Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Jasper - a Very Good Dog

Last night we had to make one of the hardest decisions anyone has to make in their lifetime if they are a dog owner. My little terrier, Jasper, has been failing for a few weeks now which was only to be expected as he was nearly 15 years old - a damn fine age to reach for any dog. He started to lose the sight in one eye over the summer, and a couple of months ago began dragging a front foot a little when he walked. We took him to the vet just before the end of October as he had started circling on the spot at times and appeared to be in the early stages of dementia. We were given some high strength vitamin & Omega 3 tablets to see if they would help - which they did for a while.

However, the week before Christmas it became very apparent that it was more than just dementia as his sight deteriorated, his legs became more unsteady, and the circling grew to obsessional proportions. During the snow he became incontinent and more and more confused. Last night he would not settle and began to cry and whimper constantly, and we decided the visit to the vet planned for today could not wait and we took him to the emergency animal hospital.

It would seem that he had a probable brain tumour and also a mass in his stomach - possibly further cancer. We were told all the options by the wonderfully kind and sympathetic lady vet, but faced with putting Jasper through a barrage of tests, prolonging his discomfort in order to find out if there was any hope - a very slim possibility which could then have been followed by surgery, chemo-therapy and the prospect of perhaps only giving him another two or three months - we chose to give him the dignity of a swift and quiet end.

If you knew Jasper, you would understand this was the kindest thing to do. We got him thirteen years ago from Battersea Dogs Home in London. We had tramped round the whole place just about before coming across him sitting quietly in his cage together with a manic fox terrier which had already taken a chunk out of poor Jasper's ear. We weren't allowed to take him there and then - we hadn't allowed for the fact that Battersea insist all members of the family meet the dog before it is re-homed and we had left my children at home with the intention of surprising them with a dog. We had to wait for two more days until we were all free to go again, keeping our fingers crossed that he hadn't been re-homed in the meantime as Battersea would not 'reserve' him for us.

However, he was still there and we got to take him home, sitting in my lap the whole way with a stop off at McDonalds where he devoured chips like there was no tomorrow. He had been found a month previous wandering the streets of London, very, very thin and although there was an address on his collar, no-one replied to the dogs home's enquiries. I think all through his life he never quite got over having been a hungry stray - he'd eat anything and everything, sometimes without even chewing.

Right from the start he was house-trained, quiet and well-behaved - most of the time. I don't think he'd see the countryside before, as he would stare out of the window at the trees, sky and birds for hours on end and when took for a walk, he would charge off after squirrels and be found half an hour later looking up a tree at the empty space where that squirrel used to be. Thankfully he grew out of this behaviour and turned into the perfect dog...apart from still scarfing down any rubbish in the street, particularly chewing gum!

The children adored him, as did just about everyone who came across him. He was bright, friendly, lively, gentle, and lots of fun. Fetching a ball was one of his major pleasures...and then diving past you at the last minute with the ball still in his mouth, expecting the fun of a chase. He'd join in other dogs' games of fetch too and had to be bribed with biscuits to give the ball back.

We had several unsuccessful attempts to get him a companion, but finally acquired a saluki pup and from the minute that pup came in the house they were inseparable. I got very tired of 'little and large' jokes while we were out an about! Four years later, the saluki ate something poisonous while on a walk and died within a few hours. We were distraught, but so was Jasper and after weeks of him moping after his best friend, we acquired a second saluki pup - and sure enough, as soon as it entered the house, Jasper perked up and decided this pup could be his best friend too.

And so it has been for the past thirteen years, thirteen years full of twice daily walks, charging through the fields chasing rabbits; giving cats a darn good scare if they dared to show their face in our garden; snuggling on the sofa with his pal; doing anything to score a biscuit or hoover up a crumb; summer nights sitting on the patio watching the frogs; winter nights using my balls of yarn as a pillow; being my daughter's 'cuddly-bunny' without ever complaining. Even a few months ago he was still running full tilt round a football pitch chasing rabbits and keeping up with the saluki.

So you see, a future of confusion, blindness and being unable to walk straight let alone run was not what we should have consigned him to. However hard it is for us, it was the right decison for that sparky, bright little dog. A little dog maybe, but he is going to leave a very big hole in our lives.


PG said...

Oh Caroline - I'm so sorry. In the end, it had to be the kinder decision, and very brave of you to take it, when it might have been tempting to try to keep him going. And it sounds as if he had a happy life once he'd found his home with you. Which doesn't make it any easier.

Magpie Magic said...

Dear Caroline, I am so very sorry for you. What a terribly hard decision to make. I was so hoping for you with the snow gone things would be looking up. Lots of hugs. I'll be thinking of you.

Laura said...

Oh Caroline. Such sad news. Sounds like Jasper had a very happy life with you and the family.

It's always awful when a pet dies. I know how you must be feeling.

Thinking of you.

Lots of love

Laura x

fhiona galloway said...

so sorry to hear this very sad news Caroline. I know how you feel having dealt with such decisions myself.
Be comforted by the happy memories as I'm sure you'll have many.

natural attrill said...

Oh Caroline I am so sorry, I am trying to type through the tears here. I know what a very hard decision it is, although the right one.
Thinking of you,

soggibottom said...

How well you have just described the last few days.....

I don't think I could have done the same.... ....brave lady x x x

We have passed the be witch "ing" hour and just wanted to say ....

Well done, and lots of love from all of Soggibottom..........X

Sallie said...

Dear Caroline,
I am just now catching up on my blog reading after our trip during the holidays. I am so sorry for your loss. Jasper sounds like he was a great dog. I know from experience how hard it is to make that decision, but you did the right thing. My thoughts are with you and your family.