Category Archives: pets

From grief and sorrow to loving rememberance

Our beautiful Sun Puppy Sheila left us on Monday. In the span of one single day we were placed in the gut wrenching position that anyone who has adopted a furry family member dreads. After 12 months or so of occasional illness, increasing weakness in her hind legs, and a kidney lesion which caused incontinence that clearly upset her, our baby girl fell very ill, very quickly. We thought we were managing, we thought she had a couple of years left still. We were not ready for the responsibility that awaited and the questioning fear and guilt, the grief that would follow.

Our Sheila puppy was, as I am sure most beloved dogs are, such a happy soul. She had a waggy tail of destruction, she liked clean blankets, scratches behind the ear, spoony cuddles, family walks, sniffing and chasing the cat, squeezing between your legs for a super firm hug, gazing into your eyes, treats and pushing the envelope of routine.

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One of our first dates

Sheila would greet you at the door with her favourite toys, croc or the blue elephant- both squeaked or used to. If she forgot the toy she would trip over herself to remedy that and hastily go and fetch one to present to you! She cried and sooked to get your attention, to let you know she was hungry, to be let in or let out, to mourn her dads going to work each day, to say “I’m lonely can you get out of bed now” or to say “I’m bored just love me”. She only ever barked to alert us to people at the door or at other dogs (puppies included) and as she got older even that quieted down.

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Settling in on a girls night after lots of dancing in the kitchen

She was such an engaging and communicative puppy. Throughout her lifetime she remained a puppy, “Shelia puppy”. Her expressive eyes could even melt my heart when I had reached my tolerance for sooking and pacing with her clippy cloppy paws. She never listened, always pushed boundaries and she asserted her own routine and punished us with more whinging, then the most delightful forms of passive dominance if we dared not obey. Her favourite form of passive dominance was to put her head on your lap and gaze up into your eyes, or push her head under your hand. I worked hard to give her affection on my own volition so that I felt it was because I wanted to give it freely rather than being instructed. Now I don’t see why it was such a big deal.

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Hugging her blue elephant

It has been easy to feel like we failed our baby girl, our Sheila puppy. The heartbreak of making the decision to “end her suffering” seems so disconnected to the days preceding because it was so very sudden. Our girl was our girl. Getting older, grayer around the muzzle but still happy and loving and well, behaving like a puppy albeit more gently and less frequently. We forget that she has been on incontinence medication that were not always effective and that she found it very distressing to wet her bed. We forget that she was incontinent because of a lesion on her kidney that the vet had gently counselled us that she was an old dog and our focus of care was to keep her comfortable. We forget that she had arthritis in her hips and knees and her hind legs were coming out from under her every day and getting out of bed was increasingly effortful. We forget that she was so very very unwell and there was no guarantees about her recovery and her subsequent quality of life.

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A rare still moment on a walk, she liked to keep moving and I enjoyed quiet contemplation

The hardest part in all of this is that you are left with silence. Because of that you question. Did we show her enough love? Did we do the right thing by her? And oh god how we miss her. We miss the morning greetings, the constant companionship and her “checking in” as I worked from home, the cacophony of noise when we arrived home at the end of the day “oh my gosh! You’re home! I’m so glad you’re home, I missed you terribly! Here have a toy, by the way I have NEVER EVER EATEN BEFORE IN MY LIFE AND I AM STARVING!”, the quiet way she would put herself to bed when she was tired, the kisses on her soft soft head, the way she leaned into your hand when you gave her ear scratches and licked the air when you scratched the base of her tail, her nose in your ear by surprise attack when you were laying on the couch, her daily sun baths, and her cheeky garden hollows where she like to sleep all cocooned up, the way she liked to be held. We did love our girl, beyond a shadow of a doubt she felt that love. In her final hours the only thing she lifted her head for was to watch her dad or I move from her and then back to her. But the trauma of her passing overshadows, for now, the loving way in which we got to farewell her- at home, in her own bed, with family, tight in our arms.

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She loved her toys and this walled bed- it was all about the embrace 🙂

Our pain now must come not from guilt about our impossible choices. She passed painlessly enveloped in love. Our pain must be simply our loss and grief for a very dear member of our little family. Her absence is strikingly loud for its silence. We miss her dearly. I think that the fact we wonder if we did enough, loved her enough, cared enough probably means that we did do exactly enough. She was our baby girl and she lived her life surrounded by love. You enriched our lives and filled our hearts and you shall forever have a place in them. Rest in peace our beautiful Sheila Puppy.

Snuggles with dad from a happier time
Snuggles with dad from a happier time

“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.”  – Hilary Stanton Zunin

Sun puppy

I have a step daughter. When I met her she seemed to be a spoilt brat with her pa wrapped around her little finger. He would come running when she called, he cancelled dates when it might rain and at 10 years of age she remains and will always be his Sheila puppy.

Fur baby

Sheila puppy is a doberman. She is on the small side for this breed of dog and she has a gentle manner that would melt your heart… if she didn’t spend most of her time crying for attention. This sweet little girl was wrapped up in a love so full, so giving and so responsive to her every look that she need only cry and everything she could want for was hers.

When I met Sheila and her dad, Sheila was on time-share with a cat. This meant that for the most part she was an outside dog and when she did come inside she and the cat were kept separate. Sheila cried a LOT. Poor love. No longer was she a sleep inside in the bed with dad kind of dog, as she had when he was a single man.

Since spending time with me meant being apart from his girl, sometimes Sheila joined us on our dates. Mostly we took her to the beach where she would shouty bark at other dogs and fret at the water. Then we would go to my house where we ate dinner with her outside and she looked in at my cat, quietly observant of the fuzziness that was his majesty. And so our lives entwined.

Three months later Sheila’s dad and I joined our now blended family under the same roof and Sheila showed me just how much a well loved dog can cry and cry and cry. This particular method of getting needs met is an incredibly irritating one. Worse still, if you live next door to your landlords and you find out that it is distressing to them how much your fur baby cries, you begin to worry for the longevity of your tenancy. Sheila is in no way wanting for anything. She has simply learnt that she can get a large amount of affection, or prompt action of any sort through crying, and this escalates when you try to ignore her.

At this time, Sheila was, for the most part still an outdoor dog. Scott was concerned for Tenshi- my furry cat child. He did not believe that Sheila would be able to cohabitate peacefully with a cat creature. But I could no longer handle her noise. I started to shake up her routine and not respond immediately to dinner time antics and shouty noise. I responded with a sharp telling off, progressing months on to a newspaper for reprimand of excessive noise all the while inviting her inside when she was calm and quiet. A wonderful thing. Stretches of quiet increased to the extent that our landlord neighbours remarked on the quiet. Sheila did not try to maul the cat. And better still I began to love her.

As I asserted my role as pack leader, this previously irritating little beast who sooked when her dad and I had a cuddle, turned into a courteous and loving friend. I felt a care for her I did not imagine was possible. And the joy for Sheila is that she is far more calm and gets a truck load of inside family time.

Sheila puppy

When Sheila recently got sick, it was me sitting beside her coaxing her to eat, me working from home to monitor her health status and ringing the vet, and me who did not have the heart to send her outside at bed time. The bond that we have built through working damn hard at integrating our lives in a loving and sustainable way has caused such a love that the sight of her old hips giving out breaks my heart. The suggestion that further investigations are needed is met with a “then that is what we will do”. The thought that she is getting old and may not have a great deal more time breaks my heart. I love this little girl, she has forged a place in my heart, one I was not expecting. We just met, it doesn’t seem fair that she start on a health plummet. The solace that I take is in knowing that the quality of her years has improved, and though she had to work hard for it, she has everything she wanted. And if we are very lucky, she will surprise us and we will have her company for many years to come.

siblings

“Properly trained, a man can be dog’s best friend.”  ~Corey Ford