Friday, 17 September 2010

When Pets Grieve

Bailey keeping Taffy warm last Christmas

It has been really hard to come into this blog and talk about Taffy. I can carry on as if nothing has happened and then burst into tears for my faithful friend. I tell myself off frequently and try to be stronger but Taffy was the most special dog anyone could ever wish to own. Bearded  Collies can easily live to a very old  age and still be very healthy so in his breed terms Taffy passed away far too soon.

The last six months have seen me on an emotional roller coaster as we dealt with one health issue after another. Just before last Christmas 2009 Taffy  was unwilling to go on walks and as he never complains it was difficult to work out what was wrong. I think that was one of our main communication problems. He desperately didn't want to be ill or cause a fuss so put on a brave face for me, often. But his reluctance to come on the morning walks and then even worse his refusal to go outside the front door  had us taking him to the vets.This was followed by a visit to a specialist when he then started going downhill. At this time he had his spleen removed and Bailey our younger Bearded Collie slept next to him whilst he recovered.

Bailey is an active,boisterous and very independant young dog prone to racing around on his own. Never leaning on any of us or Taffy for company.Or so I thought.

When Taffy fell ill a second time with a blood problem again Bailey helped him by barking for Taffy when he needed attention for going out or coming in,even when he needed a drink or food. Bailey became Taffys guardian and keeper. He had a very important role and he relished it.

Taffy recovered yet again and Bailey seemed to be his usual independant self but at night it was always Bailey who barked to go in the garden or come in fo rthe both of them and it was always Bailey who woke us at six or seven in the morning with even more really loud barking. But I have now learned this was Baileys way of letting me know Taffy was awake and needed me.

Taffy is now gone and I had another critical problem on my hands.

Bailey refused to eat after Taffy passed away.

Out of all the dogs we have ever owned Bailey is not the one I thought would pine but he did and it was pitiful to witness. Not only would he not eat but he became listless and looked really depressed. At this point  I was advised to get another puppy but I waited and patiently cooked meals to tempt Bailey around. My own heart was breaking and yet I had to try to convince this younger dog that life was worth living without his dearest friend.

Bailey has never been a single dog. He has slept with Taffy since he was a puppy and has also always eaten with Taffy.

Things got worse and a week went by where  I was running out of ideas on how to help  Bailey pull around.
I started a new routine of walking Bailey at different times on different routes. I allowed Biscuit our female cat to sleep with him. But he never barked at us in the mornings to come to him Instead I was woken each day by the saddest whining and howling I have ever heard in my life from an animal. It tore me apart and I would race downstairs to comfort him. But no cuddle helped. I was not who he wanted to see.

I felt helpless and even more miserable. But finally something changed. I bought toys for Bailey to play with. Ropes, bones that you find in pet shops, the safe variety and I threw sticks and raced for him to follow me in the garden. Slowly  and daily there were small improvements in his spirit and mine. He ate bits. Just tiny morsels  at first. He did  fetch the rope once or twice and he did come to me for cuddles. But he continued to cry in the mornings when he woke to find Taffy was still not there.

He did not understand.

This week we have both crossed a milestone.

Bailey is eating twice a day now and eagerly bringing his rope to me to play with.We are walking with friends and their dogs which helps a lot, especially a young Border Collie puppy who we have come to enjoy seeing.

Our new daily routine really is helping us both. I have to be here for Bailey and in turn he is  making me see my tomorrows are going to be full of joy owning a young dog who has stood in the shadow of an older hero for too long.

It's Baileys turn now to take centre stage and I need to let him.

Pets do grieve and we need to understand they need help too when they lose  a companion.


Sunday, 12 September 2010

Goodbye Sweet Taffy

This is the hardest post to share on my blog and I have tried several times this week to come in and add the news that we lost our gorgeous sweet donkey sized dog Taffy last Friday. Since Christmas this year Taffy has overcome surgery, a  rare disease that effected his blood and still brilliantly enjoyed life to the very end. His passion for sneaking cat food which he knew he wasn't allowed stayed with him even on the morning he passed away when he had his last bowl which was intended for the cats who he adored.

All Summer I have been worried about leaving him for any length of time in case he passed away while I was not by his side. I almost cancelled workshops in Norway but my husband stayed with Taffy so that I  didn't let everyone down there who had booked and looked forward to the watercolour sessions. Every day I rang home to see how he was and each time I heard he was fine I relaxed but the flight home saw me huryring to get back to the four legged companion who had loved me for over thirteen years.

Taffy did not want to lose the battle and he did not want to say goodbye.The vet who was with me when Taffy had his last hug and kiss knew my heart was breaking. Everyone knew my beloved boys system had started to shut down. His blood count was so frighteningly low that he couldn't go on any longer and yet he   still looked at me with loving eyes as if to apologise for not being able to stay with me.

I fell into a million broken pieces when he took his last breath. I still feel broken and I am simply going through the motions of my routine and daily life. Nothing can give me that feeling of joy as Taffys nose nuzzled my hand and no one can make me laugh out loud the way he did with his comical behaviour. He had a way of wrapping me around his  paw whenever he wanted something.

To many of my artist friends Taffy was a gorgeous subject to paint. He has lived in Dubai, France, Hong Kong,Belgium and met dogsthat I jokingly teased barked in many different languages.

I loved him in a way that those with a close bond with their pets will understand. Taffy could have been in a movie as his life was so extraordinary.

How I am dealing with his loss isn't as good as it should be. Emotionally I falter and I cry easily when I think no one is looking. I feel shaky inside and know this feeling has to pass.
But for now I am truly grieving for one of the most  incredible dogs I will ever know in my lifetime.

Thank you so much to everyone who has sent cards and well wishes of support.

My heart is broken but they say time heals.

Sleep with angels sweet  Taffy.