Monday, November 28, 2016

Saying goodbye

Wednesday was the worst day of my life. It was the day we said goodbye to our beloved French bulldog. He was 12 years old and had a massive tumour growing out of his right foreleg, a large one at his throat and other smaller ones on his head and neck. He was losing weight but his coat was beautifully glossy and soft which was remarkable since throughout his life he had suffered with allergies and skin problems which caused his fur to fall out, leaving bald patches. But even though his coat looked healthy, he was terminally ill and he wasn't going to get better. He could not stand for long as he couldn't put any weight on his right leg and so we fed him by hand - meat and vegetables - and carried him to the garden. Every night he would sleep on my bed except when I had to get up very early and he was keeping me awake because he used to pant and move around sometimes when he was in pain and the drugs hadn't started working. Then he would sleep with my son or a few times with my father. Most of the time he seemed to be free of pain but some days he would cry and then we would question whether we were doing the right thing by keeping him alive. We came very close to putting him to sleep in September but we were all relieved when the vet called to say that she had been held up and so couldn't keep the appointment at our house. We were all happy that fate or God had stepped in to give us more time with him.

But this week we all agreed it was time because he was clearly suffering and his leg was now infected. Also, I was afraid that he might suffocate as his breathing was loud and irregular. This woke me at night, perhaps because I was sensitive to him as with a baby and I didn't sleep deeply. I had to make sure he didn't fall off the bed if he decided he wanted to get down which he occasionally did. But I didn't mind looking after him. I loved to take care of him but the hard thing to accept was that he wasn't getting better from our care and we asked ourselves if allowing him to continue in this way wasn't selfish. We didn't really know how much pain he was in. He had good days and bad days. Sometimes, I would come home and my parents told me he had cried all day, even after being given painkillers. Other days he would have no drugs and be calm and almost like his old self.  He would take himself down to the garden sometimes and just the other day I was telling him and my son how amazing and how brave he was and he looked proud and jogged a little and jumped up the step onto the patio. He was amazing!

He was really my parents' dog but even before we moved to Spain during our holidays we would visit and I remember him as a puppy so small and vulnerable. I remember lying on the sofa with him one afternoon and cuddling him. I can't explain why but I know something happened. It was like a heart to heart connection was made between us. I suppose, looking back, perhaps I bonded with him as though he were my baby. I remember being excited to take him out in my arms to show him the countryside around our home. My parents said he was afraid to go out but he wasn't with me. As he got older, our walks became a special time that we shared. Our return to England was a painful separation. I missed him terribly and my parents said he just sat staring at the gate waiting for us to return. He was certainly a deciding factor in my decision to move to Spain because then I got to be with him all the time. I adored him and he adored me. I had never felt such a strong bond with any of my pets before him, as much as I loved them.

He loved to have his chest scratched and when we went out in the car to the park or to the mountains, he would sit next to me and if I stopped scratching he would paw me until I started again. He had his own internal GPS because wherever we went for a walk he knew which way led back to the car and would always choose to go the opposite way. I think he would have been happy to walk for hours if I had been able to. We were always out for much longer than when my father took him for a walk because we both enjoyed it. With him I felt like we were going on an adventure, as though we were somewhere strange and were exploring it for the first time. Sometimes we got lost in the orange groves - well, not lost exactly, but one time I couldn't find the way out of the maze and he must have been there before because he led the way back to "civilisation". He looked after me as I looked after him.

So it was an agony to say goodbye to him last Wednesday evening. It broke my heart. People can tell you it's the right thing to do but it still feels like a betrayal. In the stages of grief, I am far from acceptance. I just want him back and to see him again. But I know I will never hold him in my arms again. So I will sleep with his blanket over me, walk in the countryside imagining he is at my side and pray that I will see him in my dreams so that I can tell him I'm sorry and that I will always love him, my beautiful babydog.

Stitch - named after a character from the Disney film, Lilo and Stitch, because he looked like the blue alien with the big ears, wide mouth and button nose, especially when he was a puppy
Stitchy, Stitchypoo
Stitchy the Fish, Fish Dog (he was a Pisces)
(The) Snorts - because he always snorted like a truffle pig
The Snortanator - because he used to headbutt the door open with quite a force - he hated closed doors
Sir Snortsalot (my son's invention, a variation on Sir Lancelot) 
Mister Bolchek (said with a Russian accent) which came from him repeatedly checking his bowl in case someone had put some more food in it and that when we called out "bowl check!" he would come running to his bowl
Stitchybaby - when sung to the tune of "Santa Baby" at Christmas time

He loved mandarins - of course, he was a Valencian dog - and roast chicken. He loved roast chicken so much that he would sit staring at the counter in reverence, at the place where the chicken was, long after we had finished dinner. Hence the use of the term, "Chicken God" when referring to Stitch's passion for roast chicken.