14th April 2014: ‘Night night, Mummy; night night, Daddy.’

Maddi breathed her last on 14th April. I am tearing up as I pen this post. I had wanted to write earlier but could not for crying. Our brave girl died, tired and worn after a life trammelled by initial grief; but, later, with love and joy in her life with us. It was heartbreaking as Hubby and I made the decision to let her go.

Maddi had not been interested in her food the past two days before her last illness. Always a greedy girl, she had continued to lie on the floor, ignoring her food bowl where before she could not wait to stick her head into it. Nonetheless, she did have a few mouthfuls, although mostly she lay inert, lifting up her head simply to greet me and the family only when we walked by.

Readers of my blog will know that Maddi has been incontinent now for quite some while. We were plagued with bad smells and even worse clean-ups but still we slogged on, not wanting to lose our girl whilst she was still full enough of beans to bark and enjoy her food. Feisty and stubborn almost to the end, Maddi was never one to let another person or dog get one over her!

On 14th April, I awoke to Maddi’s retching. A few minutes later, Hubby came alongside her and laid some old newspapers next to her to soak up the yellow-tinged watery vomit. Maddi had already tried to go in the house, and had left tell-tale signs of her incapacity with deep yellow stains on her tail and legs.

14th April was a Saturday. We had a whole houseful of guests, and Hubby and I had breakfast to serve, dishes and cutlery to wash afterwards, and rooms to make. Hubby said, ‘I think Maddi needs to see the vet,’ so I phoned. We were told to go straight away, but of course we could not.

I then went the rounds of going to each table in the dining room to ask whether Hubby and I could clean their rooms after we had returned from the vet, explaining to our guests that we had a very sick dog on our hands. Everyone was very kind, for which we will always be grateful. Our appointment had been made for 11 am, but we only finally reached the vet at 11:40 am.

Maddi tried to sit up with great difficulty as we called to her once parked at the vet. Opening the back door, we saw her valiantly trying to rise from her semi-prone position – fiercely independent to the end. I looked into her pain ravaged eyes as she finally managed to sit, all hunched up, and . . . knew. Hubby had to lift her up bodily and carry her into the surgery. I was heartsick as I looked at our beloved pet: if a dog could look haggard, Maddi did.

The vet was very kind and told us that Maddi was suffering from a multiplicity of symptoms that were hard on an old dog. She was suffering from a gastroenteritis which had come on suddenly over a day and a half; had lost much fluid and could not replace it despite drinking loads; had possible liver problems; had no legs left to stand on due to muscle loss and arthritis; a heart condition; and was having difficulty breathing. The vet could take bloods and a liver sample to see how she could help Maddi but our poor girl was too ill to return with us and would have to be hospitalised.

Maddi at the vet's. 'I am so tired, Mummy.'

Maddi at the vet’s. ‘I am so tired, Mummy.’

I asked whether Maddi would have any quality of life should she heal from the gastroenteritis and liver problems, but the vet could not vouchsafe this. She then gave Hubby and I time to consider our options, during which period we rang the Rescue from which we had adopted our girl. We will always be eternally grateful to Jean at the Rescue, who knew Maddi and told us in no uncertain terms that it was time for Maddi to go. She was sympathetic but also very practical. Of course, Hubby and I already knew that it was Maddi’s time that day, but it was helpful to get another opinion without our asking for it.

If we had tried to treat Maddi, perhaps put her on a drip, she would still have deteriorated as soon as she came off it because we found out later that her kidneys were already failing. Her body was shutting down and there was nothing we could do for our old lady. All we could do was to stop her suffering, even though I felt like a murderer for agreeing to her euthanasia. Ever the coward, I took one last photo of our girl, her dark eyes bidding me a goodbye for the final time. I could not bear to watch the needle go in. Hubby stayed to hold her, and told me later that it took no more than two minutes for her to sleep peacefully away.

I walk through our hallway now and miss seeing the white rug that was Maddi taking up most of the floor so that we would have to skirt past her. That fiesty impatient bark telling me to hurry down the stairs with her biscuits because her old legs were too gamy to clamber up and down no longer beckons me. We were told in 2012 that we would likely see her life end within six months – but Maddi’s stubborn will to live took her through for another 1.5 years. Hubby and I can only be grateful for that borrowed time.

Poor Zack has been looking lost lately, wondering what has become of his sidekick. I think he is grieving in his own way, but even more so, I think he wonders whether he will leave lose us too, just as we had to let Maddi go. He has become ever more needy since Saturday, and it is so difficult to keep a big dog by one’s side all the time in a guest house that does not cater for dogs! But we will soldier on. Maddi will always be remembered – not simply by her family, but also by the Rescue and her old mate, Zack.

pyrenean mountain dog, lake district

Maddi, our Pyrenean Mountain Dog

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