Monday, 3 October 2016

Goodbye to old friends, hello new

As you know, this year didn't start well for us and it's brought some crushing blows. But it's important to look forward and hopefully there are happier times ahead.

We lost our beloved Oscar on 11 May, when the lymphoma just took over. It was a very aggressive type of lymphoma and while chemotherapy kept him going for a while, the cancer grew resistant to one drug after another. On one hand, most of the time he seemed very well and happy, and you wouldn't have known there was anything wrong with him. On the other, eventually the chemo had little effect, and what effects it did have lasted a fraction of the time they were meant to.

But it did mean we had some very happy times, albeit with underlaid with a mild sense of dread. At the end of April we had a wonderful holiday in Anglesey during which Oscar was up for anything. But by that time he also had swollen glands that just wouldn't go down, and soon after we got home he started losing weight and refusing to eat. Eventually it was clear that the kindest thing was to let him go and he died with me cuddling him on the settee at home. He was only three years old but it felt like he'd been with me all my life.

Then, less than three months later on 1 August, we lost my beautiful old friend Fargo. He’d had a tummy upset that wouldn’t go away, which turned out to be pancreatitis, but we didn’t know what was causing it. It was probably cancer, but we chose not to do any invasive tests as Fargo was already 13 years old and was quite weak. So we tried everything we could to treat the pancreatitis but nothing worked. At the same time, we’d stopped giving Fargo anti-inflammatories for his arthritis until we could get his tummy problems sorted. He still went to physio and he had tramadol and paracetamol, but he was getting very stiff. In the end, after we’d tried everything, letting him go was once again the kindest thing we could do. That came as a massive blow, so soon after Oscar. We knew Fargo wouldn’t be around forever, but we just weren’t expecting to lose him so soon. At least, again, I was able to cuddle him at home when the time came. He was a legend, even the vet was almost in tears.

So, where do you go from something like that? Not long after losing Oscar, we added Hector, the lurcher puppy, to the gang. Having him around has helped a lot as he was a new face and he helped bring all of us, dogs and humans, out of ourselves as we adjusted to life without Oscar. He and Fargo got on well, but he didn’t know Fargo for long enough to miss him terribly, and I think that's helped us too. Slowly we have adjusted to life in our current formation.

But I do still really miss Oscar and Fargo. It’s all still quite raw as you can imagine. They needed a lot of care over the last few months if their lives and that’s left a huge gap in our routines. I even miss the Fargo hair that coated everything in the house for many years. I always knew that my pack of four dogs might one day be reduced to three, but I didn’t realise those three would include a new one, and that two of my beautiful boys would be gone. But life goes on, and I’m glad to have Billy and Stanley the whippets, as well as Hector to bring love, life and laughter into every day.

The ones we’ve lost never really leave us and that, in the end, is a comfort too. Much as I can't help feeling sad at some point pretty much every day at the moment, I know it will get easier. I also think that remembering my lovely dogs with sadness is to do them an injustice. They would want me to live in the moment, and to play and laugh with the dogs that are here now. So eventually my memories of Oscar and Fargo will move away from those last few days of illness, to the happy times we shared that filled most of their lives. I wish they – and the other dogs I’ve lost over the years – were still here, but the main thing is that they were here in the first place and they had as happy a life as I could give them. In the end, I’m lucky to have known them.

It's taken me a while to be able to write this blog, but I think it's easy to feel as if most people don't understand how it feels to lose a beloved dog so I wanted to talk about it. I've found that a lot more people than I imagined do understand this grief, but I think it's important to talk about it becaus it just might help someone else out there who is going through a similar experience to know they are not alone.

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