silly_cleo: A photo of my dog, with the text "missy moo!" (missy moo)
[personal profile] silly_cleo
I feel like all I ever use DW for anymore is whining, but I really think writing this out will help me get it out of my head, so here I am.

So I've talked on my LJ in the past and on twitter more recently about my mum's dog, Missy. I love her very very much, and visiting her was always a big factor in my visits here, particularly the last two, as she would've been 12 in April.

She died sometime Wednesday night, really unexpectedly. It was a big shock. I've talked about it on twitter quite a lot, and been texting [personal profile] carawj about it, but I find my thoughts going in circles. In particular, I have a lot of guilt about her death, which numerous conversations with my mum, the vets, Cara, my aunt and uncle, and some of you online indicate is unwarranted. I don't really want to be carrying it around, the grief is kind of bad enough.

So. When I first arrived, about 3 weeks ago, I noticed she was a little wheezy at times when she lay down (at first I thought it was snoring, cuz it was the same sound she's always made when she sleeps but then I noticed she did it when she was awake too, but it didn't seem loud or to be causing her any discomfort, or impede her running around) and had lost a bit of weight. Neither of these things alarmed me hugely, as as I said, she was nearly 12, my mum moved in with my aunt and uncle a year or so ago and they have different attitudes to pet ownership to me and mum that weren't always 100% compatible with what Missy was used to. Like, Missy was never a food-oriented dog, and she was always an only dog, so if she didn't eat her breakfast or dinner right away it was always there for her to come back to. But my aunt and uncle's dogs are both big gutses so if she left her food or didn't fancy it they'd just eat it unless we put it away and she'd miss out. And my aunt and uncle thought we shouldn't coddle her about food, she should eat when it was mealtime. She wasn't dangerously thin, just thinNER. Plus she never liked dry food, which is what they get for dinner, so she'd often leave that. Sometimes she'd not fancy her breakfast either. And this is a lifelong thing with her, not a recent development, just not something compatible with how my aunt and uncle are with their dogs. Just, when she was an only dog her food bowl was always full, like a cat, so she could come back to it, which stopped being an option with my aunt and uncle's dogs around. We'd started sneaking her occasional extra treats and a bit of the cat's dry food (cuz she liked it) and were going to ask the vet about her weight at her yearly appt.

So that's one thing. Mum had left her yearly check-up till I arrived cuz she knew I liked to go with her and ask questions. So we had it booked, actually. Friday. And I had a list of questions, including her breathing and weight.

So I wonder if if we'd not procrastinated booking the appt and gone a couple of weeks ago if that would've made a difference.

But she really did seem fine. She was the same as usual, she was SO happy to see me, she was cuddly, she loved going for walks, she sat with us during the day, and in our beds at night, she was affectionate, her usual self. Like, she seemed a little melancholy/anxious at times but that has also always been part of her personality.

Then on Tuesday we went for a walk on the beach, and we had a great time, as usual. I wish I had taken photos, but they would have looked like all my other beach walk photos. But I still wish I had taken them. She was fetching sticks, and sniffing everything, and ignoring us calling her when she found smelly things, and chasing birds, and generally having the awesome time she always did at the beach. And we got home, and gave her and Ozzie (one of aunt and uncle's dogs) baths cuz they were salty and a bit smelly, and I rubbed her dry, and she ate her dinner, and she sat with me all evening as usual, and we went to bed as usual.

Then Wednesday morning, she didn't eat her breakfast, which wasn't unusual as I've said. I went horse-riding and tried to give it to her when I came back around lunchtime. (She ran out to say hello and was v happy to see us when we got home, which was also as usual.) But she wasn't interested in her breakfast still, which worried me a little but not hugely. Over the course of the afternoon I tried her with cat food, a treat, a bit of my toast. She wasn't interested in any of them, and I got a bit more worried. Around mid-afternoon I coaxed her up onto mum's bed and we lay there for a bit and she seemed a bit tired and unhappy. Then I don't really remember when I started getting really worried exactly, but I noticed she was having a lot more trouble breathing, and she was walking everywhere really slowly and carefully. She sat down a few odd places. So I had her on my bed and was just cuddling her and petting her and listening to her breathe. I mentioned to my mum and aunt and uncle that I was worried, they all agreed she didn't seem well, but they all thought maybe she'd eaten something bad at the beach. We noticed she'd thrown up a little, and maybe had some diarrhea. (We now think this might've been fluid from her lungs.)

Mum and I decided we'd call the vet, who is also a family friend, and get her opinion. By this time it was time for my ballet class, and my aunt and uncle were going to the supermarket, and they gave me a ride, so I settled Missy on her bed near mum's desk and left. (Another small hurt: I didn't really say goodbye properly, because they were in a hurry to get going.)

When I got out of class, my and aunt and uncle were there to pick me up and said it was because mum had taken Missy to the vet because she collapsed. After talking to mum it sounds like more of the stuff I had noticed over the course of the afternoon. (She had sat down by the water bowl and was just sitting on the floor all over the place, which she didn't usually like to do.) So mum had panicked and taken her to the vet, who said she was very ill, and said they'd keep her overnight and put her on a drip and gave her painkillers. And...I wish I had insisted we take her to the vet earlier in the afternoon.

This is where I get confused between what the vet told me, what the vet told mum, and what the nurse told me. Jo (vet) rang yesterday when she heard Missy had died to say sorry and I answered the phone. She said she had heard a quiet/dark spot when she listened to Missy's chest, which is suggestive of some sort of tumour or cyst or cancerous growth. The nurse also said that when they found her in the morning she had died in the night, no sign of convulsing, her limbs weren't twisted about, she just looked like she was sleeping, except a lot of liquid from her lungs had come out her mouth, and some of it smelled...necrotic. Like, dead. This is apparently also suggestive of there being something in there that shouldn't have been.

The vets also said they were surprised she didn't make it through the night cuz when they left her she seemed fine, resting comfortably, in good spirits.

They also said her white cell count was very high, which says a lot of infection was present.

But then Jo also told mum it might just've been pneumonia or a lung infection. I don't know. We won't know unless we request an autopsy, and it only matters so much anyway, it won't bring her back. Like, she was in REALLY good condition for her age but she was still old, and a respiratory thing is still serious, I guess.

Which is where the guilt comes in. I wish I had insisted we go to the vet sooner, both in my visit for her check up, and earlier in the day on Wednesday.

On the flipside, I don't have any actual way of knowing that would have made any difference. She just went downhill so fast. Like say I had insisted we take her to the vet sooner, they didn't say it would've helped her live through the night, though I can't help but wonder whether they would tell us if it would have. Like surely if she'd had less time struggling on her own and more time with the drip and the painkillers that would've helped. Like your body reaches a crisis point, but if she'd had help, could that have been averted, or was it already too late. Like her lungs were going to fill up with fluid even if she was on antibiotics and painkillers and stuff.

Or say I'd insisted we go to the vet at the beginning of the month, and they noticed her breathing, and drained some fluid, and gave her an anesthetic, so she could have an X-Ray, and all of that is not nothing to go through at her age (at any age) only to find it was a tumour. We wouldn't have treated her. (YMMV and I'm not up for debate on the topic right now but IMO it's not kind to treat pets for things like cancer. I've seen what chemo and radiotherapy do, it's hard enough when you know why it's happening, never mind that we can't explain to them.) So we'd have been in the same place, but had to make a really hard, horrible decision.

The only good scenario I can see is if it was just an infection and could've been treated sooner and we would've just had a scare but the odds of that are so slim and that's just not the reality we're living with.

And I can think of more bad scenarios than I can good, actually. And at the end of the day it all boils down to the same thing. I want more time, but no amount would ever have been enough. In one year, or two, or three, or five, I would've felt this way. It's like when you're a kid. '5 more minutes, mum.'

Like I dunno, if this had happened next week, when mum and I were going to be away, we would never have forgiven ourselves. And my aunt and uncle probably wouldn't have taken her to the vet, and they never would have forgiven themselves. And at least we did take her to the vet Wednesday. If she had died at home Wednesday night, that would have been AWFUL, and we would also never have forgiven ourselves.

And at least I'm here. I got to see her one more time, and I can be here for mum for a bit. Like I'm so, so glad for both those things. My other uncle, who's her favourite brother, is arriving tomorrow, and staying till the end of March. Then she's coming to the UK in May, and we would've been worried about Missy then too.

Like she was always the best, most well-behaved little dog, she was never ever even a bit of trouble, and we've been joking that even in death, she was trying to cause us as little difficulty as possible.

I think...I think I'll never know *exactly* what she died of, or what exact thing I could have done differently to prevent it, if there's even anything I could've done. And even if I could've prevented it now, for all I know the next time it would've been something worse. And I think of the dogs I know who are older than her, whose owners I won't deny I envy and resent right now. But also...they're so old. And they have so many health problems. Their eyesight is bad, their hearing is bad, they have arthritis, they have breathing problems, they have anxiety (literally actually, Kestral takes pills for it), they're grumpy. Missy got 12 years of really great health. Even say it was a tumour, it clearly wasn't bothering her until that last day. She was so happy, she was so full of energy always, the exact same energy she'd had since she was a baby, she loved us, she knew we loved her, she had loads of good beach walks, and cuddles, and petting, she had a really awesome life.

And then at the end I kept her company all day, and she went to the vet, and there wasn't any pain, and it was quick. Like any scenario where we kept her alive would probably have been less fun for her, and maybe not actually done any good. Like what would've been the good of more tests, and feeling crappy, and then maybe dying anyway.

So...I guess I could feel guilty, if I wanted to. Being a pet owner is hard, and a big deal, because they can't speak, we have to guess what they need, and we can't always get it right, and the possibility we made a couple of mistakes with her towards the end is there. But the evidence suggests to me she was happy all the way up to that last day. And then it was quick. so much better for her. So I can feel guilty, if I want to, but except for Wednesday afternoon, there were no definite signs there was something seriously wrong. It's easy to take stuff more seriously with hindsight. And when she was seriously unwell, we took her to the vet.

Cara keeps saying (and actually, mum and I keep saying to ourselves too) that we shouldn't feel bad for Missy, but for us, who are really going to miss her.

And how much we're going to miss her just goes to show how great she was. She loved us so much, and we almost deserved her, and we loved her almost as much.

That seems like a good note to end on, but I have to tack on one more thing cuz I want to say it. We picked up her body yesterday afternoon, and I carried it from the vet's office to the car, and it still felt like her. (She's wrapped up so you can't see her.) She's currently in one of the freezers in the garage and I've been by a few times to check on her and pat her, which I know is silly.

Also I feel like an awful human cuz I can't stand the other two dogs right now, just cuz they're alive and she isn't. I guess that's normal too though and I'm not being mean to them, so I guess I'm still following my own rule of 'all emotions are OK, it's actions that count'.

We're burying her tomorrow, because tomorrow is when we can go to my aunt and uncle's new house, which currently has tenants. They're selling this house and will move there soon. We talked it over and decided we didn't want to leave her behind, even if there are two of their horses, one of their dogs and one of their cats here to keep her company. We'll pick a nice spot in the garden and find a tree to plant over it. I thought I wouldn't care about leaving her behind, but I find I like the idea of being able to visit her a lot.

OK. That's it. I hoped it would help, but I guess we'll see. So yeah. RIP Missy, properly named but never called Mistral, April 2004 - Februay 2016.
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