Sunday 17 November 2019

Dear Jenny, it breaks my heart that you have gone

Andrea Smith is devastated that when her beloved dog died at Christmas, she was not there

Andrea Smith

DO YOU remember the first time we met, Jenny? It was 2002, and I had heard about a foreign couple who were moving back home. They apparently had a wild dog that had to be kept tied up in the back garden, and they were planning to have her put to sleep before they went.

I asked if I could have her, and far from the wild dog I was expecting, you were a dejected little black and white border collie, tied up on a five-foot rope. Your fur was matted and overgrown, and you had bald patches on your front legs. This, I would learn from the vet, was because you were constantly licking them, a typical behaviour exhibited by bored, incarcerated animals.

You were about two years of age, and you had been tied up for over a year and a half of that time. As your owner took a knife and cut you free from the rope, I struggled to stay pleasant to him. As we drove away from the house, you jumped into the passenger seat and licked me softly on the cheek. I think you knew your miserable existence had come to an end.

At the vet's, I held you close as he gently removed all the hairs that had shed into your eyes, and clipped the overgrown nails that made you limp. Your tail wagged as he examined you, prompting him to remark that you obviously still loved humans, in spite of the way they had treated you.

As I had five cats, you were dying to chase them at first, and I lived in fear of you losing an eye. After a few scrapes, you left them alone and soon became the best of friends.

You see what you started, Jen, because within four months I had acquired Suzie, an abandoned black border collie, and Layla, a mistreated German Shepherd. All of you were a little nervous at first, but you soon grew in confidence. Two years ago, we found our little terrier Poppy wandering around one freezing January night, and the four of you became best friends.

I knew I was a bit of a sucker for ending up with nine pets, but as I never had children, you were my babies. Messy, hairy babies, admittedly, with an unfortunate tendency to wreck my house, but I loved you all with all my heart. When our lovely cat Oscar died last January, I was absolutely heartbroken.

Most people imagine that my house is full of mayhem, but most of the time, it was just us chilling quietly on the sofas. I work from home, so am there most of the time, and no matter what happens in my life, you pets are there to be minded and to mind me.

You were so sweet and loving, Jenny, and you were always so happy and gentle. It always made me laugh the way you sat up on the sofa, like a human, with one elbow resting on the armrest.

On our daily walks, while the other three bounded ahead, you were always miles behind, stopping to examine every flower and every object you came across. I spent half the time looking back and calling you to catch up, but we had it down to a fine art really. I knew you'd cut across the square field to catch up with us somewhere along the way.

The only signs that you were getting older were that over the last year or two, you became a little slower on the walks, and needed a little boost to get into the car.

On Christmas morning last, you danced around with excitement when you realised we were going out for a walk, and you trotted around the field as normal.

I spent the rest of Christmas Day with my family, and when I came home I found you lying in front of the sofa. You ate most of your dinner but you were having difficulty standing. I was convinced that you had pulled a muscle again, because the same thing had happened earlier last year.

It was late and the roads around were like glass so I decided to bring you to bed with me. Neither of us slept much for the next few hours, as I wrapped you up warmly and held you close to me.

In the morning, as soon as the roads were gritted, I brought you out to the emergency veterinary clinic at UCD, wrapped in a blanket. I hated seeing you being admitted Jenny, but I hoped they'd make you better fast.

When the vet rang that afternoon, I was shocked when she said that your temperature was 105 and the blood tests showed a problem with your liver. By the next morning, they reported that your temperature was back to normal, and you had been pumped full of painkillers and antibiotics. You were very miserable, they said, which broke my heart, but they would do more tests and let me know. So when they called two hours later, I presumed it was with a progress report.

Jenny, I couldn't believe it when they said you had just died. The tests indicated that you had end-stage liver disease, and your heart had failed. How did I not know that you were sick, Jen? You seemed so well and happy.

Most of all, I can't believe that I wasn't with you. If I had known that you were going to die, I would have asked them to put you to sleep straight away while I held you in my arms. I'm devastated to think that you died by yourself, after going through scary tests in a place that was unfamiliar to you.

While I'm extremely grateful that emergency clinics like UCD exist, and I know they were extremely busy, collecting your body was a hard experience. Having to wait in a room full of other people and their pets was awful, as I couldn't stop the tears from streaming down my face.

When they gave me back your body, in a white plastic body disposal bag, I couldn't bear it, so I asked them to remove the bag, and wrapped you up in your soft blanket to bring you home.

I buried you out in the flowerbed in the back garden Jenny, wrapped in your soft blanket, and it broke my heart putting you into that cold ground. I miss you so much Jenny. I miss your little wagging tail and calling you to hurry up on the walks, and I miss stroking your lovely head.

Thank you for being my lovely little pal for the past seven-and-a-half years, Jen, and know that you and Oscar will always have a special place in my heart. The fatal flaw with you cats and dogs, I've learned, is that you just don't live long enough. You steal our hearts, and then you go after a few years, leaving us behind with our broken hearts.

With all my love always,

Andrea xx

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