Wednesday, 4 August 2010

My Dear Dog Tan

My dear old dog has been ill since Easter with a stomach tumour. He was prescribed steroids and rallied, although he was getting noticeably weaker as time went on. I didn't know what to do. There was only one place he was going. It was a case of when, not if. I wanted to do the right thing by him, because he had been such a good dog.

So, what was best? A lot of people told me I would know when it was the right time, that it was obvious when a dog was miserable or in pain. But was that the right thing to do? Surely I wanted to avoid pain and misery. Therefore he should make the final visit to the vet while he was still wagging his tail and perking up his ears. I fretted. I worried. I was conflicted. It was so important to get this right.

And with my writer's cold eye, I watched my agonised twisting around the conflict I felt. I checked all those emotions, the wanting to do the right thing, coupled with the knowledge that a sick dog was a tie and I had a weekend away speaking at the RNA Conference with no one to look after him. That dilemma was solved when a dear friend offered to drive 200 miles to dog sit for me, but there were more dilemmas in the offing, more times away when he couldn't come with me any more. What was the right thing to do? Selfishly, I hoped I'd come down in the morning and find him cold in the hall. I hoped for it, I dreaded it.

If I had been a character in a novel I would have acted but, this being real life, I dithered. Last weekend he stopped eating properly. Treats like eggs and cheese were ignored, although on Sunday he scoffed a complete pack of bacon. He walked like a drunk, always in danger of the sudden collapse. On Monday morning he was so sad, and I knew it was time.

He hadn't been able to get in the car for some time, and he was too big for me to carry so we walked down to the vet's surgery, just around the corner, taking our time. He sniffed walls and lamp posts diligently, and wagged his tail at a passing stranger who stopped for a chat. I wondered if I was doing the right thing, but then he struggled to climb the kerb when we crossed the road, he was so weak. At the vet's he lay on the floor with his head in my lap, and I stroked him and told him he was a good dog, the best dog, and then he gently, quietly drifted to sleep. My dear friend for 13 years. RIP Tan.


Sean Z P Harris said...

I'm so sorry for your loss my dear. My parents have owned lots of dogs over the years, and it's always heart breaking when one passes away. They bought their first dog, Tigger the boarder collie, not long before I was born (they nursed him back to health as he was in a bit of a state when they found him), so I grew up with that dog until he passed away aged 10. Devastating! But then came Tigger number 2, along with Lady the mongrel - they went from one dog to two! That's kinda how it's been since then. They currently have three dogs: two terriers (insane animals) and a black lab called Paddy. I really hope this doesn't come across as insensitive, but maybe, after a while, you too can get another dog. Seems to work for my parents. Or perhaps you could write a short story about Tan. Sorry, I'm just droning on now. I guess I'm just trying to say what I've already said: I'm sorry for your loss.

Lizzie said...

I'm so, so sorry Sarah. Losing pets, especially elderly ones is so hard. They've been a part of your life for such a long time.

When I knew it was time to take my old cat Zak to the vet, I thought I'd be fine about it – he was 18, after all. But when it came to the end in the surgery, I cried and cried.

I hope you feel happier soon. ATB

Sarah Duncan said...

Sean, thank you - not insensitive at all. I can see why you'd get another dog immediately, I'm having to stop myself launching forth and acquiring a puppy today. It's bizarre what sets me off - I had a bit of cheese yesterday, and got all weepy because he wasn't begging for some.

Lizzie - thanks. 18 is a grand age to reach, that would be so hard (my cat's still with me, aged 12). They become a bigger part of one's life than one realises, until they go.

Lisa said...

A very moving account Sarah. Last week I had to take our elderly cat to the vet after he broke a tooth. The vet said they needed to remove the stump and two more teeth as well. Nothing much to fuss about you'd think. But he also has a heart problem and we were given a strong warning about the risks of the anaesthetic with his condition but it had to be done. We were both worried sick and during the op we had a phone call to say they couldn't feel his heart beat and had called in a cardiologist. Thankfully he came through although they're still concerned about his heart. We are overjoyed that he's still with us and I know when his time comes we'll be deeply affected just as we have been with all our beloved dogs and pets. We even cried when one of our chickens died!

I think the love given by cats and especially dogs is so unconditional the bond becomes as strong as for a human relative. A friend who was very close to her parents told me she felt guilty because she found it harder to get over her dog's death than her mothers and I can understand that too.

Thanks for sharing your memories and your sorrow, RIP Tan.

Ann Patey said...

Sarah, in case you're wondering who Lisa is - it wsa me, Ann Patey. I forgot I was signed in on someone elses PC at the office when I wrote it.

Sarah Duncan said...

This pseudonym thing is obviously catching Ann/Lisa! Thanks for your kind words. I'm so pleased your cat was OK after the op, I'd have been worried sick. Perhaps it's the dependency that ties them to us.

Susan Alison said...

Sarah - I'm so sorry to read of your loss. It's always so gut-wrenchingly awful to lose a dog. But they are so worth it!

I was so sure I couldn't put myself through it yet again after my last one. I managed three months and somehow I have another dog...

Anyway, am sending positive vibes your way.


Sarah Duncan said...

We were offered a dog yesterday, an 8 month old pup that the owners were finding too much. Sooo tempted. But said no. I'd really like another border collie...but must resist for the moment.

Jacky said...

Oh Sarah, I'm so sorry. Its just agony. I'm missing my own dog so much now as cannot have her with me while nursing mum..she's too big a dog, and mums sight is all over the place...but at least I know that in between these long visits to Jersey, I'll see her.
You did the right thing. But I feel for you.

Sarah Duncan said...

Thanks Jacky. It must be very hard for you to be without your dog, esp in the circs when I'm sure she'd be a comfort. I'm finding it hard not having Tan around - but we're dog-sitting for a friend this week so will be getting a canine fix.