The Story of an Elderly Dog Who Needed Eye Surgery
Dog who cheered me up at a difficult time
My little dog Susie, a Chihuahua-French Papillon cross, had been given to me as a present from my mum and dad when I was 17 years old.
She was only a few weeks old and was absolutely tiny - she looked like a little cuddly toy when I first saw her!
I had not had a dog since my old West Highland Terrier, Mitzie, had died of old age some years earlier. I had been so devastated, I couldn't face having another. I felt no dog could ever replace her.
But just after my 17th birthday, I had been struggling with grief after my grandad passed away and I was also at college studying for my A-levels, which I was finding difficult due to the traumas in my personal life.
Mum and dad thought having a dog again would give me a new focus and cheer me up, as I had always had a dog my entire life.
Susie became my best buddy
My parents were certainly right - from the first day we brought Susie home, I fell in love with her and she became my constant companion.
She was the most adorable, playful little bundle of fur and so tiny she could sit on my hand.
Susie went everywhere with me, including family days out, when she would happily curl up in the back of the car, even on the longest journeys.
While I was at college, my grandma, who lived with us, looked after her and spoiled her with lots of treats. The two of them would sit in the lounge together in front of the real coal fire in the winter, while Susie ate like a king. My grandma enjoyed home cooking and every meal she prepared, Susie had her own little portion!
Dog never had health problems
On the whole, throughout her life, Susie was seldom ill and never at the vet's.
She was a very active, lively little dog and rarely gave cause for concern, even into old age.
She walked round the park every day and loved her life. The only time I recall her having to go to the vet's was when she developed a small growth on her head, which gave me cause for concern.
However, after removal and biopsy, it was found to be non-malignant, which was a great relief. Giving her the antibiotics after her surgery was not easy, as she hated taking tablets, even when we hid them in food. She normally found them and would spit them out and firmly clamp her jaws shut afterwards! But we managed!
I don't recall her ever having any other health problems.
I noticed Susie's eyes were cloudy
As Susie grew older, at the age of about 16 years, I noticed one eye in particular was looking cloudy. It was her right eye and I first noticed this when she was sitting in bright sunlight.
I thought she may be developing cataracts, so I took her to the vet's for a check-up.
The vet examined her eyes and then put a turquoise fluid in her right eye, which would show any abnormalities. I was upset when the vet diagnosed she had an ulcer. He was not too concerned at first, as he said it was not very large and was not causing any great problems at that stage.
He prescribed some antibiotic ointment which had to be applied once daily.
Ulcer did not respond to treatment
It was difficult applying the ointment, as Susie would never sit still and it was always a struggle.
But we persevered because we knew we had to and we always gave her a treat afterwards for being so patient.
However, over the next few weeks, I was concerned when her eye did not appear to be getting any better and was more cloudy.
I took her to the vet's a number of times and different eye drops were prescribed.
However, we suffered a horrible setback when I was actually in the vet's waiting room with her one day. Her eye had been runny and I had been told to pop her into the vet's at lunchtime for an emergency appointment.
It did not seem to be affecting her general health and well-being and she was as lively as ever, still going for her twice-daily walks, eating well and displaying no other symptoms of ill health.
Eye surgery was required to save Susie's life
As we sat in the waiting room, I was talking to Susie and she was sitting on the seat next to me, as she always did, when I noticed her eye was weeping even more. The next second, in an instant, pus suddenly oozed from her eye. She did not yelp or seem distressed, but it looked terrible.
I cried out for the veterinary nurse and they rushed us straight into the surgery.
The vet knew straight away what had happened - Susie's eye ulcer had burst. It was distressing to see and I knew it was serious.
The vet told me this was life-threatening, as it would now not be possible to save the eye, so treating the condition with antibiotics was now no longer an option.
Unfortunately, he explained, the eye would have to be removed, as if it remained, the infection would spread and could go straight to her brain, which would kill her.
Vet said it was my choice whether to euthanise Susie
We discussed the surgery and the vet explained although it would be possible for Susie to live a normal life even with one eye, her age might be a problem, as general anaesthetics were always a risk.
He gave her an examination and found she had a slight heart murmur. This would reduce her chances of surviving the operation to just 30 per cent.
I was faced with the choice of having her put to sleep there and then, or having an operation which might kill her anyway.
But in my mind, it was an easy choice and I opted for the surgery. As she stood there on the operating table, behaving normally and not appearing to be in any distress, I knew I would never make the decision to end her life if there was even the slightest chance of success.
Operation was very urgent
Due to the seriousness of her eye condition, Susie needed to have the surgery to remove her eye almost immediately. The vet said time was of the essence to stop the infection from spreading to her brain.
So it was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to her in the surgery that day, as I knew there was a real chance I would never see my little pal again.
The next few hours were emotionally painful as my whole family awaited the outcome of Susie's operation. I thought even if she passed away due to the anaesthetic, at least we had given her the best chance we could and had not given up on her.
In those days, it was before everyone had a mobile phone, so we were all anxiously pacing up and down at home, waiting for the telephone in the hall to ring.
Joy as Susie survived her surgery
When we eventually received the long-awaited call from the vet's, it was good news - the operation had gone better than expected and Susie was already coming round from the anaesthetic.
I was crying with relief and when I went to collect her from the vet's some time later, I couldn't stop hugging her because I was so happy to see her again.
She slept a lot that night as the anaesthetic wore off properly, but to my amazement, the next day, she seemed to have been rejuvenated and was waiting for her morning walk, as normal.
The eye socket had been stitched and it upset me to see her that way. But she seemed her normal, happy little self, trotting round the park like nothing had happened and eating a hearty lunch when we arrived home. I was actually amazed at how normal she seemed.
Vet was astounded at her recovery
Susie went back to the vet's a number of times for check-ups and he was genuinely amazed at how well she was doing.
She made a full and complete recovery and managed very well with only one eye for the rest of her life.
We made one small adaptation to the house when the vet said she may find it hard to judge distances with only one eye.
My dad fixed foam rubber 'buffers' to every floor-level sharp piece of furniture in the entire house to avoid possible accidents.
However, Susie managed particularly well and never walked into anything.
Susie lived to almost 18 years old
In fact, my precious little dog survived for another 18 months following her operation and never suffered a day's ill health again.
Right up to the day she passed away (of natural causes) she was out walking in the park, eating to her heart's content, climbing up and down the stairs to bed, lounging in front of the fire, mooching round the garden and generally enjoying life.
I knew I had made the correct decision in giving consent for the operation, as without it, she would have been gone.
But I always think, if a human suffered a health problem that required an operation, nobody would ever suggest putting them to sleep - so why should we do so with a dog?
Not everyone agreed with my decision
Many years later - by which time I was regularly using Facebook to try to save dogs' lives in kill-shelters and promote animal welfare causes - I found my decision to save Susie's life was frowned upon by some dog owners.
I was reading a debate on whether a lady's elderly dog should have an operation, or be euthanised. I commented I believed she should give her dog a chance at life and go ahead with the surgery, relating Susie's story.
To my surprise, I came in for quite a bit of criticism - from fellow commenters who didn't even know me - who said it would have been "the kindest thing" to have an elderly dog put to sleep instead of going through surgery.
I truly will never agree with this view and think where there is hope, always go ahead with an operation to save a dog's life.
Someone said to me, "How would you have felt if Susie had died on the operating table?"
A silly question, I thought. Obviously, I would have been devastated - but at least I would have given her a chance and would have felt far more devastated had I just told the vet to give her a fatal injection and end her life that day.
The 'block this person' button on Facebook is a great invention. I felt affronted that strangers had questioned my decision and my judgment about my own dog.
Of course, I realise it is down to individual choice and not everyone thinks as I do. But if I am given the choice between possibly saving a dog's life, or ending it without even trying, I know which course of action I will take.