Sunday morning is hard today. She’s not here. My dog is gone.
Yesterday, I made the journey that anyone who has a dog will always dread. The final trip to the vet that you know at the outset will see you returning home alone.
So as I write this, with red eyes, it’s quite early on Sunday morning and there was no wagging tail to greet me at the foot of the stairs, tongue lolling out and smiling, asking to bounce out into the garden. Clicking the kettle on, there’s only the cat sitting expectantly for his breakfast, perhaps wondering where the smelly dog is that he always viewed with mild contempt.
It hadn’t really hit me until now what I had had to do yesterday.
Lucy was a Golden Retriever and had been a part of my life for eight years. I knew on Friday that it was coming to a close. Diagnosed with cancer a year ago, we took the decision to fight it rather than simply accept that the end was there and then.
Almost twelve months on, Lucy had seemingly dodged the bullet. In the usual slightly thick Golden Retriever way, she happily submitted for treatment and became best friends with the staff. Fortunately there were no side effects and apart from having slightly less stamina that before, her life continued as normal.
I’ve known Chris at Tees Vets for quite a while. He’s a skilled and caring vet and explains with great clarity that this is never, ever a cure. The disease will always win. His experience and skilled use of the drugs he had available extended her life and she took to the treatment easily.
On Friday, it happened. She suddenly hit a wall and became very unwell.
Each individual owner has to make that choice and I cannot tell you what to do if you’re confronted with this.
But in the back of my mind, I always knew that this day would eventually come.
All this time, she had been quite happy in her ignorance. Anyone who knows Golden Retrievers will tell you the same thing. They are without a doubt the most loving, caring family dog you could wish for. Always in a happy mood, pleased to see me beyond belief every time I returned home whatever the hour.
They’re also slightly thick and Lucy was exceptional in that regard. Think of the dog from the film Up! That was her in a Golden Retriever form.
I never wanted a dog.
I come from a family where dogs were always present and I knew the commitment needed to care for them properly. I also knew what happens it the end. They grow old and die before you.
I gave in amidst the usual promises from everyone that they would walk her twice a day and always pick up with small black bags full of that inevitable biological products created.
Of course that didn’t happen to quite the extent promised, so it’s fair to say that Lucy became my shadow when working from home. As I write this early in Sunday morning, I look down expecting to see here curled up there but there’s just the wood flooring. No dog.
I’m sad, with red eyes as I type this, but I know that yesterday I did the right thing. The look in her eyes had gone from “Where’s the tennis ball?” to ‘Please make this stop.”
My eldest son Ben came with me. As Chris the vet did everything he needed to do, we stayed and said goodbye as she went to sleep.
I take comfort in knowing that her suffering was the absolute minimum. Right up until those final 24 hours, she had been seemingly impervious to what was going in inside her. I also take comfort in knowing that at every stage, I made the right decisions for her and that when the time came, we didn’t simply leave her in a room with someone, she was with the people who loved her.
C’est La Vie. So life goes on.
There are far, far worse things happening in the world today and she was a great dog who led a happy life. There are many animals and indeed humans who will never have that comfort, love and security.
So why do I write this? Therapy I guess. As someone who writes a lot, the keyboard is always an outpouring of how I feel at any time. What I write in the moment generally gets edited down into something less raw.
This Sunday morning, you’re reading what I am feeling in a raw way I don’t normally offer.
Will I have another dog? No.
Because I knew all along that when this day came, I would be the one who would have to do what I did yesterday. I don’t want to do it again.
So I continue to have affection for dogs, particularly Golden Retrievers, though I won’t be owning another.
The cat can now leave his food part eaten and return to his bowl knowing that it will not have been stolen by the big golden fur ball.
I have a collection of chewed tennis balls to pick up from the garden and some food bowls to dispose of at some point.
Farewell Big Dog.