Sad news

JeffieAndy

It’s been a while, and that’s because I have been feeling wounded. I guess my way of dealing with emotional wounds is to stop communicating, because I remember doing it when I lost two dogs at once, and also when my mother died. It seems to be my way.

Oh, I function, on a day-to-day level, and fulfill my commitments – those that can’t be avoided – and after a few days I smile and carry on, but when it comes to putting myself out there, I don’t. Not after telling those who are in the know, as it were. Then after a while I peep outside my little shell and do non-personal stuff, like Facebook games and the wildlife pages, and that phase can last quite a while.

This time it was my lovely, sweet old Jeffie – the dog I didn’t want to keep. The dog I tried to send back, but nevertheless fell in love with (as you do) and who became my friend, my clown, my daft old clumsy, barker-at-doorbells and runner-into-things. My lovely Jeffie had to be put to sleep a few weeks ago, just shy of his thirteenth birthday. We’d had him three years.

He was called Ranger, when we met him. And he was smart enough, when we went to visit him in his foster home, to sell himself to OH by play-bowing to him – something no potential dog had ever done for him before, and which charmed the socks off him. He didn’t want a black dog1, but being play-bowed to swept away his prejudice on that score and we brought Ranger home.

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The first thing I noticed was that he was head-shy. When anyone put a hand anywhere close to his head, he growled and leapt into the air as if he’d been burned. There is usually a reason for this, and though it took me a week, I finally got a peek inside his mouth and … yep. There was a reason for it. The poor dog had a huge, red, thumb-sized ulcer where a canine used to be. When he went in to be treated, the vet said he had bits of loose bone left in there, and a fistula nearly through to his nasal cavity, so I can’t imagine how sore the poor old guy was. It was cleaned and debrided under GA, and I cleaned and cared for it at home – with much growling and bronco bucking.

Then he would run into things. He ran into his food stand (solid wood) and broke a metatarsal. He ran into a brick wall in our garden at about 1am and cut himself badly, and unfortunately, one of the things he regularly ran into was Sid, who really didn’t need running into, and this was why I tried to return him. Equally unfortunately, though the convention is that a fosterer does not fill a foster dog’s place until everyone is absolutely sure that he is not going to bounce2, this fosterer did so, and when I rang to ask her to take him back, she said sorry, but there was no room.

RangerFoot-600-Dated

She said, don’t worry, Sharon will take him back. Well, yes, Sharon would certainly have taken him back, but who was going to adopt a ten-year-old black dog who growled at his people, body-slammed the existing dog and kept running into solid objects and injuring himself? He permanently had shaved patches and dressings. He didn’t like his feet touched or his nails clipped and would growl at me for that, too. Let’s face it, he’d have spent the rest of his life in the kennel.

So we kept him.

Once I knew we were kind of stuck with Ranger, I decided to change his name for a fresh start. Nobody quite knows why3, but it often works, and so it did for us. I told him he could stay, and that his name was now Jeffie, and he – miraculously – stopped running into things quite so often. He still body-slammed Sid, and to be frank, he was the reason Sid needed so many pain-killers, but we all got used to having him around, then we got fond of him, and then … the daft old dog and I got very close. In fact during his last illness he didn’t want me out of his sight and if I left the house, he’d mope and whine till I got home. So my lovely pink fringe grew halfway down my nose and the grey crept from the roots and took over two inches or more of the pink from that end, as I became a little bit of a recluse.

The thing was, he had Canine Cognitive Disorder4, degenerative myelopathy, and finally – and disastrously – liver cancer. We were managing the first two quite well, but bless his heart, the liver cancer made him very unwell. He had intractable diarrhoea and simply could not hold it. Sometimes he didn’t even seem to know he was doing anything. Mostly he’d make a mad dash for the back door and try desperately to get himself out, but even when the door was actually open he often couldn’t make it. We’d have a small, but very smelly, trail to clean, often spanning three carpets and sometimes more. We were so very glad we had a new Vax carpet machine for a fairly easy clean-up.

HTBH-April-4

So. There was a medication routine two or three times a day, cleansing and nursing routines, dry-foam oat baths to ease his itching, and many gallops through the house to the back door in the wee small hours, followed by much carpet cleaning. There were also many snuggles and gentle scritches, and the cooking of tasty titbits to tempt the failing appetite and now that Jeffie’s gone, Sid is wondering if the world has run out of chicken breast5.

Right up to his last day, Jeffie was perky, seemed happy and interested in life and loved a fuss. He ate his tablets wrapped in corned beef or meat paste. His appetite wasn’t great, but he enjoyed his little – his very little – walks, and he was able to go off-lead for his last couple of weeks because if he’d got startled and tried to bolt, he wouldn’t have got far before collapsing. And he did enjoy that.

JeffieFirstWeekMay2015-2

I called the vet out twice and said I thought this was it, but we managed to carry on a little longer – mainly because he was so alert and content. But on the last day, though he got up and met the vet at the door to greet her, she looked at him and said ‘I think the time has come’. He had got so thin that he was like a skeleton covered in fur and his medication was no longer working.

And so the deed was done, in his own bed, with Sid next to him. I felt like a murderess and cried for about three days solid, but now I can see that it was the only humane thing to have done. I still cry. I am crying now. But it was time, it really was.

Sid … I think Sid does miss him. But he’s finding it so much easier to jump in and out of the car without a second bed in there, and now that he isn’t being body-slammed life is less painful for him, and he’s OK. He hasn’t pined as previous dogs have pined on losing their companion, and I think it was because he was there when Jeffie left us, and was able to sniff his body. I will never again take a dog into the surgery to be put to sleep, if I can help it. It’s so much more peaceful at home.

WDYTYA-Jeffie-WEB

It was time.  Looking back at the photos of that last week, it’s easier to see.

I don’t miss the carpet cleaning, the medication and nursing, or the huge amount of cooking I had to do to get food into my little sick dog. I don’t miss the cost of the drugs and vet visits, or the smell of excrement or the puddles of urine or seeing him fade to almost nothing. But I do miss my silly, funny, loving little old black guy. My companion and friend, who loved me probably even more than I loved him.

1 Black dogs are unpopular in rescues. It’s a combination of a myth that black dogs are more aggressive, and the fact that they don’t show off to advantage in a kennel situation.

2 ‘Bounce’ is a term we use to describe a dog that returns to kennels after being rehomed.

3 The truth is, changing a dog’s name probably helps the owners to change the way they react to the dog, which in turn can change the way the dog responds. I was aware that we’d got off to a bad start, and felt it would help us to turn things around. It did.

4 The dog form of Alzheimer’s Disease.

5 He got lucky the other day. We had a power cut ten minutes after putting four chicken breasts into the oven. No way to finish cooking them, so …

6 Yes, I know there isn’t a six. Congratulations for reading this far!

18 thoughts on “Sad news

  1. carol 31st May 2015 / 12:48 am

    I suspected Jeffie had reached his end and I so very sorry. That had to be the world’s hardest decision. I too withdraw when overwhelmed. I pull back into my safe harbor. Hugs.

    • Jay 31st May 2015 / 8:54 am

      Thank you, Carol. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who withdraws and that there are people who can understand that! It was indeed one of the hardest decisions I have had to make, but it was up to me in the end and I had to do it. We take on such a responsibility with our dogs, don’t we?

      I’ve seen your comment in the About Me and will respond to that soon, now that I’m back in here! Thanks for that, too.

  2. Rob Lenihan 31st May 2015 / 4:39 am

    This is such a beautiful tribute, Jay. I am so sorry for your loss. I know it’s hard but try to focus on the good times you had with Jeffie. May he rest in peace.

    • Jay 31st May 2015 / 8:55 am

      It always takes me a little while to do that, Rob, but I’ll get there. At least this time I am able to face looking at his photos, which I could not do after we lost Jack and Renie. I think that’s because of his peaceful – and really, rather long-expected – passing, as much as anything.

      Thank you for your kindness.

  3. nick 31st May 2015 / 8:07 am

    That’s so sad. But also wonderful that Jeffie had such a loving and caring owner who was so patient with all his illnesses and foibles. If only all dogs were looked after so well.

    At difficult times, I’m also a retreater. I crawl into a corner and lick my wounds and quietly get my confidence back.

    • Jay 31st May 2015 / 8:58 am

      If only! When I see how some poor dogs are treated by people who supposedly love them, I despair of the human race. 🙁

      Another one who withdraws to lick their wounds, huh? Well, there’s comfort in that, and in the fact that I seem to have picked out some blog friends who are more like me than I suspected. Thank you for your kind words, Nick!

  4. Pennie 31st May 2015 / 10:03 am

    What a wonderful story Judy. I didn’t know his history and I loved the way he wiggled and body slammed and tripped into your life.
    I hate the way they go, and would dearly love them to die in their sleep but they seen to fight so hard, and like you,i have found it so much better when they die at home. I don’t know why vets refuse to come out, which I have experienced, and is something I still don’t like thinking about.
    Happy memories Judy xxx

    • Jay 1st June 2015 / 9:40 am

      Thanks so much, Pennie, for popping over and leaving such a nice comment. I don’t know why some vets refuse to come out, either, except of course that it’s so much more convenient for them to attend animals in the clinic and takes less time out of their day through travelling. Mine will (obviously) and I think I wouldn’t register at a vet who refused to do house calls. Yes, it’s very much more expensive, but worth every penny.

  5. Valerie Daggatt 31st May 2015 / 10:56 am

    I feel for you and I’m glad you said goodbye to Jeffie in the home he knew so well. It’s hard though, as I well remember.

    • Jay 31st May 2015 / 12:43 pm

      Thanks, Valerie. In the past we’ve really not had any choice; the first blessedly died peacefully in his own bed from heart failure (we knew about it and had seen a cardiologist who’d given him 3-6 months), Susan and Renie were diagnosed with incurable and late stage cancer only when taken to a specialist, and Jack went in as an emergency but had another episode at the vet. It would have been cruel to bring any of them home just so I could say goodbye, so we let them go on the spot. Traumatic, all of them. It’s never easy, though Jim (the first) was the easiest, since we knew it was coming and he went so peacefully while he slept.

  6. Jeannine Dorothy 1st June 2015 / 12:40 am

    Hi Jay – hugs to you & A, and scritches to Sid… I’m very sorry Jeffie couldn’t stay longer…

    • Jay 1st June 2015 / 2:14 pm

      Thanks Jeannine. I wish he could, too, but it wouldn’t have been fair to ask it of him. 🙁

  7. Secret_Agent_Woman 1st June 2015 / 2:08 pm

    I’m so sorry about Jeffie. Hard to lose a dog you love.

    I had no idea there was a bias against black greyhounds. Our second grey was black and he was just an absolute sweetheart. Couldn’t ask for a better dog and I miss him.

    • Jay 1st June 2015 / 5:44 pm

      Sadly there is a bias. But it’s not just black greyhounds, it’s black dogs in general – and in fact extends (amazingly enough) to black cats as well! I guess a part of it must be a kind of primitive superstition, but we really should be past that as a race now, don’t you think? Because yes, the black ones are just as sweet (or just as contrary, or just as playful or just as healthy) as any other colour – in fact, when they’re healthy their shine outshines all the rest.

      Thank you so much for your sympathy. I know that you understand since you’ve been there and done that.

  8. Kathy G 1st June 2015 / 2:41 pm

    When I saw the title of your post I KNEW what it was going to say and almost didn’t open it. I’m glad I did; what a nice tribute to your four-legged friend.

    • Jay 1st June 2015 / 2:53 pm

      Thank you, Kathy! I’m so glad you did, too. I cry buckets while writing posts like this, but I like to balance the sad with the happy and throw in a little bit of funny, too, because that’s what life is like. We lose someone dear to us (human or animal), and we should celebrate the life as well as mourn, don’t you think?

  9. liz 3rd June 2015 / 11:11 am

    So sad but a wonderful retelling of his later life. Well done you and well done Jeffie – not forgetting Sid. xx

  10. genjiscorner 8th June 2015 / 7:34 pm

    It’s all the crazy quirks that make each one so special. When my last two girls were ill at the end, I didn’t enjoy all the ‘mess and expense’ that went with it. But they’re worth it. And it’s nice to have the blog to look back at the good times. I said I didn’t want another black dog either, and 3 of my four are. Go figure.

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