Jake, May 2014.
A personal website written by Richard Gaywood.
I write about Apple at TUAW, technology and science at Action at a Distance, and about food at Objection: Salad!. I'm on Twitter too: @penllawen. I put pictures on flickr and Instagram.
Dogs are minor angels, and I don’t mean that facetiously. They love unconditionally, forgive immediately, are the truest of friends, willing to do anything that makes us happy, etcetera. If we attributed some of those qualities to a person we would say they are special. If they had ALL of them, we would call them angelic. But because it’s “only” a dog, we dismiss them as sweet or funny but little more. However when you think about it, what are the things that we most like in another human being? Many times those qualities are seen in our dogs every single day— we’re just so used to them that we pay no attention.
When my lurcher Daisy was ill, she became very picky about what foods she would eat, even as her weight plunged to dangerous levels (from a healthy 42 to an emaciated 29 pounds). As Danielle has written, her kidney disease caused stomach ulcers which made eating quite painful for her. One way we dealt with this was by having a wide variety of her favourite foods on hand so that we might, each day, battle to find the one particular thing that would overcome her reluctance and mean we could avoid the trauma of force feeding. Tripe, kidneys, steak, minced beef, chicken, liver pâté — we tried it all at one point or another.
And then there were kippers. Daisy always liked fish — we used to joke she was part cat, because of her occasionally aloof nature (with everyone but me, anyway) and disdain for dog toys. Perhaps it was that. During those final weeks we managed to get her to eat a couple of packs of kippers, often with encouraging gusto. I recall being quite heartened at how much she evidently enjoyed them the last time she ate any, with her wolfing down an entire pack in quite short order. Sadly, my hopes that this pointed the way to a recovery were misplaced.
Now that she’s gone, we have disposed of most of those treats. But these kippers remain, the second of two packs I bought early last week when we still had hope she would make it. They’re past the use-by date now, although they are sealed up in plastic so they aren’t stinking the fridge out.
I know I should throw them out. I’ve taken them out of the fridge a few times, meaning to do just that, but I can’t bring myself to do it yet. I hate how the passage of time, even less than a week, has begun to eliminate some of the small signs Daisy ever existed, washed away her metaphorical pawprints through our lives. And I hate how that process will inevitably continue.
And in the end, isn’t that the most insidious thing about grief? That it lessens over time, and even while its talons dig into your heart with cruel abandon you know deep down that it will inevitably abate. And that feels to me like a betrayal, like something that should be feared, even as another part of me craves the coming day where I can look back on happy memories of Daisy with a fondness that is untainted by sorrow.
My grief for her has been unexpectedly sharp. I’m mostly over the crying; still, though, unexpectedly encountering something that evokes a memory of her leaves me with a deep and abiding sadness. This isn’t my first rodeo — we had several family dogs who died through misadventure or advanced age when I was a child, and I had to put down a dog, Crispin, that belonged to an ex-girlfriend and who I had lived with for several years. On each of those occasions, I cried.
But Daisy was different. She was the first dog I raised from a pup, and the first dog that clearly held me in higher esteem than the rest of the human race: she was mine, on some deep pack-animal level. With her brother Jake, she was there for me after I discovered my ex-fiancée’s infidelity, which lead to the only time in my life I’ve live alone. Just me and the dogs for a year or so, until I met Danielle, and that was fine — though I don’t know what I’d have done without them. And Daisy was only seven; middle-aged to be sure, as her whitened beard would attest, but far from old considering her mongrel heritage. She deserved a longer life.
I miss my dog. I did not throw those kippers away today. I’m not ready yet.
Requiescat in pace, Daisy; May 2006 — 1st August 2013. You were my dog, and you were a good dog. We miss you fiercely and with great sorrow.
It was peaceful at the end, and you were in pain, and this was a mercy, and it was the right decision; that feels like pretty cold comfort right now though.
Daisy update (warning, some gross medical stuff.)
I know a number of you have been following Daisy’s progress, both on here and on Danielle’s blog.
A quick summary on what’s happened so far: we took her to our vet a few weeks ago complaining of frequent urination, excessive drinking, weight loss, and sludge in her urine. We went back and forth for a while on a number of diagnosis, including kidney disease and bladder cancers, with a number of tests reaching no clear conclusions. This diagnostic process culminated in a cytoscopy (a camera in the bladder) last Wednesday.
This revealed that the sludge, which consisted of infected pus, came from her vagina rather than her urethra. This led to an exploratory laparotomy while she was under anaesthetic and found some infected tissue left behind from when she was spayed as a pup — part of the uterus and part of one ovary.
Several biopsy samples were taken. If the remaining tissue is shown to be infected, the likely diagnosis is stump pyometra. This would explain most or all of her symptoms. We’re cautious about this conclusion because the vet who did the surgery didn’t think the infection looked bad enough to have caused her such serious symptoms, but it’s possible it looked better than he expected because the pus was being flushed out of her vagina, reducing the abcess in the infected tissue.
Meanwhile, after her op, she was very ill. Listless anyway, she was worse because of an implanted pain-control drug (a four-day dose in a tiny pellet implanted under the skin) and refusing to eat or drink. On top of her weight loss over the last few months, this meant she dropped to 13.3 kg — from a healthy weight of around 19 kg. You can see how painfully skinny she is in the picture above.
This led to yet another trip to our vets for her to spend the day on IV fluids and perhaps be fed via a stomach tube. They syringe-fed her a small amount of food but she vomited several times. During this process, however, we’ve been growing dissatisfied with our regular vet (Sanders in Cwmbran) on a number of counts, chief amongst them that they have an overnight service — sick animals are transferred to and from an out-of-hours practice in Cardiff, VETS. This is costly and can’t be great for the animal, both from the stresses of travel and broken continuity of care. On top of that. we received quite poor service from VETS on a previous visit, and we caught Sanders moments away from making a serious drug error on Friday1.
So we ended up taking her to a new vets, Summerhill in Newport, which does run a true 24/7 operation. She was there overnight from Friday evening until Saturday morning, receiving excellent care from their most senior vet, Jean Morris. This morning, she started to drink water under her own volition, and would willingly eat chicken. We went to see her and she greeted us with a tail wag and even a little jumping around, which is the happiest she’s looked for several weeks. We brought her home this afternoon as Jean felt we could continue to care for her as well as they could.
We’re not out of the woods yet. Hopefully, the biopsy results will come back early next week and will prove that this was nothing more than stump pyometra. If so, we can get on with healing her up and putting some weight back on her. If the results are inconclusive, or show something else like cancer, then we could still face an uncertain future.
We’re just happy to have her home and comfortable. I honestly thought, when we were taking her to Summerhill yesterday, that she’d never be coming home again.
My wife was on the phone and the vet mentioned that he was concerned about Daisy’s general flatness. He said, almost in passing, that he was going to put a fentanyl patch on her for pain relief. Danielle had to stop him immediately and point out that his notes from the specialist clearly indicated she had this under-the-skin fentanyl dose already, so putting on the patch would have double dosed her. We heard him call out to the tech “wait, don’t put that patch on.” I’m not sure what the overdose would have done had we not caught it but I was unimpressed, to say the least. ↩
(For previous updates on Daisy’s condition, see Danielle’s blog.)
Daisy is coming home from our local vets for tonight. She’s seeing a specialist tomorrow, and she may be admitted again, this time to an internal medicine vetinary hospital in Bath. The bandaging on the leg is concealing an IV port.
She’s put a little weight back on since yesterday — up to 14.4 kg, from 14 kg. We think that’s mostly rehydration. She’s still painfully underweight though, as you can probably see. She weighed around 19 kg when she was healthy.