26 November 2013

Dog-gone



This is the last ever photo taken of Snoopy or, to call him by his real name, Freddie. It is now four weeks since we had him put to sleep and this photo was taken the day before his demise. Oh, the house does seem empty without him.

Freddie came into our lives in June 1999 for a very good reason.  Some years before, when Kay was a toddler we stayed on a farm in Yorkshire and late one afternoon, as we were walking around the farmyard, Kay was attacked by a Border Collie, who was taking his job of defending a barn full of turkeys seriously. Thankfully there was no physical harm done, as the dog only managed to grab the leg of her dungarees and not her actual leg, but it was enough to give Kay a massive phobia about dogs and she would freeze  in panic every time she saw one after that incident. Both Greg and I had grown up with pet dogs and loved them, so we were dismayed to find Kay was getting so fearful every time she saw a dog in the street. We decided to get a dog for her as therapy to get over her phobia. We chose carefully, visiting a number of rescue centres in the London area over quite a few years, until we found the right one.


We found Freddie, when we had all but given up hope, so much so that we had settled on taking two kittens instead. At the eleventh hour, just as we were negotiating collecting the kittens, the rescue centre told us about a litter of puppies they had just received. Freddie was the last one to be homed. He was an 11-week-old puppy, the runt of the litter produced by the union of a German Shepherd and a Manchester Terrier.  Now for those of you who know your dog breeds, you will know that the former is a large dog 



and the latter very small.


Which was the mother and which the father, I don't know, but whatever way round, either the union must have been comical (as the smaller dog mounted the large bitch - probably with the aid of a stepladder) or the labour excruciating (as the smaller bitch produced outsize puppies).



So it came to pass that in June 1999, we staggered home with two 8-week-old kittens and an 11-week-old puppy. We must have been mad. As the kittens were always dozing, we nicknamed them Freddie and the Dreamers.

As a tiny puppy Freddie looked a bit like a long-legged dachshund............

Freddie at 11 weeks











Freddie with one of the kittens


........but as he grew and grew, he started to resemble a Doberman. If I had a pound for every time I was asked by strangers on our walks if he was a Doberman, I would be a very rich woman indeed by now, but as the photos below show Freddie was really nothing like a Doberman in looks or temperament.
 
Freddie (note floppy ears, fatter face
and lots of tan colouring)


Typical Doberman (note pointed ears,
 slimmer face and less tan markings)




Freddie had a lovely nature and was as soft as grease. He was simply adorable and quickly integrated into the family. When Kay had some of her friends over at parties or sleepovers, Freddie would put up with no end of pulling and tugging from the boisterous kids, but never once bared his teeth. I would have been willing to place bets that you could put him a in a room with a defenceless baby and he would not have harmed a hair on its head. (mind you, I can't say I would have the same faith in him if he were alone in the room with a cat or squirrel, as they were like red rag to a bull to him). We would take him with us on our annual holidays and he even had one of the first generation of pet passports, so he ended up travelling to Ireland, France and Germany with us, as well as Scotland and all over England.

When Greg died in 2010, Snoopy was a tower of strength for me. He gave me a reason to get up each morning, take him out for his morning walk, no matter what the weather, and was literally someone to talk to as Kay was already away at university. He would curl up on one side of my bed at night and still be there in the morning, encouraging me to get up and feed him! 
 
 
Two and a half years ago, Freddie developed chronic gastric problems, alternating between diarrhoea and vomiting. The vet reckoned from blood results that he had either liver or pancreas problems, possibly a tumour, but he was already of an age where to be opened up and undergo invasive tests was probably not a good idea.  Already back in 2011, I was preparing myself for our parting and not looking forward to it. But Freddie surprised us all and, although he had many ups and downs, he always managed a good walk in the morning and periods in-between where he was fine.

As more time went by, he had signs of arthritis too and would often lick his wrists to relieve the pain in them. Unfortunately any painkillers prescribed by the vet irritated his gut, so he could not take them for more than a few days without them making him sick or causing diarrhoea.

In addition to all that, in the spring of this year,  aged 14, he became incontinent and I had to cover the sofas and his own bed with waterproofing and nappy squares to cope with it. (Fortunately by now, his arthritis meant he could not jump up onto my bed anymore, so he slept on his own bed). His bedding and the sofa throws over the waterproofed sofas were getting a daily wash and my poor old washing machine coped admirably with the extra loads, sometimes three or four times daily.

Sadly a few weeks ago, things got even worse, as Freddie became doubly incontinent and began pooing absent-mindedly in the house.  It was a nightmare, when I had to take him to my mother at the start of her house move, as I was terrified he would muck the house up for the new owners, but I followed him around like a shadow and made sure there were no accidents.

By now I had began to discuss with Kay the possibility of putting him to sleep and she came down for a long weekend to see him and discuss it with me. We dithered and postponed the deed, because apart from the incontinence he was still the same lovable old rogue we knew and was still loving his walks and looking at us adoringly. How could we walk him in to the vet, with only minor inconveniences wrong with him, and have him put down? As if to steer us in the right direction, fate was to intervene.

On Monday 28th October, I instantly knew something was wrong. He did not want to get out of his bed and come downstairs with me and by mid-morning, Kay and I tried to cajole him. It was apparent, he could not stand on his legs, so we carried him downstairs in a blanket and supported him, while he did a wee in the garden. As we returned him to his bed, he was trembling with pain. We knew the time had come and there was no backward glance as I rang the vet.

Now, the vet is a one-man band whom we have used ever since Freddie was a puppy. To my horror, the vet was not at work that day, but away at a conference.......... something he never did, but of course had chosen that very day I needed him! In a way, I was relieved we could defer the appointment to the next day, as it meant 24 more hours with Freddie. I gave him a painkiller to ease any pain and we went to bed that night thinking we had made the right decision.

Next morning, Freddie, energised by the painkiller, was up on his feet, as soon as I opened my eyes, and he hopped, skipped and jumped down the stairs to the kitchen. He foraged round the rubbish bin, as he often did, and sniffed around the base of the cupboards for crumbs. He was his old self. We had to remind ourselves that it was the painkiller talking and that he would only stand a few days of that before he was vomiting or pooing liquids. We were also pretty certain that if we had gone back on our decision, he might well have relapsed in a day or two again and Kay would not have been there to say the final goodbye. We decided to go ahead with our decision, having taken the courage at last after so long to make one at all. With heavy hearts, we fed him his favourite foods, (which latterly had always upset him), took him for a nice leisurely walk in his favourite park, followed by a car-ride to the vet.

I know, he was nearly fifteen, which is a grand age for a dog of his size, and that he had a lot of things going wrong with him. I know too that I had put up with six months of his incontinence, when others have told me they wouldn't have done. However, if we had been able to put him to sleep on the day his legs collapsed, there would have been no contest, but the fact that he rallied round the next day has left me with the feeling that I killed him. 

People ask me, if I am going to get another dog. My answer doesn't need thinking about. It's a clear and resounding "No". There will never be another dog that would come close to the wonderful dog Freddie was, who would be as loving, as intelligent, as docile, as caring, as funny, as......... Freddie-like.  When we lose a close relative, we don't replace them, do we? Freddie was one of  our family, not just a dog.  He's irreplaceable.

I like to think of him up in doggie heaven now, watching over me, as I blunder along on my own.  Rest in Peace, Freddie. You are sorely missed.

15 comments:

Furtheron said...

What a beautiful, tender and loving testament to him.

Hippo said...

I have lost a few dogs in my time, every occasion a heartbreak. I lost only one to old age and he, thankfully, died in his sleep. Others died from being run over and one was bitten by a snake and was in such pain I shot him myself rather than see him suffer. First thing I did, was get myself another dog.

You obviously love dogs, can give them a good home and, dare I say this as affectionately as possible, I think you need the company.

There are so many dogs in shelters desperate to give of their love, companionship and loyalty only waiting for someone nice and caring to come along and save them from their awful predicament.

You bought a puppy for the therapy it would provide little Kay. Now I think you need to follow your own logic of so long ago and get yourself another puppy now. You will know you are providing the happy life every lovely little puppy has the right to expect and in return, the puppy will make you happy.

I don't think Freddie would mind, dogs are very sociable and I think he would be appalled to learn just how many dogs who lived their lives unwanted and unloved in a cage are put down without anyone to give them a last favourite meal, a tender stroke and a few loving words and then be cried over.

Trust me. There is a very lonely, miserable dog out there just waiting for you to come and save him. He will reward you with loyalty, company and lots of TLC.

Nota Bene said...

Having a pet put down is a very sad moment, but there's no doubt you took the right and brave decision...as you did when you first got him. He sounds lovely, and must have been a super companion through the good times and the bad. I'm glad he was the right dog to be the therapy Kay needed when she was younger. I grew up with dogs (and cats and rabbits and gerbils and hamsters and, and, and) and it's a shame that our lifestyle would make it unfair to have a pet....

Flibbertigibbet said...

Give yourself some time, but I hope you'll remember how much love you have to give and, as Hippo says, there are so many poor dogs needing loving homes. I am sure you will reconsider when you are ready. What a lovely, lovely piece about Freddie/Snoopy.

K Ville said...

Oh Addy, I'm so sorry. What a beautiful read that was but so desperately sad. The puppy and kitten picture made me laugh and I had a tear for you too. It's so dreadful to lose such great friends. You never can replace them. But I find after a while my life needs a pet to feel complete and so in comes an addition to my life with animals, not a replacement. Some are more BFF than others but all are loved. I think it's the lack of emotional complication that makes pet so wonderful to be around. They never decide they don't want to talk to you today, they ask for love every day. So uncomplicated. Xxxxx

K Ville said...

I also meant to say that Freddie's last few days reminded me of my father's. ups and downs and wonders about whether right decisions were taken. It's a natural thing to wonder no matter how sensible the decision was, how right, how much the vet (or doctors) advise and support, you still wonder. Don't fret, vets don't allow these things to happen lightly. It's made me think of 'if wishes were horses beggars would ride and if ifs and ands were pots and pans there'd be no work for tinkers. Xxx

~ Melinda from Texas said...

That was a lovely tribute to a loving family member.

Sue said...

Lovely story. I went through almost exactly the same situation. Youngest son scared witless bu a dog. Moved to France, after 2 years found a dog from the rescue centre - Miss.
She was exactly the same as yours, sopy, wonderful and brilliant with kids. 3 years ago she died, on my bed peacefully and left a great hole in our family.
After about 6 months I brought a puppy home, but sadly just a few months later, he was killed by a van, but now I have Crumble - not my name by the way. He has completely filled that hole and has so much love to give.
You should give yourself a bit of time, then follow Tom's advice and find another friend.
Good luck
Sue

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I think we all go through the feelings of guilt when we have a loved animal put to sleep, but we know underneath that we've done it out of love for them.

He was quite obviously a well-loved pet in your family and I know only too well how difficult a decision it must have been for you.

Perhaps in time you will feel ready to have another dog in the house but none would ever replace another. We've had so many dogs here yet all have been individual and wonderful in their own right.

CJ x

Chrissie said...

When we needed to make a decision about our Tess, the vet asked us this question "Do you want your dog's last day to be a good one or one filled with agony?". Her last day, the appointment was made, she jumped up on our bed for the first time in weeks! The vet said it was our decision to make, she may have had a few more good days ahead but we followed our hearts and said goodby.

Eurodog said...

Oh yes, I know exactly how it feels. I went through the same thing with Belle. It is 3 years ago now and we have Ozzy but Belle is still a subject of conversation. I'll never forget her. She was with us for 12 years.

Flowerpot said...

I can't imagine how I will feel when Moll's time comes. But I can't imagine my life without a dog in it, even though there could never be another Moll. I was the same when my last cat had to be put down - we got another very soon, but totally different so we couldn't cmpare the two. Dear Snoopy he was a dog in a million xx

Isabelle said...

Oh dear, I do feel for you. We're in a slightly similar position with one of our beloved cats. Living on borrowed time. Sympathy.

Julie said...

Please don't feel guilty. You did the last, brave thing you could do for Freddie. To leave in the arms of people who loved him is not a bad way to go. Better a day early than a moment late. He will take a piece of your heart with him x

Ellen said...

What a beautiful tribute to your beloved Freddie. My heart goes out to you that your vet wasn't available on the day you needed him, but you made the right decision. I am sure he is now chasing cats and squirrels in heaven (we share our lives together, so I'm sure we share the same heaven too.)

Opening yourself up to the possibility of loving and losing a beloved pet again is a frightening thing. But those of us who read your blog, know what a kind and loving haven you have to offer to a different, yet to be beloved, dog.