I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago, but had to keep stopping and writing bits as it was quite emotional and I just couldn't keep reliving it. It has become easier and I really want to tell Maisy's continued story.
I can easily say that yesterday proved the hardest day of my life, and I've been through some stuff already. Now a lot of people won't understand, they'll think I'm mad, but there will be many people that do feel the same intense sense of loss and heartbreak when their dog goes to sleep for the final time. It hurts so much. Deep in the pit of my stomach and chest, the pain is physical as much as mental. It feels like I've lost a limb and my life has been turned upside down as I struggle to fill the immense gap she has left with all I have - mainly memories, photos and the things that smell of Maisy. She was part of our family and like a child. My princess. Princess Maisy.
Maisy was a special dog. You can read all about her story in previous posts here and here. It is a story of unbelievable strife interspersed with delightful happiness, from her early life suffering at the hands of cruel puppy farmers, to when we rescued her a gave her all the things she had missed from life.
Everything that could go wrong went wrong with Maisy. From the early days, with a hernia, cherry eye and severe teeth problems. She had epilepsy and suffered numerous fits. She had a heart murmur and problems with her skin. But it was a couple of years ago when things turned pretty ugly. What has turned out to be a chronic disc protrusion within her spine came to a halt when a disc burst and caused some trauma to her spinal chord, completely losing use of her hind legs as a result. A successful hemilamenectomy, hospitalisation, physio and hydrotherapy later, she slowly regained full if not slightly more laboured mobility.
We were so careful not to inadvertently cause a relapse so ensured she stayed off of the sofa and carried her up and down stairs. But, it wasn't enough and in November 2009, Maisy suffered a relapse. The options here were considerably fewer and it was only Maisy's sheer bloody mindedness that quickly enabled her to regain use of her legs. At the same time, Maisy picked up infections of the urinary tract, her bladder and then finally around the vulva. She was on a different antibiotics every week as the tests increasingly showed that the bacteria was resistant or the infection changed from e-coli to pseudomonus. This was hard going for Maisy and she was subjected to so much in tests and treatment that must have been awful. But, in her usual fashion, she just stuck her head down and got on with life,
doing the same little rituals that became her style.
Little things, like the bed time routine. We'd carry her upstairs and put her on the landing, while Cas carried up her bed. Maisy would then toddle into the study and roll around on the floor while I went back down and let the boys out. It was always the study, never the spare bedroom, maybe because sometimes I would sneak her upstairs to sit with me in the study while I worked. Or when we got to Cas's parents house. She loved it there. After getting her out of the car, she'd always toddle off onto the stones on the front garden for a wee, without fail, while the boys headed straight fir the back gate.
Well, in the last couple of weeks, the spinal problems came back and again, she lost use of her hind legs. This time it felt different, it didn't seem to be getting any better. After a week we took her to the vets and they tested her urine. They found a number of infections again, namely e-coli. It was back. We had been considering getting her some wheels, never contemplating any other scenario. We'd fight the infection as we had done before and we'd give her the best quality of life she could get. She wasn't a gun dog or a spaniel who just wants to run in the fields, Maisy was used to being fairly sedentary and just adored being with the boys and us. Wheels could be the answer.
A month or so ago, Maisy had a weird spontaneous episode of bleeding from the mouth. She went to the vets and they stitched it up. It appeared to be a puncture wound in the top and bottom gum, as if she had bitten down on a stick and it had pierced through. She was stitched up and the bleeding stopped. On Wednesday night, I noticed Maisy sitting at the bottom of the stairs while I was upstairs, changing the bed. Given the effort it takes for Maisy to get all around the house, I knew something must possibly be wrong - she's quite expressive in that way. As I came downstairs I noticed drops of blood on the floor and on her leg where she had been licking. She'd also wee'd on the floor and had a poo just for good measure, she was clearly in distress. I cleaned it all up and mopped the bleeding from her mouth. I took her to the vets in the morning. We left her in overnight so that the could assess the origin of the bleeding and stop it. The vet also wanted to take some blood tests to see why the issue has persisted.
All they found was an ulcer on her tongue. The question was why hadn't it healed up? There was a worry that her liver was not functioning correctly in allowing the blood to coagulate (clot) as it was supposed to. While under GA, they did a clotting test to find out if this was an issue. The clotting test involves creating a small nick in the gum. In an ordinary dog, it would take 2-3 minutes max to stop bleeding. They aborted the test after 5 minutes with Maisy, no sign of stopping the bleed.
We took Maisy's pills into the vets and when we arrived, the vet was there to great us. He seemed agitated, almost frantic. He explained how the blood tests showed that Maisy's liver wasn't producing the level of protein that would be expected and he was seriously worried about it. In addition, her red blood cell count and platelet levels were worryingly low. She was anaemic. Overnight they carried out some more tests. The nurse called us in the morning and let us know that Maisy had recovered from the GA and was perky like she normally is. At this point I wasn't thinking about any other scenario (except maybe deep down) other than that they would find some further course of treatment that would at least give us some hope and some more time. They would be scanning her liver to check for physical abnormalities that morning and we would hear back around midday.
I got the call from the vet and she walked us through their findings. No physical abnormalities of note with the scans. Unfortunately, that wasn't a good sign, as it gave us nothing to go on with what to treat, as we know something is definitely wrong. Her faeces showed signs of blood in it. She seemed to be haemorrhaging into her intestine and/or ingesting the blood from her mouth. Either way, she was already losing more red blood cells through this and with the anaemia, she really couldn't afford to be giving them up so freely. They tested her bone marrow to see how she was producing blood cells to replace those that were being lost. There were no signs of reproduction at all. Her bone marrow had given up the fight. It was time that Maisy could rest and stop the relentless battle for health. It was her time, and as her mummy and daddy, we had to make the decision for her. That is what every responsible pet owner must be prepared to do. In fact, over the last 3 days I've come to appreciate the privilege afforded to me. I was able to offer Maisy eternal peace and spare her the inevitable suffering she was bound to endure should we take any other course of action with what would only have been purely selfish motives.
Signing the consent form, I felt numb. We were ushered in to sit with her before hand - for as long as we wanted. I thought we'd spend as long as possible with her, cuddling, kissing and reassuring her. It was impossible. We just couldn't prolong the inevitable. The longer we sat there looking into her eyes, we could see that all she wanted to was go home, to her sanctuary where she felt safe and where she had been so deeply loved. It was breaking our hearts. We beckoned the vet and agreed that the time was now. Cas and I both stayed with her, I held her face in my hands and Cas stroked her back. She was laid on her side and the vet tried to find the vein in the inside of her hind leg in which to inject her.
The vet had warned us that her blood vessels had contracted to such an extent that it had previously proved difficult to insert a needle. He assured us that he would try his best to get it first time, but we should be prepared if he missed that he may have to administer some gas. I had my fingers crossed that it would be quick and clean, I was dreading any more distress than we were already facing. The needle went in, which I watched despite trying not to look. My stomach was filled with dread and my throat had a lump in it the size of a grapefruit.
I continued to hold onto her face and stroke the soft, familiar fur around her jowls, tears streaking down my face. As the needle was pressed and fluid administered, Maisy stirred briefly, knocking out the needle. The vet cursed, unsure if enough had been put into her blood stream to take immediate effect. After a couple of frightful moments, Maisy's body relaxed, her eyes closed and she fell asleep in my hands as if she had just laid down on her bed after a long walk in the fields. The vet checked her heart beat. Nothing. It was over and Maisy's pain was no more. Cas and I wept and caressed her lifeless body, emotion running free and uncontrollable as the realisation began to set in, the loss being realised in the pits of our stomachs.
Afterwards, we left and went back home. I then went back not long afterwards to pick up Maisy's body. We left her fleecy blanket to be wrapped in and the nurses brought her out to my car. I drove to Cas's parents house, where we were to lay her to rest, in the field behind their house where she loved to run with the boys, Penny the Westie, puppy Scotty Lexie and the Spaniels; Teale, Willow and Rowan. Man, that was one big hole I had to dig.
I brought her body from the car and laid her on her blanket on top of an old duvet cover, next to the grave. I let the boys come out into the field and they came over and sniffed her. So did Lexie and Penny. They knew where she was and they were respectfully gentle and in sombre mood.
We said a few words, shed many tears, said our final goodbyes. Cas then left me, as I wrapped her fully in the blanket and duvet and lowered her slowly to the bottom of the grave. Taking the shovel and with every load of dirt, my tears got fewer and my sorrow easier as if the act of burial itself was cleansing my grief; as she finally disappeared from sight, beneath the earth that was now her blanket and where she would be able to rest, painless, for ever more.
It's been really hard since that day. All I kept thinking about for some time after was what had happened, what had we done? The look on her face when we went in to see her. It still gets me going but I'm a lot better. Cas is still very upset and it pains me to see her so.
We received a card of condolence from the vet a day later. He wanted to reassure us that there was nothing more we could do, that her suffering would have been great, and that we gave her the best life possible in the time we had with her. He had become very fond of her in the time he knew her, as did many of the vets at Damory - not just because all of her treatment funded their xmas party 4 years running (Cas and I often liked to joke...) We have learned to take great comfort in that and it is what I've had to force myself to remember whenever I feel low. More than anything, he thanked us for treating Maisy with love and respect, which I know we did.
On the front of the card, there was a picture of a beautiful woodland, serene and calm. All around the floor of the wood, the most beautiful image of bluebells in the long grass. Quite befitting, and it touched our hearts, for Maisy rests in the meadow, among bluebells.