Tuesday 23 – Thursday 25 February 2016
Two weeks. Two very long weeks. Two very long, quite empty weeks. That’s how long it’s been since I saw my smoochy poochy, my furbaby, my beautiful lil ol’ lady, my Miss Parker. Two weeks ago today (Tuesday, at the time of writing this paragraph) my Border Collie passed away, and I’ve been left devastated. In total, it was a three week period over which the events unfolded, and it was a totally unexpected situation.
For all intents and purposes, Parker was happy and healthy. Her yearly vet check for an immunisation booster in January exposed nothing unusual. The vet said, as was normal, that she was extremely healthy, particularly for her age, had the heart of a racehorse, and was generally looking like a stunning canine specimen. She was showing signs of old age, with the onset of cataracts, and what appeared to be a lil arthritis, but nothing you wouldn’t expect of a senior pooch.
Zip forward to Monday 1st February, and my gorgeous girl ended up on the floor of the hallway in what I sort of suspected might have been a seizure. However, as she was lucid and aware, we somewhat dismissed the event as just Parker plopping on the floor and stretching out. There were no normal indications that she might have had any sort of seizure. Still, I had my suspicions, and I kept an eye on her. Tuesday was a regular kind of day. But on Wednesday, I started to consider that perhaps she was suffering from a reaction to the arthritis medication that she’d been on since October 2015. I suspected that she was suffering from toxicity from the medication, and so I booked her in to see the vet.
Long story short, we returned from the vet having had a blood test for Parker, which showed that her organs were all functioning well, but she’d had some level of internal bleeding from a gastric ulcer probably caused by her arthritis medication. Fast forward to a few hours later, and we’re back at the vet clinic for an after hours call. Parker had had three seizures since arriving home, had gone into full body tremors, and was struggling to breathe. She was admitted for overnight observation. I saw her again later the next afternoon, as the vet needed to keep her until Friday at the earliest. Her x-rays showed fluid on the lungs indicating that she was most likely suffering from bronchopneumonia. Her ‘seizures’ were in fact collapses due to little oxygen in her blood. The bronchopneumonia made it difficult for Parker to breathe, and as a result, her blood oxygen level was low. Every time she collapsed, she’d been unable to get the oxygen circulating through her blood or into her lungs.
When I was finally able to bring her home, because she’d shown signs of improvement, we went through many more collapses, coughing up blood clots, her terrible inability to breathe, and on the following Tuesday, we returned to the vet. On the Monday night, Parker had a massive collapse when I’d we’d taken her outside to do her business. The one big collapse was made up of three collapse events, which left the poor ol’ girl terrified, and unable to catch her breath. I carried her back inside, and as she had so little strength left of her own, she sat leaning her whole body against me to hold herself up. It would be the last time that I would be able to give my gorgeous girl a hug that didn’t involve me carrying her somewhere.
Parker was admitted to the vet clinic for observation during the day, and at 3 pm the vet called to say that since the previous Wednesday’s x-ray, Parker’s heart had enlarged considerably, and her lungs had refilled with fluid. She wanted me in to discuss a course of action. Let me tell you, it was a painful hour and a half from hanging up the phone to attending the vet clinic again.
You can pretty much see where this is going, I’m sure. My two options for Parker’s treatment were to administer a drug that would help clear the fluid from her lungs, but we’d just be doing that again in a few months, and it would do nothing to reduce the size of her now enlarged heart, or I’d have to make the decision to end my Parker’s discomfort because things were not going to get any better for her. It was a decision that I had been agonising over for the last week or so, in the event that it was the only option I’d have. I’d already decided that there was no way I could let my girl suffer through an untreatable illness, but it certainly didn’t make it any easier to say those words to the vet.
Whilst I organised her cremation with the receptionist, the vet prepared the drugs for her transition (thanks, Jeffrey Deaver for using that terminology when describing Lincoln Rhyme’s own decision to end his suffering). After more agonising waiting, the vet rushed into the room, and told us to hurry because Parker was crashing. My mama and I made it just in time . . . or rather, Parker waited just for us. She heard my mum speak to her, she heard me speak to her, took two shallow last breaths, and then just stopped. She was gone, and on her own terms, without the vet having to administer the euthanasia meds. She’d listened to what I’d said over the last week: ‘It’s okay if you need to go. Don’t you worry about mum and nanny. If you’re in pain, and you need to close your eyes for good, you go ahead.’ Finally, poor lil’ ol Parker had decided that yes, it was getting too hard to keep going, and she waited for us to join her before she let go.
Luckily, I only had a day of work booked in during this time, so it was no trouble to cancel, and have my employer find someone to replace me. I took a couple of weeks off from work because, quite frankly, I cry at the drop of a hat. Hey, I cry even if the hat is still on! And I’ve copped a fair bit of flack for taking that time off. The common comment goes something like this: ‘You’re taking two weeks off because your dog died? Really? It’s just a dog. I’ve got a dog, and there’s no way I’d take two weeks off work, or any time off if it died. Just get over it. Not like it was important or anything.’ Words to that effect.
Usually, I reply in only one way. ‘You have kids (and grandkids). I’ve made a conscious decision not to have kids. Parker was my furkid, she was a family member, and is still considered as such. If you choose not to treat your four legged friends with the same level of care that I have chosen to, that’s up to you, but don’t tell me how I should feel about the loss of my pooch. I don’t question your life choices, so what gives you the right to question or deride mine?’ I usually have to shut up at about this point because my next emotional level is ‘utter bitch if you say anything else that is derogatory about my Parker’.
So offended by one woman’s reply to me taking time off work, my mama chimed in that Parker was brought into our family just after she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, and not only did Parker provide comfort for me, but she was also a comfort and distraction to her in coming to terms with her diagnosis. This usually shuts people up. Not that either of us should need a reason to feel the loss, and be grieving for my furkid. Don’t get me wrong, Parker is not the first pooch I’ve had that’s passed on – there were three Red Cloud Kelpies before her, none of them ever reaching the age that Parker lived to though, and she was specifically mine not ‘our family pooch’. I made the decision to get another pooch; I chose her (or maybe she chose me); Parker was my responsibility. She was my baby.
There are a lot of women and men these days who have chosen not to breed, but to commit to looking after a four-legged baby instead. Lots of people have made, and are making this choice. And before anyone posits the question ‘what does your mama say about it all?’, my mama was quite happy to say that she had a furry, four-legged grandchild, and she was more than happy that Parker is the only sort of grandkid she was going to get out of me.
So, my beautiful, furry, lil ol’ lady Border Collie now sits in her pewter cremation urn on a special cabinet that I bought, and placed exactly where her poochy mattress used to be beside my recliner. I can still hear her around the house, I can still smell her, and every now and then I swear I can see her out of the corner of my eye as she wanders around beside us. I’m functioning on automatic pilot, and there are occasions where I’ve gone to tell her that it’s time for dinner, or panicked that I haven’t shut the gate quick enough, or I’ve looked around the yard or the patio to find her or let her into the house . . . and she hasn’t been there, looking at me with the most beautiful brown eyes I’ve ever seen. I won’t get over her passing quickly or, in fact, any time soon. To be honest, I don’t expect that this is something I’ll ever actually get over. And to my mind, that’s exactly how it should be.
My Parker . . . She was a beautiful, intelligent, sensitive, playful, loving, appreciative, cuddly, smoochy, furry girl. And I miss her to death.
**All photos are copyright Danielle Monique. Do not reproduce without express written consent from me.**