As a parent, I’m always wary when the kids bung on one of their dying swan “can I stay home from school” routines. These performances can be worthy of an Academy Award. Yet, all too often when I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt, they resurrect like Lazarus and “party like it’s 1999”.
Bilbo in peak performance appropriating another dog’s ball.
On the other hand, our dog’s never chucked a sickie in his life. He’s either chasing his ball with mad obsessive focus and eating like a hollow-legged teen. Or, he’s seriously ill. Moreover, when it comes to jumping in the car and going to the beach, he at the door in a flash. Never tells me to “wait”. Indeed, he’d be out the door already if he could open it himself.
However, Bilbo is no longer a pup. He’s now 77 in dog years, and he’d be forgiven for requesting a Dawson Chair, a Zimmer frame and signing up for the pension. However, being a Border Collie to the core, he tells me there’s life in the old dog yet.
Unfortunately, Bilbo is gravely ill. Last week, he started getting sluggish, and my radar kicked in. We noticed he coughed up a blood cyst, but as he was still eating, we didn’t rush him off to the vet. However, last night he went off his food and when that continued this morning, we knew it was time. By this point, we were obviously expecting one of those conversations you don’t want to have with the vet. Not only in terms of what might be wrong with him, and there might be nothing they can do. There’s also that other conversation. That is, that there is treatment, but what is it going to cost? It’s hard to put a measurement on love that knows no bounds. Yet, the bank balance doesn’t understand that, and shows no mercy. It’s a callous brute without compassion.
However, all those thoughts could wait. We still had a few hours before we could get into the vet.
Since the dogs were already in the car, I decided to take them to the beach. Not the best move, in hindsight as the vet has ordered him to rest. However, I’m not a vet. I’m his Mum and knowing how much he loves the beach and what it’s means to us, I wanted him to be in his favourite place…his heaven on earth.
However, if I needed confirmation that Bilbo wasn’t well, this was it. He laboured down the beach so slowly, that he was his own ghost. I threw his ball, and he didn’t blink. He just let it roll into the water. I tried a few more times with the same result, retrieving the ball myself. As much as I’ve thought his obsession with the tennis ball was extreme, seriously annoying and beyond the realms of addiction, this was worse. It felt like an echoing emptyness, if that makes any sense.
Yet, like a noble warrior, he ultimately did have a few laboured efforts.
You have to feel for the old dog unable to chase his ball, when some young whippersnapper races off with it.
Meanwhile, his young mates chased the ball like maniacs, legs whirling furiously through the sand.
By this point, you’d expect that some kind of emotion would set in, but I was blank. Couldn’t feel anything. It’s a day we’ve known is coming, and I don’t know how to react. I don’t feel I can cry anymore. That there aren’t any tears. That too much has happened and I’ve become a rock. A rock with some kind of senses, but nothing like who I was.
Or, perhaps, I’ve simply grown up. Become resiliant.
This would be a good thing because this time we lose a dog, I have to be the strong one. I have to be the rock supporting the kids. Mum can’t go to pieces. Can’t be the mess. I need to put on the big high heels and answer their questions, hug and comfort them and wipe away their tears, especially as they don’t even remember life without Bilbo. Miss was about 10 months old and crawling when Bilbo arrived and Mr was 3 years old. I still remember how Mr missed our previous dog (a huge Old English Sheepdog called Rufus) and didn’t like the new puppy because he wanted a big dog. Mr had been able to sit on Rufus and use him as a horse. He was a very big dog indeed.
A family photo with Bilbo as a pup Mother’s Day, 2007.
So, Bilbo has been part of our family during a very special ten years of our lives.
Yet, it’s not time to get all misty eyed yet. At this point, we’re still at the beach. It’s 18°C and a gloriously sunny Winter’s day and the beach is magic.
Mid-morning, we return to the vet. He quickly points out that Bilbo’s gums and tongue are an exceptionally pale shade of pink and I’m quite shocked. He took some blood and we were sent out to wait. My husband ducked off to pick our daughter up from dancing. I wasn’t sure she should be there, but figured that the vet’s better versed at this than us. That if there is bad news, the vet no doubt knows what to say.
11 years is a long time in human years too!
The news from the vet wasn’t good, but it wasn’t all bad. At this point, it seems that Bilbo could have an unpronouncable auto-immune disease. I can’t remember what the vet called it, and meant to write it down. His red blood cell count is down to 2.86 (should be 5.65-8.87) and his haemoglobin is 5.3 when it should be 13.1 – 20.5). He has just enough platelets to hope the treatment could work. His white cell count is high and he seems to be fighting back. He was given an injection of prednisone and is on tablets. I take him back on Monday morning for a CT of his spleen and a followup.
Meanwhile, I started my own, additional treatment. We bought him some fresh mince to see if that might stimulate his appetite and we had a rather hungry dog. He’s eaten 500g of mince tonight, minus a few donations to Lady, our other dog. It’s not going to cure him, but it might give him a fighting chance. Get him over the hump. It’s also much cheaper than a blood transfusion!!
Of course, I’m hopeful that he’s going to be okay. That there isn’t going to be something else going on and he’ll respond to treatment. He’s been in good health, so surely that must help… That “he’ll be right, mate.”
Well, it’s now Sunday afternoon. Bilbo’s still with us and lying on my lap quite happy to be a lap top dog. He’s eating the mince, but not so keen on his kibble. He’s perked up a fair bit. Yet, his beathing is very rapid, and I guess that’s the big concern and we still need to take that CT of his spleen.
So, I am feeling optimistic. No doubt, it’s the sort of optimism based on wishful thinking. An optimism which could seriously backfire and hurt like hell.
Yet, like the kids who don’t know life without Bilbo, I can’t imagine it either and am still hopeful that the vet might find that magic pill which will give him eternal life.
Meanwhile, Bilbo’s been instructed to “Stay. Don’t go near the Rainbow Bridge. Why don’t you watch a bit of TV….”
Yet, although he’s always been an incredibly obedient and faithful dog, there will come a time when that last journey will come.
All the same, can I put in a request?
Thank you in advance for your concern. It is much appreciated!!