How a dog named Bear saved Manus guard's life
WHEN Craig Bielleman suffered a debilitating back injury while working as a security officer at Manus Island Detention Centre, he was left in almost unbearable pain.
For a while, he thought life wasn't worth living.
Then along came a friend to help put things right; not in the form of a human being but a small cheeky dog named Bear.
This is Craig Bielleman's story of pain, love and incredible loss.
JUST over two years ago, I worked in Papua New Guinea as a security safety officer at the Manus Island Detention Centre where I was injured in a workplace accident.
I suffered a spinal injury as well as a fractured sternum. For a while, I thought I was going to die or become a paraplegic.
I was sent on an emergency flight to Port Moresby for emergency treatment, where my thoughts turned to home, my wife and children. I was frightened and alone.
I returned to Australia and an overwhelming number of medical tests, scans, nerve block injections and counselling sessions.
I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe depression and anxiety.
Every day since then has been difficult - a fight to survive.
I existed but didn't live. My days became nights and the nights blurred into the days.
I was broken, both physically and psychologically.
The chronic pain was so unbearable I thought that dying would be better than just existing.
Then along came a dog named Bear.
Where do I start to tell you about Bear?
He was a long-haired chihuahua, white with brown spots; cheeky and intelligent, loving but his own boss.
He became my best friend. He unlocked my heart, broke down my walls and helped heal my broken soul.
This little guy loved me unconditionally. When I came home feeling terrible and in pain, Bear was there for me.
I experienced a pure, honest love that could never be explained.
On bad days, which became more frequent than good ones, I would pick him up and he would snuggle into my arms.
I would cry uncontrollably, open up my heart and tell him all my fears and worries.
He never judged me. He was just there with his unconditional love.
He was more than a friend, he became my best mate.
But on the night of October 28 this year, my world imploded.
At 10.30pm I went to bed and Bear, as usual, followed me and sat under my bed.
But something was different. As I turned the light off for another painful night's sleep, I never realised that my night was going to be more painful than I could imagine.
Then I heard Bear vomit. We took him outside and cleaned him up, then brought him back inside where he lay on my bed.
I patted him, saying "are you okay big fella?" but he just looked at me with those big brown trusting eyes.
I laid down again and could feel Bear trying to get comfortable.
He made his way up to my chest where he laid still as I stroked his tummy.
I remember thinking how much I loved that little guy and how he had helped me on my healing journey.
I dozed off but was woken by screams of terror.
We turned on the light and I shook him, asking "Bear, you right mate?".
"He's dead, he's dead, he's dead," I screamed.
I picked up his lifeless body up and shook it, pleading with God to give him back to me.
Even now, I can't believe that he's gone and look for him everywhere I go.
On those bad days when I arrive home, I just cry.
You see, this little dog
named Bear gave me a reason to get up every day.
He listened to me without giving advice. He loved me when I was unlovely.
When I was on the floor in pain, he would bring me his ball to throw for him as a distraction from the pain.
He knew what to do.
Now I am living with this hole in my heart and I'm not sure if it will ever heal.
I'm told the amount of tears shed are the expression of your love and loss.
I knew that I loved that little guy but now that he has gone I know exactly how much, for I have cried a river.
Thank you Bear for showing me love that was unconditional.
For giving me that reason to live when life was so hard.
Thank you for unlocking my heart when it was broken and damaged.
You couldn't talk but you didn't have to - you just laid in my arms and listened.
You made me realise that people are great at giving advice; telling you where you went wrong or how to make it all better, but they fall short in so many ways because they don't need to have all the answers.
They just need to be still and just listen.