The Very Last Adventure of a Small Brown Dog

Once we got home, we settled into a new routine.  We continued to put Cinny into the cage to sleep, and found that she settled more quickly and slept for longer in it.  Feeling that she had benefited from the mental stimulation of the trip to Chamonix, we took her for special Small Brown Dog walks when the weather was good.  We also took to feeding the three dogs separately, to avoid further conflicts with Cookie.  I could see there were times when Cookie struggled to contain herself if Cinnamon bumbled into her, so the best thing for both dogs was to keep them separate as much as possible.  Rosie, on the other hand, is incredibly placid, so we considered her a safe companion for a blind, elderly, senile, Small Brown Dog.

Cinny’s tongue healed, but remained crooked in her mouth.  We fed her very wet, sloppy meals, which she ate really well, but we were still concerned that she wasn’t able to drink properly.  For the first week, I continued to syringe water into her mouth, but after that we just gave her watered down milk a couple of times a day, which she lapped up happily.  On the advice of a veterinary friend,  I took to giving her a tiny dose of paracetamol every day for general aches and pain, and we gave her a dose of Kalm Aid every morning and evening to help her relax.  She was still lost and confused at times but, for the most part, she was content; eating well, sleeping well, and enjoying her little walks.  Everything was stable once again.

Aideen went from London to Nepal to do some long-planned charity work at the start of November and would be coming to us on her return.  Was it possible that Cinny would still be with around to see her ‘Mom’ one more time?  It was looking more and more likely… but first, I had a trip to Ireland to visit my own Mom.

While I was in Ireland, it happened.  A third panic attack.  This time, surprisingly, it was caused by Rosie.  We have no idea what happened, but both dogs were in the laundry room downstairs, while the LSH was making a coffee upstairs.  Mealtime was well past; they had all had been out and had had a good wander around the garden.  Cinny and Rosie were expected to snooze the morning away, as usual.

The only sound the LSH heard was a soft bark from Rosie.  Then Cinny started screaming and he could hear her crashing around the room as he tore down the stairs.  She was in full-on panic mode, the worst yet.  Nothing calmed her this time.  He ended up phoning me to see if I could think of anything – I could hear poor Cinnamon screaming on the other end of the phone.  The only suggestion I could come up with was to put her in the car.  Maybe she would be distracted if she thought she was going somewhere?

It didn’t work.

We hung up.  There was nothing I could do.

The panic attack lasted almost an hour.  An hour of terror and trauma for a much-loved pet; an hour of helplessness and worry for the LSH.

Later that evening, we spoke again.

We couldn’t allow this to happen again, we agreed.  We had reached a stage where we could no longer keep our Small Brown Dog safe.  Given her tendency to get stuck in corners, behind the washing machine or fridge and even underneath the car (I didn’t mention that before – she practically wound herself around the axle of the Fiat one day) her days would have to be spent in the cage if we wanted to keep her out of harm’s way.  That’s no life for any animal.  We would make an appointment to have her put to sleep when I returned to Provence.

I got home late on Friday the 11th.  In the space of the week I’d been away, Cinnamon had weakened visibly.  She struggled to get out of her bed and was wobbly on her back legs.  There was no doubt that we’d made the correct decision.  We spoiled her for the whole weekend.  Lots of treats, cuddles and teeny walks.

I made the phone call on Monday morning, calm and collected.  No shaky voice, no blanks in my French vocabulary, no tears at the edge of my eyes.  The receptionist offered me an appointment at 11.30 the following morning.  Part of my brain screamed “No, not yet, that’s too soon!” but the rest of it knew the truth.  It was time.

Tuesday morning came and went too fast.  Cinnamon was in top form.  Toddling around the garden.  Following me at top speed (and paying the price by tumbling over a hole Rosie had dug).  Snapping treats out of my hand.  Giving me a little kiss when I picked her up for a cuddle.  I alternated between thinking “What a lovely last morning she’s having” and “She’s not ready to go yet.”  But every time I thought of the torment she suffered with her panic attacks, I knew it was time.

I cuddled her on my knee all the way into Apt.  The staff at the Veterinary Hospital were understanding and kind.  Cinny slipped off to sleep with us both caressing her.  Once she was asleep, the vet gave her a second, lethal dose of anaesthetic.  My fingers were over her heart and I felt the last few beats.  Then she was gone.

But what a life she’d had, our Small Brown Dog.  Full of adventures, full of fun, full of love.

Her very first adventure was a trip to a horseshow in a wicker basket along with her two brothers at the age of eight weeks.  Her mum’s owner, a showjumping judge, figured that she’d be bound to find homes for puppies at an event packed with children and animal lovers.  She was right.  She went home with an empty basket, and we went home with a tiny brown puppy that somehow smelled of cinnamon.

In between that first adventure and her final trip to Apt, Cinnamon learned to sing along with mobile phone ringtones, bark at the postman (and other visitors) and sleep in the still-warm rugs taken off stabled horses.

Back in Cork - curled up in a warm rug on a cold morning

She nursed hungover teenagers…

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…and older people with broken wrists.

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She was an avid fan of Simon’s Cat

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and a regular Skype user.

Skyping Mom

Skyping Mom

She spent many happy hours hunting mice, rats…

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…moles and lizards.

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She was incredibly proud of herself when she learned to swim at the ripe old age of ten…

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…which was definitely a good thing, as she fell into the swimming pool in Cereste twice, just before we moved out.

She crossed the sea many times and travelled thousands and thousands of kilometres around Europe.  She begged at many kitchens, made friends wherever she went…

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and of course she perfected the Hypnodog stare.

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She has left a deep, gaping Cinnamon-sized hole in our lives and tiny paw prints all over our hearts.

I probably have a thousand photos of Cinny, but I must thank Stephen, Bob and George for their photos which I have included here.  Huge thanks also to our kind vets in Apt – Bassine, Pfister & Gibier, and all their staff.

The Last Adventure of a Small Brown Dog, Part 2

It’s taken me a while to finish this two-part post.  I realised last night that it was because I needed to know how the story ended. And the story has ended now. 

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In case you missed it, here’s part 1.  Last Adventure of a Small Brown Dog Part 1

The evening before we left for Chamonix, I dropped Cookie off at the kennels in Montfuron.  She knew where she was going.  She jumped down into the footwell in front of the passenger seat and stayed there the whole journey, giving me the big sad eye any time I looked at her.  I couldn’t help but wonder if she felt she was being punished for what had happened the day before.  Probably not.  I don’t think dogs are too good at figuring out causality.

The following morning, we dosed Cinnamon with Zylkene to help her cope with the journey, then we delivered Rosie to our friends.  Cinnamon was on my knee and I put her on the ground when I got out to talk to them.  Mary and Glen agreed that she didn’t look great – they had looked after the three dogs a couple of weeks earlier when the LSH was away and there was an Osteopathy course I wanted to attend, so they knew what her ‘normal’ should be.  Worst case, we’d be looking for an emergency vet in Chamonix, we agreed.  And at least all of her family would be with her, should the end happen there.

The first section of our journey was autoroute, for about an hour.  I had made a nice cosy nest with cushions at my feet and hoped that Cinny would settle and sleep.  She didn’t.  She was up in my arms; she was down on the floor; she was up again; down again, panting smelly old-dog breath into my face… not distressed, just unsettled.

The second section of road was the long and winding stretch between Sisteron and Grenoble.  It takes about an hour and a half normally.  The LSH drove slower than usual, so a certain Small Brown Someone wouldn’t be rattled around too much.  She still didn’t settle.  We made a pit stop.  She sniffed around with a little interest and eventually dropped her bum and had a wee.  I took her for a short walk and noticed that she seemed a bit off-balance.  In car terms, the steering had a strong pull to the right.  Soreness?  Or had she had a stroke on top of the post panic attack trauma? Or was she still just a bit dazed?  She also refused to drink, but we’ve found that to be normal any time we travelled long-distance with herself and Cookie.

She finally fell asleep when we hit the autoroute again after the Vallée de Trièves and didn’t wake up until we arrived at our destination.  We were like parents with a child who has finally fallen asleep – afraid to stop the car, and speaking in whispers in case she awoke.

First thing on the agenda once we’d met up with the Young Folk was lunch, followed by a 30 minute walk.  I should have known what the 30 minute walk would entail.  After all, there was nothing but Alps all around us.

The plan was to carry Cinny in my rucksack, like a baby in a carrier.  We’ve done it before, and she’s fine with it.

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The problem was, I’d brought the wrong rucksack.  It was much too small, and she just didn’t fit.  Oops.  We more or less tied her into it with her leash and, with Aideen (her REAL Mom, remember?) carrying her, we set off.  Up a path that was more or less vertical.

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Photo Adriano Migliorati/Caters News. Click on image for National Geographic article

Tansy and Rowan skipped ahead like a pair of Ibex climbing an Italian dam.  The three of us who are not accustomed to Alpine strolls wallowed along in their wake.  Eventually, Rowan took on the role of dog-carrier, which worked much better.  Somewhere near the top, the trail levelled out.  We decided to let Cinny walk for a little bit (mostly to give her carrier a break).  To our amazement, she scampered along like a two -year old, practically towing the person at the other end of the leash along behind her.  The pull to the right was still there, but she’s only a tiny little thing, so it was easy to correct her and keep her on a relatively straight trajectory.

We went all the way up to the foot of the Glacier des Boissons, where Aideen, Tansy and I did some yoga.

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Taken from BeWilder Yoga on Instagram

After admiring the view, we made our way back down again.  This time, Cinny scampered along for all of the first section – a good kilometre, I’d say.  She was only carried when the going started to get really rough and steep again.

There’s life in the old dog yet! we said.

That set the tone for the weekend.  She amazed us with how well she coped with everything.  We brought her almost everywhere with us; sometimes she was carried, sometimes she walked.  When we went out for a meal, we left her in the rented chalet, safely locked up in her cage.  We also locked her in the cage at night, and I realised that she appreciated the security of it.  There was no wandering around the room, looking for her bed, which had become a hallmark of her days at home.

One thing that was still worrying me was her continued reluctance to drink water.  On the evening of the first day, she was sitting on Aideen’s knee and she yawned.  Suddenly I saw the reason – there was a puncture wound in the middle of her tongue.  She must have bitten through it, either when Cookie snapped at her or during her panic afterwards.  We coaxed her to drink some milk with a little water in it that evening, and the next morning I bought a 20ml syringe.  We syringed water into her mouth a couple of times a day and she gradually lost the slightly dazed air she had.  Dehydration is not good, no matter what age you are.

One of the things we wanted to do that weekend was the Three Countries, Three Meals tour.  Breakfast in Switzerland, lunch in Italy, dinner in France.  Well, of course Cinnamon came with us.

Breakfast in Switzerland was a picnic lunch beside the lac d’Emosson, high up in the mountains.

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Picnic breakfast at the Barrage d’Emosson in Switzerland

Everyone else went for a hike along the top of the dam, but we thought the cold and altitude would be too much for a Small Brown Elderly Dog, so I stayed at the car with her.  We walked around the carpark a few times, but it was seriously COLD!  There’s no doubt that she was better off in the car.

Lunch in Italy was pizza (of course) in the village of Courmayeur,  just on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc tunnel.  The young folk went for a walk uphill.  The old folk and the Small Brown Dog chose to go downhill to the river, basking in the heat reflected off the wall beside us.  Cinny trotted along happily, investigating the wall for lizards, who were enjoying the last of the summer sunshine.  Little terriers will always have certain instincts, no matter what!

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Courmayeur, Italy

We didn’t actually bring Cinny along for the third part of the day, dinner in France.  We felt she’d had a long and tiring trip, and that she’d be better off tucked up in her bed.  When we came back afterwards, she was still fast asleep.  Right decision.

But we needed to discuss her future with the rest of the family before we left for Provence.  Everyone agreed that it wouldn’t be long before she’d be making her final trip to the vet.  Even if her mouth healed quickly, she was becoming steadily weaker on her legs.  And then there was the senility, too.  We told them how she spends a lot of her time ‘lost’, either in the garden or in her little room downstairs, wandering in confused circles and becoming stuck in corners or behind furniture.

The morning we left, the girls said what we all knew would be their last goodbyes to their Small Brown Four-legged sibling.  I managed to hold back the tears.  More or less.

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And this is where I intended to finish The Last Adventure of the Small Brown Dog.  But I couldn’t.  I knew deep down that it wasn’t the end.  The end would come, six weeks later.

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Adventure of A Small Brown Dog. Part 1.

 

On the road again

A well-travelled little lady

Long-time readers might remember that Cinnamon occasionally ‘guest-wrote’ in my blog, with Diary of a Small Brown Dog. She did three posts all told, here are the links if anyone is interested.

Diary of a Small Brown Dog

Diary of a Small Brown Dog

Small Brown Dog

The thing is, I lost her voice some time ago – I just couldn’t write for her any more.  Maybe I could see the changes that the years were causing in her body and in her mind, and I didn’t want to admit that her time with us was finite.  Because her voice would have changed, of course.  She was no longer the perky little terrier that she used to be.  She had become a little old lady, or La petite mamie, as the French say.

Let me just reassure you for a moment – she’s still with us.  For now.  She’s almost completely blind, but she can see movement and light, which is a big help when we’re calling her in from the garden.  Thankfully, she is not deaf.  Deafness plus blindness would be tough for all of us.  She is quite arthritic.  I’ve tried her with turmeric, which didn’t seem to help much, and I’ve tried her with conventional medicines, (Rimadyl) which caused a horrific and frightening reaction where she became intensely, insanely itchy.  At the time, I said “If we can’t get her through this, it’s time.”  It wasn’t time.

So : blind and arthritic, on top of the heart murmur she’s had all her life.  Standard for an old dog, really.  But Cinny has also become senile, something which I’ve never experienced with a dog before.  She gets lost, both in her room and in the garden.  She gets stuck in corners and can’t figure out how to get out.  She climbs into her bed, doesn’t realise she’s in it and climbs right back out again the other side.  She can’t figure out how to reverse anymore – we frequently have to rescue her from behind open doors, or beside the washing machine.  She panics when she’s touched.  If I pick her up, she turns her head and tries to bite my hand.  But : most of the time, she is content in her own little world.  She toddles in and out of the garden.  Sure, every so often we have to go and extricate her from a corner or from under the car but that’s no big deal.  She’s been eating really well and launches herself enthusiastically at my hand whenever she can smell a treat.  Eating is a big deal, as far as I’m concerned.  If she stops eating, it’s time.

Last weekend, we had a big family reunion planned in Chamonix.  The usual question arose – What would we do with the dogs?  Rosie would be minded by our friends, Mary and Glen.  (Mary is an Irishwoman who lives the other side of Reillanne.  I’m not the only one in the village!) I looked after their twenty-year old cats a while ago, and they wanted to repay the favour.  They also plan on getting a dog once their cats pass on, and Rosie is a nice easy dog to practice on!

That left Cookie and Cinnamon.  We decided to bring them with us.  The whole family knows that Cinny won’t be around much longer, and Aideen (who is her REAL Mom) wanted to see her one last time.  Cookie is too much of a pain in the ass to ask anyone else to look after so, by default, she was coming too.  Until, two days before our departure, she attacked Cinnamon.

It was breakfast time for the dogs.  I was already at work, and it was the LSH who was doling out their food.  Cinnamon bumbled into Cookie, who turned and snapped, catching her across the bridge of the nose.  It was no big deal – terriers react first and think afterwards – but Cinnamon went into a complete panic, racing around and around the small room, yelping hysterically.  The LSH caught her and tried to soothe her by holding her for a few minutes, but her hysteria increased; she wriggled and squirmed in his arms, arching herself backwards as she did so; her breathing became very fast and shallow; he could feel her heart pounding under his hands.  Fearing a heart attack, he decided it would be better to allow her to obey her instincts and run, so he opened the front door and took her out into the garden.  She ran and ran and ran, screaming all the time – crashing into trees, bushes, the garden fence, the wall of the house as she did so, and falling over several times.

Not such a good idea…  He managed to corner her and grab her again, but her panic remained.  In the end, he put a leash on her and basically lunged her as you would lunge a horse.  She ran about ten laps in each direction and finally calmed down.

The whole episode had lasted forty-five minutes.

Thinking that the worst had passed, he took her into the house (shutting the other two outside!) and gave her one of her heart tablets.  Then he gave her her food.  But she wasn’t eating very well, and when he looked inside her mouth, he realised that she was holding the food in her mouth and not actually swallowing it.  A post-panic reaction?  Or another step in her dementia?

He shut her into her room, to give her some peace and quiet.  By the time I got home, she was clearly in shock, completely dazed, and staggering weakly if she tried to move.  On top of that, there were little drops of blood coming from somewhere – her nose? her mouth?  We weren’t sure.

From the moment I saw her, I had that awful lump in my throat that stops me from speaking.  You know – the one that usually has a few tears accompanying it.  I made the LSH call the vet to arrange an emergency visit, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to speak.  By the time we got there, I was calmer and we had agreed that we’d be guided by the vet.  If he felt she was in too much distress, then we’d say OK, it’s time.

The vet was remarkably unfussed by her condition.  “I’ll give her a shot of cortisone for the shock.  That’ll help with the pain, too.  You’ll see an improvement in twenty minutes.”

Really? Twenty minutes? What about going to Chamonix for the weekend?

“Why not?”

He gave us a natural calmative, Zylkene, saying it would help her cope with the journey, and told us to have a good weekend. “But of course, if you’re worried about her tomorrow, bring her in,” he added.

Oka-a-a-ay.

We discussed the drops of blood I had seen and he looked inside her mouth, as best he could.  No broken teeth, no damage on her gums.  Either she had bitten her tongue or the blood was coming from her nose.  We’d have to keep an eye on it.

On the way home, we agreed that the weekend would be much simpler if Cookie went into kennels.  That way, we wouldn’t have to worry about keeping Cinnamon out of her way, and we wouldn’t have our usual worry of “What if Cookie escapes?” We’d have to see how our patient was bearing up the next day, but it looked like our family reunion was going ahead…

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