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.