Dear Diary: the dachshund edit
Tuesday 25th June 2019
A few extracts from my (fictional) diary – the content is real, I just don’t really write it down. The time-scale is huge.
Here is Rupert, dozing in the rare sunshine, this summer:
2nd Wednesday in May: have meeting with Quite Important Person whom I have never met before and we are being all formal in the dining room. Half way through, I go to kitchen to make more tea and find Rupert (very elderly Dachshund) is unable to walk. Experience small panic attack as this is 4th time but 1st for many years. Diagnose IVDD (again) and inexplicably, take Rupert back into the meeting, but never let him out of my arms as he cannot, of course, walk. So conclude Fairly Important Meeting while all the time clutching now very grumpy dog. Grapple with dog, pen, paper and tea, to frank bafflement of guest but I offer no explanation. Finally bid farewell to QIP who departs, with me still clutching dog, probably wondering if I am quite sane.
Instantly sprint, with dog in arms, to ‘phone and ring vets. Later, arrive at vets and am seen by vet who is, I estimate, 16 years old but has reassuringly straight forward approach which coincides with my view: very elderly dog who has had 3 spinal ops in past and now has heart failure far from ideal candidate for lengthy surgery and post-op misery. She also assures me that he is not in pain, which I think I knew as previous episodes definitely caused him pain and this is not the same. My resolve not to cry amazingly resilient until I reach haven of car about half an hour later. Drive home in blizzard of tears. During this 15 minute journey, have imagined Rupert sad, then ill, then very ill, dead, cremated and ashes buried in favourite spot in garden as I struggle on with just Arthur. Fortunately journey not long enough to mentally consign Arthur to death by pining as I reach home in record time. Pull myself together on getting home, finding Roo is still incredibly grumpy and wants his dinner.
We begin 7 – 8 weeks of strict crate rest. No stranger to this regime, given his history but this hardly helpful in face of his determined opposition to plan.
Have The Talk with Everyone, including the girls. Remain uncharacteristically calm. But later, on cooking Roo sausages (have decided he may as well eat All The Food, as he will soon die) once again give in to now worryingly morbid tendency.
May and June: after slow start, Roo gradually resumes first standing and then staggering between his extended periods of crate-rest, which along with Tramadol is the only treatment we can contemplate. He begins his weeks of prescribed ‘rest’ with bouts of whining which reach ever-rising pitch until I fear I am going to lose my mind, but before that happens, he commences yapping, escalating to barking. Contemplate taking some of his Tramadol. Calm patient with food. By week 3, he is approximate shape of large loaf of bread and noticeably heavier. Am not worried about this as I still believe he will soon be dead, and may as well die happy.
By week 4, he is clearly not going to die, and can walk. He is not allowed to walk but he has to be tested twice a day to observe progress and by end of week 3 he was already taking his chance and attempting dash to gate each time I loose my grip on him, on the drive. Unsure what, if any, forward plan he had other than to throw himself upon the mercy of strangers and escape the prison I have made for him. If, by prison, you mean spacious crate lined with padded cushions and blankets, in which 2 meals, full suite of drugs and snacks are served daily.
One element of his recovery that is slow, is toileting. He is usually a very clean and good dog. But in present spine-numbed state, he has some accidents. All of which relate, thank the Lord, to Mark. In week 1, he poos in Mark’s lap. I levitate from sofa beside them, in manner of coiled spring, but instead of, as Mark fondly but briefly supposed, going for helpful things such as paper towels, cleaning fluid etc, I dash upstairs, slam door, and lie on bed with Netflix on iPad. Following week, Roo once again takes dump in M’s lap but I am, thankfully, in London and only hear of it by text. In brief spell of warm weather (summer?), Roo shits on raffia garden chair in which I have deposited him while I shuck beans, but I fail to notice, and after taking him back in, Mark sits on chair with very unpleasant results. Once again, thank Heaven it was not me who sat there as I would have vomited, then burned the chair. M pressure-washes chair, and I think I catch him definitely contemplating doing same to Rupert’s arse.
Mid-June: Roo has regained full control of bladder and bowels, and also back legs. He is now very reluctant to submit to rest, so I allow him to spend brief periods out of the crate. I also take him on walks in the dog pram I bought some years ago when his heart disease started. Have long since developed absolute immunity to stares, pointing and sometimes, laughing that we can encounter when he is in his pram. Most people are kind and understand. However, one day I meet a woman in Burnham who stops me to talk about the dogs. This not unusual and I prepare to warn her that he is quite blind and not to stick her hand in his face as he will probably jump and bite. But, the Woman is keen to share with me her view that ‘this is no life for a dog’ and that it is ‘cruel’. Listen with false but convincing expression of rapt and benign focus before giving her some feedback in my own home-cured brand of piratical English; which does cause several passers-by to halt and then hurry on, away from Mad Dog Lady With Pram.
Late-June: abandon crate rest 2 weeks early, on grounds that sanity, always only just in hailing distance, is being tested to beyond endurance. Roo has gained 1.5 KG which I fear vet will be cross about but could not care less. Stopped having horrible waking-nightmares about his imminent death many weeks ago, and now feel only sense of immense awe at tenacity of this ancient dog, without whom I have, I fear, no idea how to live.
One Saturday, Lily is round, and Roo is lying in manner of dog which has been shot, across one of his many beds, right in front of Aga, this being height of British summertime. He convulses. Lily says: oh! I think he may be dreaming! We all look at dog. Feel sure he is dead. Lily clearly feels he is dead. She strokes his head. Nothing. She strokes his side. Inertia. She begins shaking him, fairly firmly. I do not move as I now really do believe he is dead. He is not dead and grudgingly wakes from very deep sleep to gaze indignantly as us all. Lily mutters some probably affectionately intended thoughts. I medicate patient with more cold sausage and he drops back to sleep.