, at 12 weeks old Olive was still small enough to fit in one hand. But you couldn’t tell her she wasn’t as big as the huge dogs she’d run up to greet. She always felt like the biggest thing in the room, and personality-wise, she always was. When we told friends she was sick, their responses reflected her legendary status: “battler”, “a hero”, “literally the best dog!” 

Our little family went through a lot together. Not half as much as our friends’ bulldogs, half of whom didn’t live half as long – but enough. (That’s why we’d never go through the heartbreak of having a short-nosed, sensitive breed again, and encourage others to rescue a dog instead.) But through it all, Olive maintained her sweet sunny demeanour. Even in her weakened state, she’d sharp-turn when she heard the squeals of delight that meant she’d made a new fan, and drag us to make friends with another complete stranger.

We’re so glad Ol made it on the road with us. She made our van a home. She saw France, Italy and Greece with us. She got to meet new friendly strangers, sniff mountain air, bask on sandy beaches, get carried across the pebbly ones, and every week, feel the sun hit her face in a brand new place. She was comfortable, content and curious, and we were too. She found her forever home among the trees that bear her name, in the Greek Peloponnese where we spent our last happy days together.

Recently someone showed our nephew a video of Olive running down a beach just behind me, the day before her first seizure. He’d last seen her when she – like us – was hot, bothered and a bit sick of being stuck in little England. So he was delighted – as everyone was by our little piggy – and said it all when he said, “So Olive can run around now!”

Goodbye Olive, born Clementine, formerly known as the Terminator. Forever and always our little girl. You can run around now.

We’ll be forever grateful to George, the most compassionate vet we’ve ever met, who helped us during the hardest time a fur family can face. If you’re ever near Molaoi, Greece, with a poorly pet, contact George.

If you’d like to do something in Olive’s memory, please donate to the Suzan Hope Shelter in Monemvasia, who are working tirelessly to help care for the area’s animals.

Photos by Zoë Noble
Words by James Glazebrook