This is going to almost certainly be one of those posts that rambles on with perhaps no set direction; I have a habit of doing those. But as it’s been almost a year since I actually last posted, or even visited my own website, now is as good a time as any to perhaps write something.
It has been one hell of a year. Parts of it have filled me with joy and happiness, other parts have filled me with sadness and heartbreak. But, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
The beginning of the summer in 2017 was also the time that my eldest dog, Jess, was diagnosed with a type of bone cancer. What started off as a slight limp and a bit of stiffness, diagnosed as probable arthritis, quickly progressed to her hobbling around on 3 legs. X-rays showed the dreaded C. It was never really in my mind that she would have cancer. The prognosis was 6-8 weeks, and all we could really offer her was palliative care, pain relief and the best possible memories. She battled hard. She managed to make it to 12 weeks post diagnosis. It was so easy to forget how poorly she was, as she carried on with a zest for life that would make anyone smile. Very few people believed me when I said that she was terminal. In fact, I was still being asked if she was a pup. We had countless trips to all sorts of places and we made so many new memories. She got spoilt by everybody, and as a result, progressively more stubborn. These were quirks and traits that I had so often found frustrating and irritating, but with such a fate hanging over her, they became endearing and amusing.
The shock of the initial diagnosis was perhaps the hardest part. Here was my happy, albeit slightly grumpy, dog being diagnosed with something so scary. There was only one fate. The facts were horrible. Not knowing how much pain she was in, and panicking that she was going to injure herself began eating all of us up. Here was the dog I had grown up with, learned with, cried with, laughed with and loved so, so much and all I knew was that her days were so numbered. She had seen me through a change of school, moving house, countless dog training sessions, setting up my own business, mental health struggles; she had watched me fall in love. I mean, I will never forget the many agility sessions, at the age of 11 that she reduced me to tears in with her naughtiness and her antics. But I look back on those now as some of the best days. She was a clown and she was a free spirit.
In her older years, her free spirit started to disappear. She tended to do as she was told, except at bed time when she would refuse to go to bed without a gravy bone, or when she’d find a green and stinky puddle to submerge herself in. Those were the exceptions.
She soldiered on through the first 8 or 9 weeks after her diagnosis. That was when she started to struggle. That was when reality set in once again. She had been so well that we had almost forgotten that she was so poorly. But she became progressively weaker. Her breathing became laboured. Her backend became weaker. Her love of life was slowly fading. And that was when we knew, and the decision was made.
The vet was called out to come on the Wednesday. On the Monday, she came for her last group walk with the girls. She bounded through the grass. She found the stinkiest water and fully immersed herself in it. She found the hidden entrance to the brook. We had the best time. On the Tuesday, we took her for a McDonalds. She got to ride on the back seat, something that I do not normally allow! She had an ice cream and a meal. She came and chilled at my field with us, one last time. She picked the blackberries off the bushes and rolled around in the grass. But she was tired. She’d had enough. Yet she was happy.
The Wednesday was, oddly, the easiest day. I felt at peace with the decision. It was the hardest thing, don’t get me wrong, but it was clear that the decision was the right one. We took her down to sit outside the supermarket, so she could people watch. She still inisted on trying to make eye contact with every single person that passed her. She devoured almost an entire pack of schmackos. She picked the blackberries as we walked past the bushes; her favourite past time.
She greeted the vet and the nurse like they were old friends. She smothered them in kisses. That was the happiest she could ever be. People were her favourite thing. She ate the remainder of the pack of schmackos until her very last breath, and her tail did not stop wagging. She could not have died happier, surrounded by those that she loved the most.
Jess – 24 / 06 / 08 – 16 / 08 / 17