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

18 thoughts on “Signe

  1. I am so so sorry. I cried reading this and I’m sure you’re probably in such deep grief you can barely do anything else. It’s just impossibly hard to describe how much love you share with your dog. The loss is awful. Sending you what light I have. Take care of yourself – she would have wanted you to.

    • Thank you. ❀ And yeah. One minute, I'll think I'm doing… "fine" might be pushing it, but all right-ish, and the next, I'll break down and cry because something – usually some small, everyday thing – reminds me she's gone and never coming back. (Like yesterday, when I'd been down to the laundry room and came back to my flat, and there was nobody standing right inside the door, wagging up a storm as if I'd been gone for a week and not just two minutes. Broke down and cried then.) It's like Charity says below, they leave a hole in your heart.

      I need all the light I can get right now. Thank you. And you're absolutely right that she would have; she would have been following me very closely with a concerned look on her face, and then clambered onto my lap as soon as I sat down (and never mind what I was doing – if I had a cup of tea in hand, I'd best put it down fast πŸ™‚ ). She wouldn't lick me in the face or anything, she never did that (but she would nuzzle you very closely), but she’d look up at me and wag the tip of her tail when I looked back, as if she wanted to say “it’s all right, I’m right here”. And somehow… it feels as if she’s still keeping an eye on me, from wherever she is. Like a furry little guardian angel. It’s a comforting feeling, amidst all the tears.

    • Thank you, Tiff – and thank you for your comment on my Tumblr, too. ❀ She was a very special little dog who leaves a very, very large hole. (I really like what you wrote on Tumblr about Missy's plant. I think I might do something like that as well, get something small and stubborn. She was cute as a button and loved people – but she had a very strong will. I used to say I was under no delusions I was the leader of our little pack, and I was only half joking. πŸ™‚ )

  2. I’m so sorry for your loss. I know how awful it feels. We just lost our 18 year old cat a few months ago from kidney disease. 😦 Still miss our little Cairn terrier, who died 3 years ago. Little buggers leave a hole in your heart. That poem is just *cries*. I won’t say I hope you feel better, ’cause nothing will make you feel better at the moment. But at least she’s not in pain anymore and nothing can take away the memories.

    • Thank you. ❀ You're absolutely right, they do leave a hole in your heart. I know it was the right thing to do, that she trusted me to take care of her and to look after her and to be able to make the call even though it tore my heart out, and I did, but… God, it hurts.

      But we had a wonderful life together and there are lots of great memories. Even though there are a lot of tears right now, there are a lot of smiles, too, when I remember all those quirky, funny, little Signe things she did. She was a small dog with a big personality, and a bigger heart. πŸ™‚

  3. So sorry to hear this! What a sweet little baby πŸ™‚ She loved, and was loved – sounds like a perfect life well lived. I’ll be praying for your pain to be brief and your happy remembrances long. Hugs and love to you ❀

    • Thank you. *hugs you back* ❀ She's young in this picture, only two years, but it's one of my favourite pictures of her. In later years, her ears and head turned a light grey; not quite white, but very light. I'm sure her nose and paws were grey, too, only you couldn't see it for obvious reasons. And we did have a wonderful life together, filled with lots of love and laughter; she was a happy, bouncy, quirky little dog with a very strong personality and and equally strong will, and there are lots of wonderful memories. I know they'll remain when the pain has faded. Right now, though, it hurts. A lot.

  4. I just saw this, I am so sorry to hear about Signe. I know that she knew you loved her, and letting her go when life was just too tough to take was one more fine thing you could do for her to keep her happy and safe. Hugs.

    • Thank you, Lee. *hugs you back* I know you’ve been in the same place. ❀

      Letting her go was the worst decision I've ever had to make – but in a way it was also the easiest one, you know? Long ago, I promised us both that when the time came, I'd let her go when she was ready to go, no matter whether I was or not. And she was ready now. In the end, that was the only thing that really mattered, even though it tore my heart out.

  5. Oh, Nix, I just saw this, and my heart breaks for you; I am so sorry for your loss (and also regretful that I am so late in offering my condolences; they are still sincerely meant).
    I hope your holidays went well and were full of happy, or at worst, rainbow memories (the kind that might bring tears, but they are accompanied by even brighter smiles and joy that you have that precious moment to treasure).

    • Croi! It’s so good to see you! *tacklehugs* I’ve been thinking about you a lot and wondering how you’ve been doing (I thought I saved your email address, but of course I didn’t πŸ˜• ). I hope things are well (or at least as well as can be) with you and yours.

      And thank you for the kind words, they mean a lot (and there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind they’re sincere, no worries there). ❀ I'm every so slowly starting to get used to life without Signe, but… I won't lie, it's been rough at times. One third of my life, she's been there, and now… she's not. And it feels so very, very strange.

      But there are lots and lots of good, happy memories. There are memories that bring tears, too – but they, too, are precious and treasured. She will always be my little doggie and I will always be her matte ("pet mum", sort of, in Swedish), and nothing will ever change that.

      • HUUUUGS back! ^_^ I’ve been thinking a lot about you too! Especially since I read this post.

        Nix, I’m not pushing–I’m NOT; you and only you will know when you’re ready–but I hope you are leaving your heart open for the animal that needs a mum as amazing and loving as you are, and is looking to adopt YOU. Sometimes they come when they’re least expected, like our latest furbaby.

        This may be a tl;dr, but I’m going to share my story just in case you’d like a distraction. Over the New Year holiday we were adopted by another cat. (I have not adopted an animal companion since 1982; all the pets we’ve had since then have adopted us. Martin Mulligan is no different.)

        It started at the time-share golf resort we go to every year for the holidays (our dinky one-bathroom apartment and our big family–fifteen, now that the grands are bringing home their loves and life-partners–plus dear friends with no family of their own means we need a lot more room than we have!) The resort has a strict no-pets policy, so I was surprised to find a very friendly very thin little cat sitting on the small attached patio making himself utterly endearing every time a human appeared. We offered him canned tuna and he was ecstatic, kibble was clearly a brand new experience, but after a few nibbles he decided it was delicious, gooshy food was marvellous, but the very best of all was laps and pettin’s and soft words (he has a purr at least twice as big as he is). Long story short(ish?), he came home with us after a detour to the vet (no microchip, no lost cat notices, and, despite his affectionate nature, no behaviours that indicated he had ever been anyone’s pet; he was completely feral, and likely had been since birth).

        Fortunately he was remarkably healthy, all factors considered–no felv, fiv, or heartworm–except for intestinal parasites. After a week quarantined in our tiny bathroom to protect our resident cat, he has joined the family and is working hard at mastering the art of being a fine, upstanding indoor cat (he’s learned that beds with snuggly blankets and warm humans are a slice of kitty heaven; he’s figured out litterboxes, and, after intently watching Harley–aka Resident Cat–has realised that it’s safe to drink water from a bowl, quite an accommodation for a desert-born creature; he’s working on Soft Paws, and is really doing very well). But the thing I find most interesting is, when the outer door opens, he runs the other way; he doesn’t want to be an outdoor kitty any more.

        I guess my point is, we didn’t need another pet, we weren’t looking for another pet, but Martin needed us, and right now we fortunately have enough love (and cat litter!) to give him a forever home. It may be that there’s someone out there who needs the love you give so abundantly. No one could ever replace Signe; as you say, “She will always be my little doggie and I will always be her matte, and nothing will ever change that” (and thank goodness that’s so! What a tragedy it would be to ever forget that much joy and love!), but that doesn’t mean someone else couldn’t become a treasured companion to brighten your heart and spirits in their own unique way.

        • *hugs back again very tightly*

          Thank you so much for telling me about Martin Mulligan, what a warm, delightful story. ❀ (Love your description of how hard he's working at becoming a good indoor cat, and seems to be done with being an outdoor one. Signe would have agreed with him 100% about snuggly blankets and warm humans, BTW. She thought duvets were good, too, even if blankets were easier to get Just So.) And I'm absolutely not closing my heart to one day adopting or being adopted by another dog (I'm allergic to cats, unfortunately). Right now, it's still too soon, the grief is still too fresh, but some day… who knows. (I do know that if and when I do get another dog, it'll be an adult and not a puppy. This partly because I know I'm not up to raising a puppy again health-wise – Signe was four when I got sick, so she was an adult already – and partly because it'd feel… well, better, to help an adult dog who needed a new home.) I'm quite sure Signe would approve if and when I do, she'd know I wasn't trying to replace her – and she firmly believed humans need a pet to look after them; they're not made to be alone, and Dog knows what kind of mess they'll make of things if you leave them unsupervised. πŸ˜‰

          So even if I'm not there yet… I'm not closing my mind or heart to there being another dog someday. There might very, very well be. πŸ™‚

          • It’s a shame you’re allergic to cats. I admit I was kind of hoping that all the love, but in an entirely different package, might be a comforting option, because Signe is absolutely right: humans do need a pet to look after them! You can only do what works for you, but whatever that is, please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

  6. Nix, I’m sorry for posting so late on this, but I wanted to give you a belated hug. I’m sure you gave Signe her best life and I hope that you’re doing all right and able to cherish your memories. She was a beautiful little girl.

    I hope this message finds you well.

    Warmest Regards

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.