I’ve not written much in the last 10-12 days. I’ve had little inspiration to do so as my thoughts have been elsewhere. 12 days ago, Jason, my husband, took the dogs to our home in South-West Scotland while I stayed in Edinburgh to do some work and to go to my weekly meditation group. I drove down to spend the weekend with them on the Friday and when I got there, our 12 year old black Labrador, Finn, didn’t get up to greet me as he usually does. Jason said he’d been “quiet” since the previous day.
Finn is an old man. He has canine osteo-arthritis and is on daily pain relief medication and to some extent we already knew his time with us was limited. But I guess we were thinking maybe another year or, if we were lucky, perhaps a little more. It was there as a thought but somewhat indistinct. We talked about it between ourselves but the “when” didn’t really have substance. But right there and then it was very apparent that Finn wasn’t the same dog who had left Edinburgh on the Wednesday evening. He was sitting staring into space and was very quiet and although he wasn’t distressed in any way he must have been in pain.
We decided there and then to increase the dosage of his medication and although that seemed to help, he was quiet all weekend and didn’t want to go on his usual walks. Just a week earlier he had been running in the sea with our dog Skip. Even an early morning trip to the beach didn’t help and he turned and started walking back to the car. Confronted by such a change in our dog, the “when” that we had not really discussed became very clear. Late on the Sunday evening Finn suddenly climbed up on to my knee and snuggled into me. He began to have some sort of seizure and both Jason and I thought he might die there and then. He didn’t but it took about two hours for his breathing to return to normal and for him to go to sleep. On Monday morning I made an appointment to see the vet and drove back to Edinburgh with the dogs while Jason went into the office.
The “when” was now right in front of us – or so we thought! At 4.00pm it was time to go to see the vet. And Finn pranced into the waiting room like a two year old – somewhat out of breath but wagging his tail, head up and alert. The consultation was much the same, he’s always liked going to see the vet because he knows he gets a treat and she said that although our time together was definitely limited, she did not honestly think his time was up yet. So she prescribed Tramadol and said we should see a definite change within 48 hours and then we would know what to do for the best.
So Finn is now taking Tramadol, a potentially addictive opiate. He’s a bit spaced out at times but that could equally be old age. He is at least pain free, he still enjoys his food and is pleased to be with us for now. His exercise has been much reduced and his breathing is definitely a little laboured at times. I’d guess we have the rest of the summer at best to enjoy his company.
Of course we’ve told friends and family about Finn and some have said how awful and how sad it must be. But honestly it isn’t. In some ways we knew this time would come the very day we brought him home 12 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I will miss him horribly and when the day comes to say goodbye, it won’t be easy – but it will be right. We have had 12 amazing, wonderful years with our doggy friend and shared some of the best and some of the most difficult times in our lives with him. We could spend the next weeks worrying and thinking only of the last day of his life but we don’t. We’ve made a decision to enjoy the time we have and we love him enough that when the time comes to say goodbye, a small injection will be the kindest and most loving thing to do.
All this I have known for a long time but it’s taken me the last 10 days to find the right place for this change in my head. It reminds me that big changes change how you think and how you feel and sometimes bring you to a standstill for a while. But standing still is fine, it really is OK. It gives you a space to gather yourself in and to prepare to move forward again. I think that’s what I have been doing the last wee while. I feel good with the decisions we have made and I’m very glad that Finn is here for a short time longer.