This week we had to say goodbye to one of our animal friends. Audrey was a beagle that we adopted from the local shelter 5 years ago. Since her second family surrendered her, her history was spotty at best. All that we knew was that she was originally named Chloe and her second family changed that name to Daisy. We named her Audrey Hepburn as her kohl-rimmed eyes and small frame made her look like she was fit to star with Fred Astaire in Funny Face. She had a penchant for eating Kleenex and loved kids despite occasionally chewing their plastic toys. She was obsessed with the cat. She was a sweet, gentle dog that had so much patience with our son.
We woke one morning in 2009, and Audrey was unable to walk. Her back end was completely paralyzed. We brought her to our local vet who in turn sent us to a specialist in Toronto. Apparently two of her thoracic vertebrae had hardened and burst chalky deposits putting pressure on her spinal cord. Without the recommended surgery, her spine cord would atrophy and die. While the surgery was very expensive (particularly on the reserve where it would have been the cost of a bullet), we decided that we liked the odds of an 80% success rate. I also could not consciously buy anything for myself ever again knowing that I did not do all that I could do to help her. We considered ourselves lucky that we had the money available to spend on the surgery.
She spent two weeks recovering in the fancy-shmancy Rosedale veterinary hospital and we brought her home for a long 6-week recovery. We carried her up and down stairs, massaged her leg muscles and did mobility exercises so that her strength would return. Her hair eventually grew back and she was ready to join our pack again. Our other two dogs were happy that a pesky dog gate no longer separated them from Audrey.
While she sometimes had days where her back end was really stiff, most days were filled with doggy happiness after the surgery. This past week, however, we noticed that she was starting to appear lamer and lamer. She had periods where she would shake and pant anxiously with pain. We took her to the emergency veterinarian where we ended her suffering. Although I had worked in a veterinary hospital and have done the same with my 18-year old childhood dog, it was not any easier. It was hard to see Fuzz suffer, as it was him who she ran up to and planted a huge kiss on that day we went to adopt a dog from the shelter. We didn’t choose her, she chose him.
We thank everyone that sent us kind words of condolences. It was truly appreciated as we lost an important part of our family. Our son has been walking around looking for Audrey. Our other dogs were howling and have spent most of the time sleeping. Fuzz is actually angrier than usual (who would have thought was possible?) and I have done my fair share of ugly cries. It will be an adjustment for all of us. While we did receive some off the mark comments such as “well at least you have one less dog to care for”, most people were sympathetic and we are thankful.
After reflecting on all that had happened this week, I was reminded of a story that my Granny had told me. She had told me that the dog lost the ability to speak after humans had rescued them. Although dogs and humans could never communicate verbally again, they would always maintain a special inter-species relationship and the dog would remain forever loyal – so loyal that a dog would sacrifice their own life to protect that of their human companion. I think I take comfort in the fact that maybe that’s just what Audrey was doing for us.