A big thank you to Margaret for writing this piece
I truly appreciate how difficult and painful it must have been … Carol
Paddy (written by Margaret)
Before Paddy arrived, I got him a greatly big green bed, large enough for a Doberman (he was a working springer spaniel). When I showed it to him, his face said, ‘wow, I’ve not had anything like this before!’
Like most springers, Paddy was hard work, compounded by our relative lack of experience with dogs and his (at three) lack of training. Tears, persistence, nagging and a good training school got us through however, and suddenly, Paddy was a sweet, obedient dog who adored me and regarded me as his top human (if someone else took him out, he would try and run back home and look for me, or, if my husband tried to take him out he would go and sit at my feet as if to say, I’m Margaret’s dog).
At 8, Paddy suffered a brain tumour. The good news was that it was operable, the bad news was that not all was covered by my insurance. However, he survived, and I was still able to eat. Brain tumours however are apt to return, so he had to keep having MRI scans to check it had not regrown. When the one in March (fortunately this was covered by my insurance) was clear, I and Laurent, the vet, were delighted.
In the Autumn of that year, however, he suffered a very severe seizure whilst he was staying with friends who took him in whilst I was away. Fearing that the tumour had regrown I took him in for another scan – which revealed he was still clear.
That made what happened subsequently all the more painful. One morning I awoke to find Paddy fitting on the floor beside me. I knew now that these episodes could recur so I was not too concerned. After about 30 minutes he hadn’t stopped and I rushed round looking for a phone – both my mobile and my landline seemed to have disappeared. Eventually, phone found I got hold of Laurent who told me I had to get him to an emergency vet. By which time my cleaners had arrived and drove me to the nearest vet in Leighton Buzzard. When we got there he was no longer breathing.
My grief was compounded by the knowledge that if I had got to the vet sooner, something might have been done, although my vet did explain that sometimes epileptic dogs go into a Stasis epileptic fit which may be hard for them to come out of. But there was a chance that if he had come through, he might have responded to increased medication and I could have had him for a few months longer.
A few months longer with a dog who wouldn’t let me out of his sight when we went for walks. Who would communicate with me through his eyes – ‘I’m soooo sorry’ after I had had the cat put down, ‘thank you so much for everything’ so many times. And scurrying back to his bed in shame after I’d responded to his growling by telling him exactly how much I’d spent on his medical treatment.
I can’t bear to write about my grief: the tears, the excursions with other people when his death seemed like a dead weight which made nonsense of everything, the constant replay of Paddy’s final hour in my mind. And, of course, the death of a dog is regarded as sad, but not as devastating as a human loss. And that is why I found Carol’s grief counselling so helpful. You need someone who understands the special circumstances and feelings on the loss of an animal.
I will never get over Paddy’s loss, nor forget him, even though I now have another dog. My existing second dog, Nelson, was deep in grief, and needed a canine companion.
When a dog dies, the decision as to whether or when to get a new one is as personal as when to look for a new mate. I read about a Great Dane owner who got a new Great Dane just a few days after his old one’s death, not being able to cope with the absence. Others take years before they are ready to face a new dog.
I missed having a spaniel around – the hyperactivity, the look at me aren’t I clever to hold the remote/your slipper/your pen in my mouth and no you can’t have it back. I felt Nelson needed companionship. But if I am honest, there was another motive – the inability to sit quietly nursing and living through my grief. I needed the activity of getting another dog to get my mind off my loss.
The problem with that is, there is no way of avoiding grief, and the new dog – in this case, a Brittany spaniel – was very much her own dog, to whom Paddy was no more than a box (I leave the box with his ashes out by the fireplace). I got her on a trip to France as a 5-month pup, and as she bounded about the living room of my French house like a hyperactive monkey I missed Paddy terribly.
I missed him too as Honda took an age to be house trained, as she (the most serious problem this) rushed off several fields away to chase a bird, then refused to come back, or pulled incessantly on her long lead.
But I know from Paddy that just because you have a problem training a dog, it doesn’t mean that the dog won’t mature into a great pet. And Honda is in her own way a big personality – like Paddy – with a lovely gentle nature.
I also know that you can never replace a beloved dog. 10 dogs will never replace Paddy, he will always have my heart. But Honda, too, will always be a lovely dog and will in her turn be irreplaceable.