One of the Saddest Days of My Life

Last Thursday, a week ago today was without a doubt one of the saddest days of my life as I said goodbye to a loyal and trusted friend.  Our 11 year old lab/collie cross Bailey had finally reached the point where any intervention would have been for our benefit not for his and it was time to let him go.

Bailey_Nov_2011_6511

I think one of the hardest aspects to deal with was how fast he went downhill.  Throughout last Summer he was his usual energetic, bouncy, happy self.  Walks around the local flashes, over to the beach, up at Delamere Forest, he took them all in his (usually bounding) stride but when the cold weather arrived in October it was obvious that things weren’t right.  We’d allowed his weight to creep up and this coupled with arthritis slowed him right down.  Not to worry we thought, we’ll get his weight down, get his arthritis under control and he’ll be set for a healthier, albeit less active old age.  He went straight onto a weight control diet, had medication for his arthritis and by Christmas things were looking up.  He wasn’t there yet but he had lost about a stone in weight (6kg), and was bouncing around the place again.

Since he’d lost so much weight, we had to reduce the dose of his arthritis medication but when we did this he seemed to go downhill again.  I spoke to the vet and she suggested putting the dosage back up to the previous level.  It didn’t help.  Another trip to the vet’s revealed that his arthritis was doing really well and it had all but disappeared from his front legs, but he was struggling with his back legs, bunny hopping rather than walking, occasionally his back legs would slide out from under him leaving him on the floor, confused as to how he got there.  His symptoms suggested nerve damage which, although untreatable, was still manageable.  Bailey was just going to have to accept that he wasn’t as mobile as he used to be but he could still have a rewarding few years ahead of him.  At least he wasn’t incontinent.

Bailey_Jan_2014

A week later and he was collapsing dozens of times a day.  He struggled to climb the step at our back door and needed help to get back into the house.  No problem I thought, we’ve been through a lot together and the least I could do was offer a helping hand when he needed it.  Then the incontinence started.

If you’re not a dog person you may not realise how big a deal this is.  Not for me, I’ve got three kids and have spent more time than I really want to think about cleaning up accidents so it was just another part of looking after Bailey but dogs like being clean and losing control like that is really distressing for them.  I went through the usual denial stage, he just had an upset tum, he would be okay, he was fine a few months ago and would pick up again when the weather improved…

It wasn’t to be, I spent the last couple of days hardly leaving his side, he had lost interest in everything, spent most of his day just laid out in front of the fire sleeping and you could see in his eyes he’d had enough.

I won’t go into the details of his passing except to say I stayed with him, hugging him close until the end.

He was an absolute star of a dog, he was affectionate, playful, intelligent and protective, all the things a dog should be.  He was brilliant with the kids, my youngest used to try and ride him like a horse when he was little and Bailey would patiently let him.  He was no problem around other dogs and would always come straight back when called, no matter how far off he had wandered.  Our many long walks together were the trigger for all of my forays into landscape photography and when I headed outside for a cigarette he would come barrelling down the stairs to join me knowing he could always get me to throw his ball in the garden for him. When I was going through my divorce he didn’t judge, he was always there listening to me whinging. When my depression was at it’s worst I always knew I had at least one friend I could rely on, he couldn’t do much about it but he was there and that’s what mattered.

The kids have grown up with him always around so it has hit them particularly hard, they can’t remember a time when Bailey wasn’t with us so his loss has left a gaping hole which will only lessen with time.  I’m not sure it will ever heal properly.  It’s strange how we take our pets for granted. We all know we’re likely to outlive our companions but even the loss of childhood pets doesn’t really prepare you for the emptiness you feel when you’re the grown up making the difficult call.

Bailey will never be forgotten, and happily I have captured some great portraits of him over the years which will give me some small comfort when the grief is at it’s worst.

Bailey

Rest in peace mate x

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