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Merry Christmas, Jessie!! - Christmas 2012

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And Jess?

It became clear with the passing of the years that Jess was going to make disgracefully old bones.  The fears about vWD in her youth came to nothing. She whelped and reared her pups with ease.  When we spayed her she had a prophylactic blood transfusion and a dose of Desmopressin (a vasoconstrictor), and came through the surgery without a hitch.  The worst consequence of her spay was a big weight gain which left a huge lipoma (benign fatty tumour) on her shoulder when we finally managed to get some of the blubber off.  It didn't seem to bother her, and because of the vWD, we decided not to remove it, so she looked a bit like the hunchback of Notre Dame for her last couple of years.

The only health problem she had in later life was a squamous cell carcinoma of the toe on one of her hind feet when she was ten (I think).  Once we'd worked out what was wrong, the toe was amputated, again without complications, and because her birthday is on Christmas Day, she was promptly nicknamed Mistletoe.

She answered to Jessie, Granny, Old Lump, Pork Chop, and Mistletoe in the end.  As with old dogs, her spine was getting arthritic, her back legs were weakening as a result and her footing was less secure, she was a bit incontinent, fairly deaf, and a bit more senile, but she looked all set to make her 13th birthday on Christmas Day 2012.  She had been such a wonderful Christmas present when she was born, and it was going to be so wonderful to celebrate her 13th Christmas with me - a second Christmas present.

I was a bit worried about the weakening legs, which had deteriorated noticeably in the last couple of months - a trip to the vet and some cortisone hadn't really helped.  She had to be separated from her daughter and she didn't enjoy her kennel roster very much.  This wasn't a huge imposition because Lickety loves kennels and boxes and will get into any available one and guard it, but still.  Jess seemed to be getting a bit more anxious and noisy about kenneling up, and the weather was getting warmer, which was difficult for all of us. 

But there was no reason for her not to make her 13th birthday, I thought on the 25th of November this year, a month to the day before her birthday.  It was a month away, and it was obvious that her indomitable old heart would carry her a good bit further than that.  I had had the best Christmas present of all when Jessie was born, and I was about to get another one - 13 years with my wonderful dog.

And then the penny dropped.  I was getting not one, but two Christmas presents.  And when was Jessie, my magnificent old girl, going to get her Christmas present?  When was she going to be set free of her weakening legs, her less-than-lucid brain, her deaf ears, her fading eyesight, so that she could go and romp to her hearts content with Puttle and Slug, her dearest companions who had gone before?

Today, I thought.  Right bloody now.  What on earth have I been thinking?  And I hurtled into action.

A last clicker session - should I make her do it?  She's retired, after all.  Then I thought, Jessie doesn't know there's a word like retired.  So we used tinned dog meat as treats - yummy, goopy, stuff, and she worked to her heart's delight while her children grumbled and complained in the background because they weren't getting a turn. 

Then I rushed out for Jessie's Christmas party decorations - some tinsel and a star.  I ambled along the old Malmesbury Road at my usual elderly and careful 70km/h for a while, worried about being late.  Then another penny dropped; I'm an RAF brat, not a bus driver's daughter.  So I put the pedal to the metal as my Meteor jet bomber pilot of a father had taught me, and rocketed along our scenic but bumpy back road at 140km/h in a 1400cc CitiGolf, using the torque to get me round the corners.  I haven't driven like that in years - what a rush!  A couple of times I overdid it slightly - I'm out of practice - and I could swear I heard the old man saying: "Slow down to a gallop, lovey."  And I did.  A fast gallop.

I hurtled round the shop, grabbed some tinsel, and managed to buy a box lid in the shape of a star by telling the manager I was going to a Christmas party and was running late, which was perfectly true.

Raced home again, collected Jessie, and off we went, this time at a more sedate pace so she didn't get thrown around in the car.  At one point she fell off the seat and couldn't get herself back up, so I stopped and got her out so I could help her back in.  Jessie had other ideas.  I'm going for a walk, she told me very clearly by yanking me several yards down the road, and so we did.  A last happy amble together, with Jess, as usual, pulling like a drayhorse and investigating everything.

And at last we got to the vet.  They were a little baffled by the tinsel, but didn't object, and Jessie left her tired old body at last.

I came home grinning from ear to ear, sad because my dog was gone, happy because I knew I could never really lose her, to find her daughter Lickety tucked up in Mom's box looking very contented, having abandoned her armchair.  I had a tiny spoonful of tinned dog food when I fed the other two - just to keep Jess company.  That was my Christmas dinner this year, and I shared it with my beloved old girl - the best Christmas present ever, both ways.  On Christmas Day, I will, of course, be celebrating Jessie's 13th birthday.  What else?

Yes, I know there are complaints of an extremely rowdy party going on at something called the Rainbow Bridge Club.  What on earth do you expect me to do about it?

And so, to come back to pictures of little dogs on wheeled carts, or any other dogs with health difficulties: I don't know whether your dog is as happy as the day is long, or coping with a difficult life for the sake of being near you.  The only thing I do know is that sometimes, with the best will in the world, we get it wrong, and put our dogs through something they don't need to suffer.  Jessie didn't need to drag her back legs around for another month just to be here for her thirteenth birthday.  She'll be here regardless.

And if this rings any bells for you, if it makes you look again at what sort of life your dog really has, then go on.  Make Christmas count.  Why not?  There's one hell of a party going on over there!

Jessiepic7RBISS BPISS Ch Sharbara Jive Wire of Pandemonium DMA "Jessie", photographed for International World of Dobermanns 2004.



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