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