Thursday, February 26, 2009

Good dog Daisy

First of all, fair warning...this post is about the last hours of my beloved dog Daisy.  If that kind of subject matter upsets you, stop reading now.  

The events that initially inspired starting this blog last August(Daisy's first trip to the pet hospital) resolved last evening when Daisy's life came to an end.  Little Daisy, velvet of ear, fleet of foot, scourge of squirrels, bouncy and bright and sweet-natured is gone into whatever it is that awaits us all.  She spent the intervening five months since her first big health challenge in relatively good shape, running after the ball, chasing squirrels, greeting her many admirers passing by the front gate.  She had occasional tummy issues  kept under control by strict enforcement of the "no treats, no people food" policy and careful watching of her diet. She ate better than we did with only the tastiest low fat concoctions to tempt her fragile appetite and home-prepared dried chicken breast for treats.

Then a little over a week ago, she started to go seriously downhill, refusing to eat, vomiting, accidents on the carpet at night, getting thinner every day.  Two days ago she went for an overnight stay at Kindred Spirits, our local veterinarians, to have intravenous fluids administered for dehydration.  That seemed to turn her around very quickly, her appetite returning in spades and her mood back to normal. But the real problem, it seems, was her lungs. During the second night she developed a pneumothorax which collapsed one of her lungs.  The vets were able to reduce it yesterday morning but by late afternoon when I expected to be picking her up and taking her home, it had re-formed.  It was decision time...the thing I had been dreading for months.  I was put into a room with Daisy and I held her on my lap while I waited for Harry to arrive from work.  Her breathing was very rough and she held her nose up high trying for a better position to draw in more air.  Her body felt odd, sort of loose, like a bag of bones. If you don't know the fox terrier breed, "loose" is the antithesis of the "solid and muscular" norm. For me, that was the telling moment - she wasn't going to come out of it this time.  

Once Harry arrived, we agreed that it was time to make the decision to have her put down.  I struggled with this as my perfect scenario would have had her dying quietly, lying on the lawn in the sun or failing that, in her own bed at home, not in this cold tiled impersonal room.  When I suggested taking her home to die naturally, the vet told me kindly that it would be horrible for Daisy and horrible for us, given her respiratory distress and the anxiety that goes with it. That scotched any romantic notions I had about the perfect death.  Once we decided on euthanasia, we sat cuddling and stroking her and talking about all the funny things she had done during her life: the time when she was small when she walked right through the bars on the deck railing, fell into a bush, slid to the ground, got up and trotted away unfazed, or the way she cocked her head to one side when someone said the magic words "squirrel" or "treat" or "whacka whacka" (our term for a nightly ball chasing session using a racket and tennis ball), the daily ritual of biting the mail as it came through the mail slot, her ecstatic greetings at the door after our briefest absences, her enthusiasm for life, and her courage and buoyancy in trying or painful circumstances.  Many are the lessons in right living that we have learned from our intrepid little dog. 

Eventually, the vet came in to check if we were ready, went away and returned with a full syringe. She told us what exactly to expect and as the drugs went in, Daisy seemed to know somehow. She turned her head toward each of us to look deep into our eyes as we stroked her and said "Good dog, good dog".  Finally, her head drooped then went down and it was as if she went to sleep - no more laboured breathing and moments later the vet confirmed that her heart had stopped.  It was very quick, very peaceful and somehow right.

The wonderful staff at Kindred Spirits wrapped her body up in a blanket and carefully placed it in a box for us to take home.  I can't say enough good things about the docs and staff at Kindred Spirits.  Not only competent but respectful, empathetic, understanding and diplomatic...they couldn't have been better.  I'm sure they've done this hundreds of times before but you'd never know it from their concern and sensitivity.

It was dark by the time we got home so we rewrapped Daisy in her own blanket and this morning we buried her without ceremony in the garden in her favourite sunny spot, taking turns to cover her over.  Nothing left now but to grieve and remember all the good things about her.  I like to picture her greeting our old cat Aphra in some kind of afterlife, the two of them restored to youth and grace and ambushing each other from behind the Elysian shrubbery as they used to do in our back garden.  It doesn't seem to matter a bit that I don't really believe in an afterlife - it still comforts me. 

1 comment:

Sarah said...

My thoughts are with you and Harry. Thank you for this eloquent look at dear Daisy's life and final moments.