Sunday, 16 August 2009

Loss of a friend

I didn't expect it to affect me this badly.
Our Cavalier King Charles spaniel had been sick for months with heart disease, a common complaint in his breed, and I thought I was prepared.
A fortnight ago he'd had a small heart attack while he was in my mum's car, but recovered. Then he developed a chest infection. The vet had told me that it probably wasn't worth giving the dog his vaccinations. I knew what he was saying. The little dog's condition was deteriorating so fast there was very little that could be done.
Now after we'd taken him for a walk we could hear his heart hammering in his chest so hard that sometimes it was louder than a conversation. Instead of waiting for me in the hall when I came downstairs in the morning, he simply lay there, barely able to lift his head.
So a week ago I made the painful decision to have him put to sleep, booking an appointment for yesterday. I agonised over whether it was the right decision, even though my head told me his time had come and it was better he died with dignity.
I wanted to make his last week as pleasurable as possible. I decided to give him a cool bath, and he sat there patiently as he always had done while I washed his beautiful auburn and pearl-coloured coat and cleaned his eyes and ears. Afterwards, he rolled on the grass in the sunshine.
On Tuesday I took him for a long walk on the common. He bounded across the grass like a puppy, ears flapping in the wind.
On Wednesday, after his last walk of the day, he enjoyed some leftovers. But by 9pm it was clear he was struggling to settle. He sat on the floor, his back legs splayed, front legs forward, panting. I could feel his heart pounding in his chest, and he kept panting and staring at me, his eyes shiny. But this wasn't unusual, it had been going on for weeks.
At 12.30am I went upstairs to bed, and for some reason I decided to take him up with me, so I could keep an eye on him. I put an old nightdress on the floor and he sat on it. I'm not sure if he laid down.
At quarter to five in the morning he woke me up, sniffing my hair and clearly struggling to breathe. I started stroking him and trying to soothe him. Then, on impulse, for the first time in his life I picked him up and put him on the bed. His breathing seemed to calm down immediately as he lay down on the soft duvet and closed his eyes.
I thought he was going to sleep.
But five minutes later he gave a terrible howl and then he was gone. It was incredibly quick, less than 30 seconds.
I stroked his head and cleaned him up and wrapped him in his towel. He looked so peaceful, and I was glad he died at home.
Now, four days later, I feel as though something's missing everywhere I go. I'm so used to having four feet padding behind me in the kitchen or in the garden. Even walking up to the common without a lead in my hand feels unnatural. Everyone in our family has been mourning the loss, including the cats, who keep looking for him.
Yesterday afternoon, when I went into the kitchen there was a fox sitting on the lawn in the dog's favourite spot, enjoying the sunshine. Last night one of the cats sat in the same place until midnight.
The vet has reassured me that there was nothing we could have done, and that all the tests in the world would have only confirmed what we already knew, the inevitable outcome.
I know it's better that he isn't suffering any longer.
I didn't expect it to affect me this badly.
But it has.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Nothing to see

So the Bank of England has announced that the recession is 'deeper' than previously thought. No s**t, Sherlock. It certainly won't be news to the countless thousands who have lost their jobs since the whole sorry mess began. And it certainly won't be news to those who are struggling to keep their homes against increasingly desperate odds. Meanwhile the bankers who caused all this are allowed to keep their superlative bonuses. Go figure.