Last year it was raining the night before it happened. The rain was so heavy… I stood there in front of my window pressing my face against the cold glass, watching the wind throwing water all over the world. Somehow I knew that Oscar was not coming back.
It was the night before he was gone. Everything happened so fast it felt surreal – and still does at times. We had a beautiful, wonderful, sweetest dog who smiled at me on Wednesday evening as we went for a walk. On Thursday he refused to go outside.
But then it was Oscar, the boy who would refuse to go for a walk if it rained too hard or he simply was not in the mood. We stayed in. I was reading a book about Mariuccia Mandelli, and Oscar was watching the grey world from the comfort of my bed.
In the afternoon the lazy dusty sun came out and we ventured into the garden for some fresh air. Oddly, he asked me to stay there for a while. I lifted him up in my arms and he just looked around over the fences, at the trees and the sky. He seemed at no rush to go back in… Almost as if he was saying Good bye. He looked tired. I brought some blankets and pillows and we sat in a middle of the garden, my little dog and I. “Are you alright, little one?” I kept asking him. “Please, be ok, I can’t live without you…”
The night came, but I couldn’t sleep. Something simply wasn’t right any more. In the morning we went to the garden as usual. The boy went to do his business. His urine was orange, bright orange. I rushed over, looked into his eyes – the whites were yellow. Everything started to spin.
I picked up the phone, called the vet and ask if they could see us immediately. “Liver, liver, liver, liver, something is wrong with his liver…” was pulsating in my brain. Yet, I knew if it was just that I could deal with it, he could deal with it, everything could be fixed.
The vet didn’t say much. She took some blood samples and suggested that we leave the boy at the surgery overnight. I hesitated. It would be the very first night we’d have to be apart since the moment he came to be with us almost seven years ago. We were never apart. Never. I wouldn’t be able to cope. And neither would he. But she insisted and I had to agree, but only after being assured that my baby will be under constant supervision, now – and overnight.
I came home, cooked him some turkey – he loved turkey – picked some of his favourite things, a blanket, and went back to the surgery. As I stood there waiting for the nurse to collect everything, the receptionist cheerfully told me that, in fact, nobody is watching the animals overnight. I felt sick. Left everything, walked out on autopilot, doing my best not to burst into tears or scream, called Simon and said that we will be transferring Oscar to the private vet surgery regardless of what our vet thinks or says. He agreed straight away.
I called the hospital, arranged the transfer, then phone the vets who were not particularly pleased with our decision but had no choice.
At 6PM we came back for the boy. Oscar walked out, a bit wobbly, but wagging his tale. In the car, instead of resting on his favourite pillow, he sat up and looked out of the window into the darkness. And then he exhaled… For a moment there, the odour was so strong and bitter that we could not breath and had to open the windows. Something was happening to his body, something seriously horrible…
As we arrived, the vet promptly took us to the room, collected the samples and said that they’d have the results back within a couple of hours. She was so confident and so calm, I felt reassured. They allowed me to walk with Oscar to the ward – dogs only, plenty of nurses – I hated leaving him alone, but I knew he would be in safe hands.
It was yet another sleepless night, the night of secret hopes, not knowing and lots and lots of google searching. I wanted some answers and I wanted him to be back home and be happy again.
On Saturday morning they called us with the news. Oscar was diagnosed with immune mediated haemolytic anaemia, a condition so rare it affects one dog in thousands and is very difficult to study. We had no idea what it was. We went back. He was waiting for us. Walked over, looked into my eyes, wagged his tail. He still knew who we were… I sat on the floor next to him while the doctor explained to us what the condition really was – right now Oscar’s immune system was attacking his own red blood cells and destroying them. Apparently, cocker spaniels are one of the breeds “at risk” and unless it happens there is no way of knowing whether or not they carry that gene or enzyme or whatever causes it.
He was already on several drugs – steroids, cancer therapy, something else… They wanted to xRay him, but it was impossible. He was so weak and the damage was happening so fast, the boy would not survive it.
We were told that his PCV goes up to at least 20 we have a chance, 20% chance, but it was enough. All we could do is to go back home and wait for the next 24 hours. And then the storm came and I knew, I just knew, that was it, the end.
I called the surgery next morning, but was so destroyed I could not speak and sat there sobbing. The doctor came to the phone and spoke to Simon. “So this is it,” he said and the ground moved… I remember sliding down the wall onto the stairs and crying.
They asked us to come at mid-day and make a decision. Overnight Oscar’s PCV dropped down to 10… We drove there thinking that he’d still come out, wobbly, tired, sick, but would come out and see us. Instead, he was not even aware of us any more. Simon could not look. I felt tears rolling down my cheeks. All I could do is holding my baby…
The vet hated it as much as we did. He brought us blankets and a few cushions for comfort. Then – a bunch of text books about the condition. He said we could try a blood transfusion, but chances are, the boy would not even make it through and if he did, the condition would return in a few weeks, worse and more troublesome for him. He added that we could try the drugs, too. 6 months of hard drug therapy. “Is he going to be himself during this time?” I asked him astonished at the amount of chemicals that Oscar would have to deal with. “Unlikely. He is going to be on a lot of medication.” was the answer. Then he added that regardless of what we do, our baby would not last for longer than six months. Because haemolytic anaemia is a heartless bitch of a disease.
We had to make a decision. We did not want him to suffer any longer. The doctor said that once the drug gets into the blood, it will take a few minutes for it to work until Oscar finally falls asleep.
We sat on the floor with him… Crying and stroking his little beautiful head. He was fading away… And then the doctor came and everything was over within a couple of seconds – our baby’s body was too exhausted to carry on any longer.
And then the world stopped. Became the empty hole. I suddenly knew exactly how it felt to have a broken heart. He was my baby. We made plans for travelling and living. We had so many wonderful years. He was the most loving faithful little dog to dream of. And he was never ill. Never. To lose him like that, within two days, was unfair. So f’cking unfair. He didn’t deserve that. We didn’t deserve it.
And we miss him so much… He made those years worth living.