Picking up the phone.
Monday 31 August 2020 and my worse nightmare came true; my eldest dog, Darcey, was taken ill and it was time to for us to say goodbye. I bravely picked up the phone and dialed the vets telephone number. Being a Bank Holiday I was given the number for the out of hours vets which were Vets Now. I tearfully explained the situation and the receptionist booked us in for 9 am. We had an hour together and in that time we took our last brief walk together and I told him how thankful and grateful I was to have had him in my life for the past 12 1/2 years; how much I loved him and thanked him for his loyalty, love and devotion to me. The tears were flowing and he passed very peacefully and with respect in my arms.
Knowing when its time to say goodbye.
It is the moment in every dog owners life that they dread but sometimes knowing when it is your pets time to go can be difficult. I have been very fortunate in that nearly all of my dogs have gone in their "golden" years and not as youngsters. But sometimes knowing when it really is their time to go can be difficult for the owner/s. Elderly dogs can have their "off" days and we humans start to enter what is called "anticipatory grief". This is when we mentally acknowledge that thier time with us is drawing to a close and start to anticipate life without them and the pain and sadness that will bring; we know it will involve a one-way trip to the vets and the pain of leaving without them, with just their collar clinched tightly in our hand. I personally find this part the hardest; that lead up to the final moment but when the time comes it is so important that we face it with the welfare of our pets in mind; Darcey made this final decision very easy for me. He was gone wihtin three days of first showing signs of illness and I knew I was giving him blessed relief. His mind was still very active and he remained loyal and by my side right up to the end, but his body was tired, old and weak and he was in pain and I could tell by the look in his wise, eyes what he was telling me.
Give them the dignity they deserve
I unfortunately see many dog owners try every type of medication to keep their beloved dogs going for just one more month, week or day and I can fully understand their feelings; saying goodbye to Darcey has been the hardest thing I have had to do this year and lets face it 2020 has been very trying for us all; but we must put our dogs first and not ourselves and as hard and painful as it is we can at least give them release from the pain they may be in with dignity.
Reciprocate their loyalty
I have always remained with my dogs in the final moments of their passing. To leave them alone with strangers at this time is something I have never considered for one second and yet there are those owners who put themselves and their feelings before their loyal friends and leave the room when their dogs need them most. I saw recently on facebook a vet say that they do look for you as you walk away. I find this unbearable to think about, the sense of loss and confusion for those dogs at a time when they need you the most must be overwhelming. Please, if you are a person who leaves their pets in their final moments please reconsider your actions, as stressful as it may be for you its the least you can do to reciprocate their years of undying loyalty and friendship they have shown you. I try not to judge people because you truly do not know what is happening in their lives at that time but I do feel strongly about this subject. When your dog needs you most be there for them; take someone with you for support; do whatever you need to do but don't leave them in their final moments in a room of strangers.
Plain and simple, grief hurts
And now follows the grief; oh my word, the pain that follows, but which is totally normal. There is no way that you can care for a pet everyday of its life and not now miss their presence. For me Darcey was a typical Catalan Sheepdog and was a very noisy boy; he would bark if he was happy; bark if he was sad; bark to tell the other dogs off and bark if he heard anyone talking in the street, so ofcourse the house is now very quiet, even with my other dogs around. But apart from that it's also those times when you automatically put their food bowl out at mealtimes, reach down to stroke his ears, see their empty favourite sleeping place or look for them on your walks. My heart is breaking. The tears will flow and my advice is to let them. You have to acknowledge your feelings and go-with-it. Talk to friends and family and share your grief if you can. There is a lot of talk about mental illness these days and suppressing the feelings you will experience over the loss of your dog is not good for you. If you are alone or need extra support there are pet loss services you could use; Bluecross for instance operate such a service and you can contact them in a variety of ways. You can call them on 0800 096 6606 between 8:30 am to 8:30 pm or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and they will respond to you within 48 hours. Now is the time to care for yourself.
Final resting place
Many other dog owners take their deceased pets home so that their other dogs can sniff the body and know he/she has passed. I have to say this is not something I have ever done nor would wish to do but each to their own and at times like these we do what we consider to be right. None of my dogs have shown any signs of missing Darcey but I am ready for the dynamics of my pack to change. Darcey was definitely the Peter Pan Nana of the pack. He would welcome and discipline new puppies or rescues to our home in an ascertive but non-aggressional way. He demanded respect and he got it, even in old age, so now the big question will be who in the pack will now take that place. At the moment Marti seems to be the only dog wanting the "job" and the transition is running smoothly.
Dealing with my grief will be a slow process; I miss my Boy more than words can say; so I carry a snip of his fur in a locket around my neck so he is everywhere I go. He used to love his walks and I feel I am still taking his spirit with us to the places he loved to go. He is currently with Dignity who specialise in individual pet cremations. I have not decided on Darceys final resting place but there is no rush. He is at peace.