There is a famous saying that says ‘having a dog will bless you with many of the happiest days of your life, and one of the worst,‘ a saying that resonates a brutal, unimaginable and unthinkable truth, yet at sometime or another will affect us all.
I first met Rachel from The Paw Paw UK, a blog for pets, at Crufts earlier this year. We hit it off straight away – both of us dog obsessed, and both of us shared our lives with characterful little terriers who were our whole world. Like Poppy, Rachel’s dog Daisy was a Parson Jack Russell terrier cross, and like Poppy, it was clear she was a BIG personality who was VERY loved!
Not long after we met at Crufts, poor little Daisy became ill with doggy dementia and lost her battle with the disease earlier this year. It struck a real chord with me. In so many ways Daisy seemed similar to Pops – a spritely little dog, always so full of vitality and with a real zest for life – I mean terriers go on forever right? At least that’s what everyone tells you – and boy do I hang onto their every word.
I would read Rachel’s blog posts about Daisy through tear-laden eyes and hope and pray that it would never happen to my girl. The harsh reality is though, it’s an inevitable part of sharing your life with a dog, but knowing when the time is right to say goodbye and knowing when, or if, to welcome a new furry friend into your life is one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make; and it is a decision riddled with a whole host of emotions.
Deciding on the topic for Rachel’s guest blog was tricky – I love Rachel’s style of writing and find her blog posts informative and entertaining, but I wanted more than anything to ask how she coped with losing her beloved Daisy, and how she’s managing to move forward with her life.
Tell us a little bit about your first dog Daisy!
Daisy came into my life in July 2009. She was my friend Jane’s dog – she’d adopted her from Manchester Dog’s Home in January 2008 where she’d been brought in as a stray aged 2/3.
Jane had a baby and as Daisy was a lively terrier she asked if I could look after her for the first few weeks while she settled into life as a new mum. I fell in love with Daisy (everyone who met her did) and she let me keep her!
Daisy totally changed my life. Before, I was working as a freelance journalist, travelling a lot, spending a lot of time on my own sat in a car waiting for people to come home so I could approach them on behalf of newspapers and magazines who were interested in their stories.
I never thought I could have a dog because it wouldn’t be fair on them. But when Daisy came to live with me, I couldn’t leave her so my work changed. I did more work from home, and began writing more about the pet world and totally revolved my life around her. It was the best thing that ever happened to me!
When Daisy was diagnosed with dementia it must have been devastating. What did you find helped her (and you) to cope?
It was. She was a senior dog and was 13 when she was diagnosed. She’d had a rough few months leading up to the diagnosis in January 2018.
She had pancreatitis in the October, and the vet noticed some soreness in her back so she went for a scan in December, and the vet found a tiny lump in her tummy which she had removed.
We were told to rest her for a few weeks to see how she was which she hated! Even though she was old, she loved running around. As we started walking her more, she began leaping on and off kerbs and that was the first sign.
We thought it was because she was so excited to be walking but she’d lost her depth perception. Then she became restless at night and started growling at sudden movements. It was totally out of character and she had a few accidents in the house. She became disorientated and was unsteady on her feet. I wrote down a list of the things that were happening and took it to the vet. When I looked at it, I knew it was similar to human dementia but I’d never heard of a dog having it before.
We were upset when we learned she had dementia, as it really hit home she was getting old. But I did lots of research and had amazing support from her vets, Rachel and Stuart at Lymm Veterinary Surgery, and we were positive about the future.
I coped by spending as much time as I could with her – one of my clients I do a lot of work for told me to take time out to care for her and I’m so glad I did. She was prescribed Vivitonin which increases blood flow to the brain, heart and muscles and increases the amount of oxygen and nutrients to these organs and a nutritional supplement, Aktivait which contain vitamins, antioxidants and fatty acids that can prevent damage in the brain.
I saw a change in her really quickly. The growling stopped and she was back to enjoying her walks. We took her to Whitby for my birthday and she pulled her lead out of my hand while I was taking a photo of her and ran off chasing sheep! I was covered in sheep poo!
Losing a pet is something none of us want to think about, but how did you know when it was time to say goodbye to Daisy?
A few months after the dementia diagnosis, in April this year, she deteriorated. She became anxious and started vocalising (making funny noises) which is one of the advanced dementia symptoms.
We became worried about her vision as she couldn’t see her favourite blue ball and kept walking into things. The vet checked her visual field and confirmed our fears. It was really reduced, which explained why she couldn’t always see her ball as she could only see from a small part of her eye.
She suspected a tumour was pressing on her optic nerve. We took some time to consider having an MRI scan to see what was there. In just a few days, Daisy went rapidly downhill. The vocalising increased, a sign of anxiety, and I knew she wasn’t in pain as she was on medication for that, but I could tell she was frightened of what was happening to her.
Over the course of a weekend she became more and more anxious. It was heartbreaking. Even just taking her for a little walk outside seemed so scary for her. I spent most of it cuddling and playing calming music to try to settle her. I knew it was time to go. If she had the scan and they found the tumour I would have asked them to put her to sleep. I spoke to her old vet in Lymm Rachel (By now I’d moved to Newcastle) and explained what was happening. She agreed the signs were pointing to a tumour and said the next stage could be a seizure or haemorrhage, and I was terrified of that. I wanted her to go peacefully so we called the vet to the house and that’s how she went.
We had calming music playing and candles and Tommy and I were cuddling her. I think he thought we were nuts but I wanted to comfort her at the end.
When did you know the time was right to welcome another dog into your family?
It took a while before I could even think about being with another dog. We dog sat for a friend’s dog and I felt guilty at first then told myself I was being ridiculous! I think because I wrote a lot about Daisy, that helped. I even went to see a bereavement counsellor as I’d written about it for work and I just thought well why not?
She was my world and I wanted to process my grief in a healthy way and I also felt like I needed guidance on how to support Tommy’s kids after what had happened.
After a couple of months I went to the local dogs home and registered my details and they were lovely and said to come back when I felt the time was right. We started looking in June – Tommy’s daughters missed her terribly too and we all felt it was time to honour her memory by having another dog in our lives.
I know Daisy was a rescue dog. What made you decide to get another recuse dog and not a puppy?
After having Daisy and learning about the many dogs needing homes through my work, I wanted to adopt rather than get a puppy. My family had a Cocker Spaniel puppy, Charlie, when I was growing up, and I completely understand why many people do get puppies.
But I felt we were in a situation where we could adopt – we didn’t have small children and were fairly experienced with having had Daisy – so that’s what we did.
How did you know that Patch was the right dog for you? Was it love at first sight?
Yes! We spent two months visiting shelters and I was forever looking online. I had contacts looking for dogs for us. We were looking for a small dog who could be homed with children under 12 because Hannah and Millie stay with us and we wanted a dog they could enjoy and take out on a lead and play with. It was hard to find one then I found a Facebook page for rehoming Patterdale Terriers – that was the breed Daisy was described as – she was a mix of Jack Russell, Parsons Russell, Border and Lakeland Terrier.
I remember seeing Patch’s face and thinking ‘Oh my god that is him!’ He was living in Manchester, and was looking for a home as his owner had died. His family were re-homing him as they were only allowed one dog and already had Patch’s brother George. They wanted him to stay in the Manchester area so they could stay in touch. As I visit my mum a lot, Paul said he would consider us.
I met Patch, his gorgeous brother George and Paul and his family twice and they were lovely. I could see Patch was so loved and they were heartbroken to let him go but I did all I could to reassure them he would be well cared for and that we’d stay in touch and visit and we adopted him in August.
I’m so so thankful to the people who run the Facebook page and while Paul didn’t want any money for Patch, we gave a donation to the Society For Abandoned Animals which is a shelter on the road where Patch used to live and that Paul supports.
You do hear a lot of stories of rescue dogs not working out with their new family. What have you done to make sure Patch settles in and is happy in his new home?
In the first two weeks I only left him for about two hours and then Tommy was with him. We went on lots of walks, took him to new places like the beach, played with his toys a lot at home so he wasn’t bored and gave him as much fuss and attention as we possibly could.
The girls love being around him and he absolutely loves kids – he lived with a little boy Ollie who is similar age to Millie – so that helped. It was really good to have Paul at the end of the phone if I needed him too – thankfully I didn’t – but knowing we had his support reassured us.
He’s really happy and settled now, he loves his food and he’s made doggy friends and we try to make his life as fun and varied as possible and basically revolve our entire world around him! But the main thing is spending lots of time with him and he is an absolute joy to be with!
A huge thank you to Rachel for sharing her emotional and heartfelt story with us. We’ll be sharing lots more with you from The Paw Post over the coming months, but if you fancy catching up on some of Rachel’s blog posts in the meantime, please take a look at her website.
Woofs and Wags
Kate and Pops