All those who have a companion animal in their life, be it dog, cat, rabbit, horse or sheep, is fully aware that animal is likely to depart this planet before they do. I’ve buried several dogs and cats, and a couple of rabbits, and it doesn’t get any easier when it’s time to say goodbye. But who’d be without an animal in their life if they’re able to have one? Not me, that’s for sure, but realising the time to say goodbye to Della might be considerably earlier than we expected has come as rather a shock.
We’d noticed Della was carrying her left hind leg a bit a few months ago but thought little of it initially thinking she’d perhaps just sprained her foot. But it didn’t get any better, so we rang the vet. Paul had just left for an overseas holiday and wouldn’t be back for several weeks so we had to take Della into a different clinic. The young vet there was very thorough, and I’m sure knew her stuff but she couldn’t find anything definitive, so we left with a box of anti-inflammatories, and advised to come back if they didn’t do the trick for what we and the vet suspected was the beginning of arthritis or rheumatism. Della is around 11 years-old – she’s a rescue dog so the RSPCA could only estimate her age – so this diagnosis was entirely plausible.
Initially we thought they did do the trick. They weren’t necessary every day so the box lasted several months, and we also trialled Rosehip-Vital – a natural treatment to relieve arthritis and rheumatism.
Despite all our efforts though Della’s limp became more pronounced, so it was time for another visit to the vet. Our own this time. Paul explained the situation as tactfully as he could but it’s obvious he believes Della has cancer, and it’s in the legbone. There’s a chance it’s a badly torn and inflamed cruciate ligament but it’s a slim chance. We’ll known on Wednesday when she has an X-ray.
It’s true Della has slowed down a bit from her younger self. She was a very timid and subdued dog when we picked her up from the RSPCA in December 2013. We’ll never know the reasons behind her being found wandering the streets, thin, starving and with obvious signs of mistreatment, but the trauma has never completely diminished over time. There are triggers. But it was a moment to celebrate when she finally felt comfortable and secure enough to really run when we walked her on a neighbour’s property, and where she had the freedom of paddocks empty of livestock. And could she run! She went bonkers doing that crazy circular dash that dogs do a few times just for the pure joy of it. Whatever her exact ancestry there’s certainly some well-honed hunting instincts involved, adding to the basenji traits, that we’ve been told is certainly a factor in her parentage. She has characteristics that are common to the breed.
Next week we’ll know if it’s time to say goodbye to Della but until then I’m hanging on to the possibility it’s that 25 per cent chance the problem is cruciate.
Our lovely dog Della is showing her age. She’s had the tell-tale white whiskery face for some time but was as lively as ever until very recently. Perhaps it’s the first early signs of approaching autumn and that unmistakeable morning chill as we set off for the morning walk before the sun has properly risen. Whatever the cause Della has suddenly become a little less enthusiastic to emerge from her basket, and a lot less bouncy first thing in the morning. She’s also noticeably more stiff in the legs, especially her left rear leg which is clearly giving her trouble.
I mentioned it to Paul, our vet when I took Della in for her vaccination booster recently. He confirmed my suspicions. Della is showing the first indication of arthritis or rheumatism. Not yet serious, and medication not yet recommended but the day will come when she may need some pain relief. It seems none of us are immune to the ravages of age.
Since she was a rescue dog, we aren’t exactly sure how old Della is. The RSPCA thought she was about seven months old when we picked her out as our new dog to replace the lovely and recently departed Mona. We collected Della earlier than expected because she’d been able to have the necessary desexing op due to a last minute cancellation, so she was a lovely surprise Christmas present that year.
But in common with far too many rescue dogs Della’s biography didn’t make cheerful reading. She’d been found wandering the streets as a half-grown, thin, starving and fearful dog, who’d obviously been ill-treated. Why people want to mistreat animals is beyond my understanding, but they do, as we know. In spite of her timidity though Della was pathetically eager to please, but she’s remained needy in many ways. And even after so many years of love, care and security we have to remember not to surprise her with a sudden sharp movement that could be interpreted as the precursor to a blow. This is especially so if we are holding a broom or some other implement that might be likely to cause her pain.
Those early weeks and months of trauma obviously still run deep, suggesting animals don’t forget abusive behaviour any more than children do. They are sentient and emotional beings after all, so it shouldn’t be surprising. In the first few years there were several embarrassing encounters that saw Della highly distressed, shaking and frothing at the mouth in fear if a visitor – it was always a male visitor – came to the door. We can only assume the person – often a tradesman – resembled in some way the fellow who was responsible for the early cruelty and abuse she suffered.
Hopefully we’ll have Della for several more years yet but as winter approaches I can see there will need to be some adjustments to the daily walk routine. That might not be a bad thing since I’m not getting any younger either! And it’s certainly more pleasant to walk in daylight and sunshine than it is on autumn and winter mornings when the moon is still visible in the sky, and the sun is barely up.