A dog’s life

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.

Happy Birthday Aggie cat!

According to the vaccination certificate we received from the RSPCA when we adopted her, Aggie puss turned 19 at some point during March. She’s understandably slowed up a lot, and these days spends most of her days – and nights – sleeping. She certainly poses no threat to wildlife or birds any more either, content to watch them from the window, in the sunniest spot she can find, while she muses perhaps upon her more agile youth, but she remains as glamorous and glossy as she was when we brought her home.

Aggie was 18 months old when we adopted her, and rejoiced in the name of ‘Biddles’ – a name that didn’t suit her at all, and one we immediately ditched. We knew from previous experience a name would manifest itself eventually as a result of her own personality and behaviour, but it has to be said Aggie (or Agnes) has subsequently become the official, and certainly the most respectable of the many alternate monikers, my partner in particular, uses.
Despite the appealing show she put on for us at the RSPCA, Aggie was a bit snooty at first when we got her home. I suspect she’d been over indulged by her previous owner – a youthful twenty-something apparently, whose job involved an unexpected move to New Zealand for an unspecified time. She’d left the cat in the care of her parents, and I’ve often wondered if they ever confessed to their daughter they’d surrendered Biddles/Aggie to the RSPCA shortly afterwards. Or offered another explanation for the cat’s disappearance.
It was a stay in the RSPCA’s boarding kennel facility* that cured Aggie’s initial aloofness. Despite the excellent care she received there while we were overseas, my theory was always she was so horrified to find herself back at the RSPCA she felt she’d better change her tune when she finally arrived back home. Certainly she looked relieved to see me when I collected her, and ever since has been remarkably friendly, affectionate and placid. For a cat.
It wasn’t all lazing about being waited on hand and foot though – which is arguably what she’d been led to expect and deserve. Aggie had a job to do living with us, and it was keeping the rodents under control on our semi-rural property. It was a job she swiftly took to with typical feline skill and enthusiasm and her tally of mice, rats – and young rabbits – mounted steadily. Possibly because there were enough rodents to keep her occupied Aggie never – thankfully – seriously turned her deadly hunting instincts towards birds.
These days any of those residual hunting instincts are limited to seeking out the sunniest spot in the house, so she can enjoy the warmth in her ageing bones. Or else snuggling up as close as she possibly can to the heater. How many more summers and winters we’ll have Aggie is, of course, unknown, but hopefully come next March we’ll be celebrating her 20th!
* Tasmania’s RSPCA no longer offers boarding facilities for cats and dogs.