I seem to have got into the habit of relaying nothing but bad news on here: I was going to add "lately" but I see it's been eight months since I last wrote anything. But whatever the ins and outs of that, the spur this time is the shock that late yesterday evening, Raggs passed away.
It came as a surprise. She'd been showing her age with some quite obvious signs in recent months, noticeably by scrambling a bit to get up, requiring my assistance in the form of a helping push on the bum to get up the stairs, and sitting (or rather dropping) down with a great thump. Added to which, she'd become noticeably incontinent. But all things considered, nothing that wasn't commensurate with the advancing years of a 14-year old bearded collie. I never dreamt that she might be ill, and looking back on the events of yesterday, I'm not sure she had been.
The morning had passed in usual form, jumping up on my bed (she hadn't got to be too particular about whether I wanted to use it myself or not!). She barked at a few things which were unwise enough to move in the street: although I had my suspicions that her hearing was no longer as keen as it used to be, there was obviously nothing wrong with her eyesight. But around tea-time, I suddenly noticed to my horror that she appeared to have collapsed in the bedroom doorway, more or less lying adjacent to a puddle and a pile of the other stuff. In the light of her previous deteriorating mobility, I guessed that she'd got taken short and had overbalanced in the act, but with the benefit of hindsight a more accurate guess I suspect, is that she'd had some sort of stroke.
I helped her to her feet with some difficulty, getting snarled at for my pains, for I think the first time ever since we'd had her. But she seemed to recover while I cleaned up, pottering about with a wag of the tail here and there. I took her out to see how she fared: she didn't seem to want to do anything but made it up and down the stairs without help. Nevertheless I decided it would be a wise move to book her in to see the vet in the morning, and I followed that by booking a taxi to take us there.
But then when I took her out again a little later on, she collapsed again just by the garden gate. Somehow I managed to get her back indoors (she's far too heavy for me to carry) but this time she lay down in the hall looking sorry for herself. I got an old duvet and made her as comfortable as I could, hoping the rest would do her good and we'd see what the vet had to say about it all. She looked up occasionally but then seemed to lose interest. I knelt down beside her, conscious that I might be saying goodbye. I saw around 9.00 that she'd been sick and was still dribbling: her breathing was becoming shallow, and a little after 10.00, as I knelt beside her, I heard the characteristic rasp of a death rattle. She was gone. With tears in my eyes, I said some prayers for her, noticing already how quiet the house had suddenly become.
This morning, I used the old duvet to concoct a makeshift shroud, wondering how or if I was going to get her to the vet's in the taxi by myself. As you do on these occasions, I started simultaneously torturing myself with the inevitable "if only"s - if only I'd realised the significance of the warning signs, if only I'd acted sooner..... In my rational moments, of course, I know full well it wouldn't have made any difference. The healthiest animal we'd ever owned was already living on borrowed time and had been for quite a while: the life expectancy of a bearded collie is around 12 or 13.
So, a few phone calls later, full of mixed feelings, I sit here typing away to while away the hour or two before the pet cremation company arrive to collect Raggs. We decided that's what we'd have done with her, as we had with Molly twelve years ago. The alternative of a burial in the back garden, which I suspect is of dubious legality anyway is a bit of a no-brainer on practical grounds.
The house seems eerily silent. Gone is the patter of not-so-little-tiny feet, the head poked round to door to see what I'm doing and the barking every time anyone is rash enough to come up the path to the house to deliver something. We've already decided not to get another dog: I was very much in two minds about it twelve years ago when faced with the same decision and given how much water has flown under the bridge since then, it just wouldn't be practical or fair. Another cat, on the other hand however?? Hmmm, I wonder.
Anyway, in the meantime, here's a pic to finish with:
It's my favourite photo of her, taken in January 2004 during her first winter with us. She always loved the snow and we never really to her way of thinking got enough of it. A friend of mine made that photo into a mousemat for me, so somehow I'll always have her by my side.