Saturday, 13 August 2016

Yesterday I lost my best friend

This is Bella, my 12 year old Border Collie. I thought I'd have several more years with my girl. Never in a million years did I think this would happen and she'd be taken from me so suddenly. Life is truly shit, cruel and downright heartbreaking at times. It's so unfair, especially for a dog as special as Bella.
What are the chances that she'd get cancer? Worse, that it would be a tumour on her spleen which could have ruptured at any time? Literally a ticking time bomb. Aggressive too, so it would most likely have already spread to other organs? And to top it all, the only symptoms she had which ultimately led to it's discovery were snoring noises as she breathed out. She was given a clean bill of health by another vet at the practice just over a week ago for heaven's sake!
Had a long chat with the vet on the phone on Thursday night, and the more she said, the more my heart sunk, the implications slowly penetrating my brain. There were options of getting a second opinion, a CT scan to see if and where it had spread. She couldn't take a biopsy because she was frightened of causing a major bleed. It was obvious she didn't want to go in and remove the spleen without knowing the full picture. 'I could open her up and be faced with tumours all over the place'. The prognosis for dogs of her age, especially this cancer, is extremely poor. Even with the CT, removal of the spleen and then chemotherapy, she wasn't going to live more than a few months. With the pain, side effects of chemo, plus of course the significant fall in her quality of life would be awful. If anyone knows about living like that it's me.
To be honest, the decision to let her go now was a no-brainer. It was obvious that the ultrasound and lack of fur 'padding' had left her extremely tender. It broke my heart to see her pace around, unable to settle. She couldn't even lie on me for more than a couple of minutes. The vet had said that she couldn't go for a walk, jump on the furniture, go up the stairs for fear it could cause a rupture. No, my girl needed me to step up to the plate and take that pain and suffering away. Anything else would be a betrayal of the unique bond I had with her.
She has been so much more than 'just' a dog. She was actually bought for Eric, but bonded to me. We adored each other, she was so sensitive and looked after me, being ever-present, never straying far from me. She would lie across my lap, not a simple thing for a dog her size, yet she very rarely touched my legs. Fiercely protective, she would warn Kayla away, not letting her anywhere near me. Eric aside, she was my best friend.
Having a cuddle with my girl. Such a precious memory now.
If I woke in the night, a whispered 'Bella' and she'd be up on my chair in moments. Always ready for a cuddle, licking me like mad, tail wagging. That wonderful affection is something I will never forget. This photo says it all really. Over the years we must have snuggled up like this thousands of times. Writing this now, all I want is to have a cuddle with her. But I can't and never can again…

The support went both ways. If anything happened to her, no matter how small, she'd come running to me, leap up and wanted me to make it better. We looked after each other, a team, bound by love. Her intelligence meant she adapted to my limited mobility. All the play we did before CRPS struck, we found a way to continue to do in my chair. Be it playing tug, fetch or rough and tumble with a toy. Her favourite toy was always a squeaky boot which was kept on the shelf behind my chair. She'd stand in front of my chair staring at me, waiting for me to look at her. I knew her so well, those beautiful eyes, one brown, one blue, told me what she wanted. I could say 'what do you want' and her eyes would immediately look at the boot then back to me. Amazing really, how many dogs can do that? I could ask her to go and find her boot. Off she'd go, looking for it. She'd ask for a treat in a similar way. I'd say 'you'd better go and ask your master' and she'd immediately jump on the sofa, sit next to Eric and paw at him. None of it taught, just that bond again. My clever, clever girl!

I'd always walked the dogs with Eric before CRPS put paid to that. Too painful because of the uneven ground and the payback was horrifiic. She didn't really have much to do with Eric, except in the morning. She would shadow him mercilessly, following him everywhere until he got ready to take them out. I did go a couple of times, Eric driving the dogs there, me going down there on my own in my chair. This meant we got onto the field in different places. I will never forget the moment Bella heard my calls. She couldn't have got to me any faster. Full pelt across the field, she jumped up at the side of my chair tongue hanging out, so obviously pleased to see me. Another precious memory to hold onto.
Just like I felt seeing her uncomfortable and in pain, she couldn't cope if I was particularly bad. Pacing around, obviously distressed, even taking herself off upstairs when my eyes were so bad I kept being sick. But she'd be back on my lap soon enough, her just being there, making it a little easier to bear. She never stayed upstairs whilst I had a bath. But she'd be there at the bottom of the stairs waiting as I struggled down and back to my chair. Then she'd jump up, lick me and have a cuddle. I'd turn her round, say 'snuggle' and she'd rest her head on my arm and sleep, both of us content. It never really felt right when she wasn't up with me. It definitely doesn't now.
I miss my best friend, life will never be the same without her. I've never had a relationship as strong with any other dog. All I can do is hold onto the thought that she had a wonderful life, didn't suffer and is now at peace. It was an honour and privilege to be Bella's human. She passed with her head resting on my hand whilst I stroked her muzzle. Together at the end, there for her as she always was for me.
My wonderful, beautiful, caring girl. I couldn't make it better this time, but I did the best thing I could. You will be in my heart forever and I will never forget you. Goodbye my darling.....  

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