Yesterday, I had to put my beloved mini schnauzer girl Signe to sleep.
I saw the first signs that something was wrong on Tuesday. She was very, very tired and slept most of the day, and also had no appetite – which isn’t like her at all, she’s usually a very happy, energetic and bouncy little dog (can’t quite bring myself to talk about her in the past tense, it’s too close). Then, late that evening, just as I was getting ready for bed, she suddenly started vomiting and also having diarrhoea, which continued through the night. We went to the nearest animal hospital as soon as they opened in the morning. At first they thought she might have pancreatitis (minis are prone to that), and admitted her over night for observation and treatment (meaning fluids, pain meds and anti-emetics; there’s no actual treatment for pancreatitis in dogs, it has to heal on its own, so all you can do is try to alleviate the symptoms). In the afternoon/early evening, they also did an ultrasound of her abdomen, to see how things in general and her pancreas in particular looked like.
It wasn’t pancreatitis. It was pancreatic cancer with liver mets.
Even so, when the vet rang me in the evening to let me know what they’d seen on the ultrasound, Signe had perked up considerably, she had regained her appetite and was almost back to her usual, tail-wagging self even if she still was a bit tired and slept a lot (“curled up into a little ball”, as the vet described it – which was a great relief for me to hear, because I knew exactly what that little sleeping ball looked like and I also knew Signe wouldn’t do that if she wasn’t feeling safe. I’d been worried she’d be anxious, but she wasn’t). So it looked as if she’d get to go home in the morning, and as if we’d get a little more time together – not much, probably no more a few weeks, but still a little time.
But during the night, she took a turn for the worse – much, much worse. In the morning, the vet (a different vet than the evening before) rang me to let me know there was nothing they could do. This was the end.
At noon yesterday, Signe went to her final rest in my arms. In two weeks, she would have been 14 years old. I’d had her (and she’d had me) since she was a tiny little puppy of eight weeks.
The Power of the Dog
There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.
When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find – it’s your own affair –
But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.
When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!),
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone – wherever it goes – for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear!
We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent,
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve;
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long –
So why in – Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?
– Rudyard Kipling