When 27-year-old Lauren Fern Watt found out her dog was dying, she landed upon an unusual course of action to cope with her grief.
The New York PR worker decided to take Gizelle, her 160-pound English Mastiff, on a bucket list adventure of jaunts she knew the adored pooch would love.
"When Gizelle was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, I was crushed," Lauren wrote, in an emotional essay on Yahoo! Travel. "Together we had been through college, boyfriends, our early 20s, and a move from simple Tennessee to big and scary New York City. This dog wasn’t just my best friend - she was my roommate and confidant.
"My sobbing seemed unstoppable, but Gizelle was sensitive and didn’t like to see me cry. I had to be strong. I decided we would bury our worries in the dog park and create a bucket-list adventure of everything we wanted to do before she 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.
"Doing a bucket list for Gizelle not only helped me cope with losing her, it was also one wild ride... So paw in hand, we packed our bags and set off."
Lauren and Gizelle spent their last few months together sharing many special moments as they embarked on their own special list of experiences, in a journey she documented on Instagram.
Activities they ticked off together included eating ice-cream on the dock, meeting Santa, riding in a canoe and going to a party to meet a "cute boy dog".
One of their last trips was to Maine, where they ate lobster and spent time on a snowy beach.
A day later, Gizelle died. "I lost my best friend yesterday. Gizelle was the most sensitive and loving creature I'd ever known and words can't explain how much I will miss her," Lauren wrote in a tribute on Instagram.
See moving photos from the pair's bucket list adventure together, below.
Riding on a canoe together
"When a light breeze picked up, Gizelle plunked her heavy head on the side of the canoe as we floated across the water, and I could almost see the wind tickling her jowls. I know she was embracing the quiet and nature that we didn’t have in New York City, because I was, too."
Going on a road trip
"Gizelle 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."
Cuddling as much as possible
Go to a party and meet a cute boy dog
Eating ice-cream on the dock
"I made it my mission to find a quiet dock where Gizelle and I could have an ice cream, watch the boats float by, and enjoy. No trendy truffle-oil gelato or fancy flavors, just basic vanilla. We both loved it."
"When we stumbled across these three trusted pug Santa's helpers, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Although the dogs didn’t seem to notice each other much and the pugs weren’t as jolly as a human Santa, I still made sure to pass them Gizelle’s Christmas list of rib eyes, hotdogs, and vanilla ice cream."