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Goodbye Old Friend.
Our Dear Old Friend Tessa
A Dreadful Decision.....
Death of a Friend.
On the 23rd March 2010 my husband celebrated his 62nd birthday.
On the 23rd March 2010 our old Labrador, Tessa died.
What a way to celebrate your birthday! It was made worse by the very fact that we’d had to make the decision for her demise. What a heartbreaking decision to make. Euthanasia will never be viewed quite so impartially again, no-one should have to make the decision between life and death, and I deliberately make no distinction between humans and animals. The ensuing 6 months has been one of soul-searching by the both of us and we’ve debated the situation til we’re so unbelievably tired, yet the conclusion still eludes us.
Objectively we had a 14 year old dog who for 4 years at least had suffered with cancerous lumps in various parts of her body. One of them had grown in her chest and in the year prior to her death had caused fluid to build up in her lungs. The vet had drained off 1.5 litres twice in 8 months. He had told us that the dog would not survive more than six months, yet she confounded them.
Realistically we’d discussed with the vet the point where her quality of life was no longer sustainable, but had decided that we would cross that bridge when it arrived. The very fact of draining the fluid on the first occasion had rejuvenated her to a point of being ‘miraculous’. Within a few hours we had gone from having an old dog that was tired, in pain and looking very ill, to a dog that was smiling, happy and busy again. Not quite the old girl of a few years back but able to enjoy life once more.
This old Labrador was Tessa and had been my husbands faithful companion in his working life until we’d taken retirement in 2006. Objectivity and emotions rarely make good bed fellows and such was the case with Tessa.
The second bout of illness came in December and the treatment was not quite so successful this time, but she did enjoy a further respite of happiness and quality, and selfishly we loved having her back with us. But this wasn’t quite the success we’d thought and we spent the next three months watching her gradually deteriorate. Little things like not being able to get upstairs anymore; not being able to take the long walks with her daughter Pippa that she’d so loved and participated in with gusto before; not being able to eat the foods she so loved; having distressing ‘accidents’ on the floor; not being able to control the movements of her back leg with any sense. The spark was fading and we went into a ‘state of denial’ as so many ‘professionals’ like to call it. Real people call it ‘not wanting to know’. We don’t need a technical term for it. Death is death; illness is illness; getting old is getting old. You don’t need to call it anything else.
We did talk about it – once. This wasn’t going to happen to our Tessa, she would die naturally in her sleep. But of course, she didn’t and we watched her helplessly looking more and more sad; more and more ill. That look in her eyes just said it all - ‘help me Mum, Dad. Please help me now’. Her breathing within a few days had become weaker, til the fateful day when it was coming in short, painful pants. We just held each others hands, knowing we couldn’t watch this much longer. But we procrastinated further and treasured each minute with her, trying all sorts of things to make this last part of her life more comfortable.
It all seemed so futile. So cruel. So wicked. Why was Mother Nature such an old bastard? All reason and logic went out of the window. Come on, I’d been a nurse for 30 years or more. I’d sat with people of all ages in their dying hours. I’d felt only a strength then that seemed to come from the depths of my soul. There had always been a sadness at a parting but it was inevitably for those relatives left to mourn. So where was my self assuredness today? My emotions were totally out of focus and running a wild race across a future without our dear old Tess.
It wasn’t until 10 o’clock that Derek made his mind up that this couldn’t be endured any longer. We both had the same thoughts and knew we had to be strong. Just looking at the poor old girl in so much pain. The scales had swung over the point of balance. The point of no return.
Our steps and actions were leaden as we made a bed in the car for her and Derek put one of his shirts down for her to lay her head on. The scent of her ‘Dad’ had to be the last thing she remembered.
That drive was the longest 10 miles of our lives. Our favourite young vet was on duty as we knew he would be. It was no accident we’d left it til this late. He knew our desperation as Derek carried Tessa into the clinic. His questions as we laid her on the table were unnecessary, he knew our thoughts. Life went into suspended animation in the next half hour and all I can remember is that awful breathing; syringes; medication; explanations; a little nurse in tears; Derek and I holding our dearest friend of 14 years and kissing her as we said goodbye. Her last breath was too much and we all cried, including the vet. She looked so serene as she lay there in such a comfortable position. For the first time in maybe a year she looked tranquil and at peace. We didn’t speak, just held her close and stroked her dear old body til we knew it was time to go. To leave her. For the first time in her life.
As we walked out to the car, our last view of her was of a peacefully sleeping Tessa with her head lying comfortably on her great Labrador paws. That picture is indelibly etched on our minds and brings so much comfort along with sadness that she’s not here with us any more.
Maybe people that don’t have animals won’t understand these deep, deep feelings of love for a dog. But our animals are not just ‘dogs’, ‘cats’, ‘hamsters’, ‘rabbits’, ‘guinea pigs’, or ‘horses’. They are creatures we’ve shared part of our lives with and who have loved us unreservedly.
Dearest Tessa, we loved you so much and miss your dear old face smiling at us each morning as you bunted us to get up and get your breakfast! We miss the games; we miss the happiness you brought to our lives; we miss the scowls when you knew we were wrong! we miss you wiggling your big bum as you tumble out to greet us when we’ve been out; we miss everything about you dear old friend. So many joyful memories……………………….
Good bye dear old Friend.