The moment my horse Achilles died I felt the weight of the night sky come crashing upon me. My throat instinctively tightened, possibly to prevent my heart from being ripped from my body, and the pain was as raw and as brutal as anything I have ever encountered.
For 14 hours, Achilles fought for his life, felled once again by colic, a recurring theme in our short life together because he was a windsucker.
Only seven years old when he died, Iâ€™d had Achilles for three years, and foolishly thought weâ€™d grow old together but, sadly, it wasnâ€™t meant to be.
Though colic surgery is available, and sometimes successful, the facilities needed for it had yet to reach Cyprus, where I live. So, Achilles fought for as long as his body could take it. He then died in my arms. At 1.24am.
After returning home and somehow finding sleep, I woke to find my watch still showing the time at 1.24am â€“ stuck forever at the hour my horse died. That was six-and-a-half years ago, and I havenâ€™t worn a watch since.
As many of us know, there is no quick fix for grief and in the weeks that followed Achillesâ€™ death I struggled to make sense of what was left of my life without him. I wanted to speak about him, so everyone might know what a wonderful horse he had been, but I couldnâ€™t talk without crying.
Even during a facial, where chit chat isnâ€™t obligatory, the tears rolled down my cheeks in an unstoppable stream of despair. I wasnâ€™t crying as such; I simply couldnâ€™t stop the tears. Thankfully, the beautician was very sweet and she made no comment. She let the tears roll. And this is how it was for a few weeks. Talk was exhausting. Tears were constant. And my body physically ached with loss. My mum was so concerned she suggested I go to the doctor, but I wasnâ€™t depressed, I was just very, very sad.
Of course, I am not the only person to have loved and lost a pet. History is littered with grief for, and tributes to, faithful companions. Alexander the Great was so devastated by the loss of his horse that he named a city after him, Bucephala â€“ now thought to be modern Jhelum in the Punjab province of Pakistan.
For others, without access to the same resources as empire builders, beloved pets have been mourned and remembered in a variety of ways. Tattoos are common â€“ Orlando Bloom and his labradoodle Mighty, Jennifer Aniston and her corgi-terrier Norman as well as Miley Cyrus and her dogs Floyd, Emu and Mary Jane and a blowfish named Pablow. Written tributes are also abundant with heartfelt postings made by Tom Hardy, Zac Effron and Pink on the death of their â€˜best friendsâ€™.
I too mourned the passing of Achilles with a tattoo, inscribing on my left shoulder blade the kind words sent to me by a friend: â€œWhen the sky turns grey, the sound of thunder is him and his herd coming to comfort you.â€
I also posted on social media and dedicated my fourth novel, â€˜Untethered,â€™ to Achillesâ€™ memory. Like Alexander the Great, I wanted this incredible creature who had given me so much in his too-short life to be immortalised and remembered, if only for the length of a print run rather than centuries.
Of course, I also contacted Alison at Tail End Jewellery.
I remember veering dangerously close to meltdown when I rang because I couldnâ€™t find a delivery option on her website for Cyprus and there was a ring I wanted.
With immense patience and caring, Alison let me talk about my boy for as long as I needed to and she promised the ring would be delivered to Cyprus, which it was â€“ a silver ring inlaid with my boyâ€™s beautiful black mane and an engraving on the inner band that read, â€˜Achilles & Andreaâ€™.
It meant the world to me then and it means the world to me today.
Thank you, Alison.