It's been just over a week and we are all still trying to deal with the process of grief. I still can't believe he is gone. I swear I still hear him whining or snoring around the house, it just feels so quiet and empty without him.
People say "oh but at least you have 2 other dogs at home" and although that is true, it somehow makes it worse because I'm having to deal with their grief too. I can't explain to them why he's not here, why we didn't bring him home from the vets, why he's not at the door waiting to greet them when they've been out. So dogs can't have the same feelings or emotions as us? Of course they can! Why would we expect them not to grieve? They've shared a home with that dog their whole life in one case, never spent a night apart. Of course they are also grieving.
Honestly I can say hand on heart that letting him go was the hardest decision of my life. It was a decision that I couldn't dither over, it was literally life or death. No matter how much you prepare yourself for it, it really isn't easy. Yes we had that diagnosis 4 years ago, that he had fast growing cancer and average life expectancy from diagnosis was 10 months. So we had an extra 4 years than we thought but I still wasn't prepared to say goodbye.
So what happened? Well my boy really hasn't been right since the first COVID lockdown in March 2020. Like a lot of us, being in isolation and the chance to do nothing, did no favours to his health or well being. Bud was renowned for having to be dragged out on walks anyway, the chance to stop on the sofa seemed so much more appealing to him. However, I kept him fit and active as much as I could in an effort to prolong his life.
He did however seem to be the dog with 9 lives! That said, in July this year when he injured his shoulder, we really thought we were going to lose him then. However, yet again, my bulletproof boy came back with a vengeance and made sure to enjoy what we now know was his last holiday in Norfolk in September.
Prior to this, I had retired him from group walks but as he showed so much staying power while we were away in Norfolk, I had started to take him out again on the odd walk with the others a few times a week.
Fast forward through Autumn to the start of Winter and we'd noticed he was starting to bloat out when he drank excessively. It was like he was taking in too much air with the water. However, this only seemed to happen on a Saturday morning oddly so we figured it must have been something we were feeding him on that day. He would literally look like a beach ball and his stomach was hollow when you tapped it. However, normally a good belch and it would go down in a few minutes with no other signs of discomfort.
This is why when this happened again last Saturday morning, we were expecting it to go down. He had been at the vets on the 30th December as we were concerned over the Christmas period that his excessive drinking had increased. He would be at the water bowl, walk around the house then go straight back to it again. He was regularly fully emptying both water bowls. This in turn meant his pee was very watery and he'd started to lose control over when he needed to go. It's been so tricky the last few months dealing effectively with an incontinent dog. However, we still weren't sure it wasn't behavioural because it wasn't all the time, it only seemed to happen when we were both at home and mostly at weekends. The vet said he could do all manor of blood tests etc to see what was going on but the likelihood was it was ageing kidneys and even if it was something treatable, at the age of 13, were we really going to treat it? Of course if it meant he was not in any discomfort and could live happily for a few more months, I would do it. The vet was also concerned that one of his lymph nodes was inflamed so in all honestly, we suspect his cancer had come back.
So last Saturday morning, he had his breakfast as usual, he waited to sip out the foam from the bottom of our coffee cups (a bad habit he had gotten into) and he had my empty yoghurt pot as usual and all seemed fine. Then he started his trips to the water bowl. Nothing out of what was now ordinary. I went upstairs to dry my hair because I was due to go out at 9am, the time was now around 8.15am. Mr Furry shouted up to me "he's done it again, he's bloated himself and he's constantly drinking so I'm taking the water bowls up". I came downstairs around 8.45am and Bud was pacing around, looking like he was about to explode. I said to my husband "I don't think this is going to go down". Then he started retching to which I knew this was "bloat" or GDV (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus) I also knew there's no time to wait, if left this is a horrible painful death as effectively the blood is starved to all the vital organs and they are strangled inside.
Ironically, the one time we would have been OK with him peeing and pooping indoors, he took himself out of the dog flap and did both! I said to Mr Furry, "Right, he has to get to the vet immediately, do you want to take him or do you want me to?" We kind of knew that we were unlikely to be bringing him home and decided we both needed to go with him. Bud then went and sat on the front doormat as if to say "Mum don't go out, take me to the vet". The vets had just opened at this point as it was now 9am. So after calling them we put him in the back of the car. No grumbling like normal so I knew, something was wrong.
We got to the vets and he walked straight in, again this wasn't usual. Normally once he's realised where he was, we had to drag him in because he hates the vets! He walked down the corridor with the nurses (again no resistance meant he knew he needed help) and they commented on how much pain he must have been in but he was still walking. I hope that I didn't allow him to suffer unnecessarily because as soon as I realised how serious it was, he was in the vets within minutes. As I said earlier, with bloat you have to act fast. The sitting there waiting felt like an age but it was only minutes. They were going to try and x-ray him. We heard him cry out from the room, he was obviously in a lot of pain.
They came out and explained they weren't able to x-ray him but that he had ticked all the clinical boxes for it being GDV. We had two options.....surgery to twist the stomach back or euthanasia. The likelihood of him surviving an anaesthetic let alone surgery were 50/50. I really didn't want him to die on the operating table so we had to choose the euthanasia option. The vet agreed it was the right decision. She said she would go and sedate him and allow us to go and be with him.
So we walked into the room, he came in and lied down on some vet bed on the consulting room floor. The vet said his sedation had worked much quicker than they'd expected.....typical Bud! They left us alone to say our goodbyes.
He was lying down puffing his cheeks out with each breath and we both commented on how he'd always done that as a puppy. He looked so peaceful, I just kept kissing him behind his ear and whispering "we're here baby boy, mummy and daddy are both here and we love you". I kept stroking his ears and his big paws, I wanted him to know that I was there with him right until the end.
The vet came in and asked us if we were ready, we just replied "let him go". Then in a few seconds, he was gone. I'll never forget the vets words "I just want to check his heart" but I knew, he had gone, his cheeks had stopped puffing. I swear that image of him lying on the vet floor was all I could see every time I closed my eyes that night in bed.
So we came home....with his collar and lead but No Bud.....the girls were at the door waiting for us when we came in. They looked behind us to see where he was, he wasn't there.
We spent that morning, trying to go over everything, had we acted quickly enough? Had we done everything we possibly could to ensure he didn't suffer? Had we made the right decision? The answer to all of those questions was yes, we had done everything we possibly could. We had got him straight to the vets, he didn't suffer unnecessarily. Had it happened an hour later, I'd have been out and I swear I'd have never forgiven myself if something had happened then.
I was always told, your dog will tell you when it's time. I always thought well how? How will the dog tell me? But he did, he looked at me and I could see in his eyes "Mum I need the vet, Mum don't go out and leave me". I know you're always told it's the kindest thing to do, that may be, but it is also the hardest thing to do.
My boy, the reason this whole thing started. It may sound dramatic but, that dog literally changed my life. I wouldn't be the person I am today if it wasn't for him. I wouldn't be where I am today without him. It was all for him, always him. Now he's gone. I wondered if it was such a good idea having his face as my logo for my business, as it's been a very visual and painful reminder this week that he's not here. However, that's his legacy. His spirit will live on.
I've got so many wonderful memories and stories of his life, too many to share here now, maybe they need writing in a separate book. I feel honoured to have had him for the time I've had. The love that you get from a dog is a love like no other, the pain you feel when you lose a dog, is like no other pain.
Grief is like when you cut yourself deeply.....it hurts like hell, it bleeds and needs a lot of attention. Eventually the wound starts to close up but after a while, depending on what you do, it can open up again and weep. Then in time, the wound closes up but the scar is still there serving as a constant reminder of the initial pain.
A couple of days after we lost Bud, Ricky Gervais was doing an interview on The One Show about his Netflix series Afterlife talking about grief he explained that it's like carrying a really heavy rucksack. The rucksack doesn't get any lighter but you learn to walk differently with it. Everybody is carrying a rucksack of grief, some more heavy than others. Perfectly put don't you think?
It is never "just a dog" your world revolves around them every single day. Yes I'm happy for the life we had but I'm also hurting that our life together has ended. Someone said to me, dogs should live forever but if they outlived us, how sad would that be for them? They wouldn't understand where we'd gone or why we weren't coming back. So I get it, I understand they have to have shorter lives than us but I would give anything to have him back here for a cuddle or to bark at me for his dinner or wake me up whining at 6am on a Sunday morning.
I'll see you again my beautiful Buddy-Love in the next life. Where you'll greet me with your deep bark and wagging bum and you'll throw yourself on the floor on your back so I can tickly your tummy. I love you baby boy.
Give your doggies an extra specially big cuddle tonight. Always kiss them goodnight because you just don't know when will be the last time.
Thanks for listening.
Much love Sally xx