DATE WITH DEATH

Because of its sudden and aggressive nature I have written much about Banger being run over, and the resulting amputation. But little about our beautiful girl, Olympia.

Ten years ago Felix’s Godmother ambushed us with the idea of giving him one of her Flat Coat Retriever puppies.

“Absolutely not,” I said, “we have plenty of stray dogs on the island that need adopting, quite apart from the thought of a retriever having to wear a black fur coat in the tropics. She was designed for a grouse moor.”
“But her father belongs to Sting, so she would sing really well if she could,” Said Anna, which made no sense at all so of course I agreed.

A few weeks later at a fancy dinner I bumped into Sting and Trudie.
“I have one of your puppies coming out to live with us in the Bahamas.”
“What puppies?” they asked, confused.
“Do you not have a flat coat retriever?”
“Yes but we certainly don’t have puppies.”
It materialized one of their staff was selling off well-bred dog sperm.
Celebrity dog sperm.

Olympia survived her transatlantic journey from London to Miami much better than her seven year old master, who had caught some gastric illness and violently threw up for the nine hour flight, over the seat, over himself and much more unforgivably, over his mother. So dehydrated and exhausted was the child, that upon arrival into Miami we removed his screaming baby brother from the push chair and squashed Felix into his place, on top of whom we sat the confused jet-lagged puppy, as we dragged our mountains of luggage onto the small connecting plane out to the islands.

Olympia adapted fairly quickly to island life, lying under swaying palm fronds, fishing in turquoise waters, jogging each evening on the pink sand.

She gave us many years and much love.

But this Autumn she developed an alarming tumor on her chest, and then another on her neck. We flew her to Nassau. The vet said there was little they could do. She came home again. Then her tongue began to bleed. She would flick her head from side to side clearing her mouth and blood would splatter around the room, covering curtains and cushions, floors and walls.

I called Felix, away at school, to explain her time was running out. He asked if she would wait for him, till he was home for half term. I did not think she could.

One morning Olympia began chocking on her own blood. We called Rosie, a dear island friend, and someone who could be relied on to put an animal out of its misery.
But as I hung up the phone Olympia stopped bleeding. By the afternoon she was walking on the beach and by supper she was eating again.

Olympia waited for Felix to come home. Two nights later she climbed the stairs to my bedroom for the last time. By the next day she was paralyzed from the waist down.

It is not easy deciding when to take life away. What hour do you pick for a date with death?

Rosie agreed to come in the evening so we could have one last full day with our sweet girl. Top Banana fed her freshly cooked sausages for lunch and my children took it in turns to sit beside her whilst we waited. David organized a grave beside the others who had gone before her. I whittled a head stone. Wearing onion goggles.

As the sun was setting over the bay and lizards skittled across the warm courtyard Felix held his dog’s head, and we held one another as a family, and our girl went to sleep for the last time.

31 thoughts on “DATE WITH DEATH”

  1. well thank you – a little bit of tears in the morning can be a good thing. This decision that falls on the shoulders of all good pet parents is a terrible privilege and you described it very beautifully.

  2. I’m going through the same kind of thing with our dachshund. He was diagnosed with IVDD a few days ago. I’m torn on whether we sound try to keep him alive and miserable or just put him out of misery and pain. It’s not an easy choice, and I know I need to stay strong with whatever we decide to do.

  3. Pets are such a joy, outliving them so difficult. I think my next pets will have to outlive me – a tortoise or a parrot. Then again, a warm furry snuggling loving creature adds depth and dimension. Love is hard, period.

  4. Quality of life seems so easy to define, until you are in the position of watching it change before your eyes. The best we can do is to let go with love. The love is the important part.

  5. This was such a sweet and understood post. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your sweet Olympia obviously brought you and your family much happiness as you did to her. Keep those happy thoughts close to your heart.

    We had to make the same decision a couple years ago with our sweet Aussie, a 16 year old Australian Kelpie Humane Society mix. She was part of our family for so long and then we had to make this heart-wrenching decision, one of the hardest of mine and my then 26 year old son’s lives (he was my son’s 10th birthday present.) Terribly hard to go through. However, within the past year my son adopted his pup, Zara and my daughter, our beagle, Jack. We are happy again and Aussie is always a part of us. I wish the same for your beautiful family. ….And I LOVE Sting!

  6. My family has always had pets and loved each one. When it is time to say goodbye to a beloved dog we move them outside because their instinct makes them not want to foul the den (the house). The smell of approaching death attracts flies. We gather fresh herbs: rosemary, lavendar, mint, etc. and sprinkle it on the dog and the flies stay away. The vet arrives and we gather in a circle and each say goodbye. A dear friend always brings a large helium balloon and our messages are attached. As the dear pet passes we release the balloon and hold hands and watch the balloon until it’s out of sight. We have been doing this ritual for many years now and will continue as a house isn’t a home without pets.

  7. OMG, I can not stop crying, maybe it’s the peri-menopause or maybe it’s that, I too have been there many times….! How amazing to wait for Felix… All hugs and comfort to you and your family…

  8. Isn’t it awesome that she waited for Felix? On the day that our dear Roxy passed away (I’m convinced she waited to help me shepard my last born into the world) she shuffled through the house and said goodbye to each of us. I remember her nudging my arm with her nose to get my attention. She laid with me for 5 minutes, then went, alone, into the laundry room. I am sobbing remembering this day and that was 6 years ago. Hugs to you and your family.

  9. I will have to make a similar choice soon for a beloved 18 year old feline. She is the last of our original pack of four stray adoptees – this one came to us off the street and chose us back in ’98.

    She started following my daughters and I as we walked my older girl to her Kindergarten Bus Stop. We noticed she was spending the nights under a shrub and emerging to walk with us, each morning. We took her in, creating havoc for our first three cats, posted signs and pictures of her all over the neighborhood, took her to the vet who said she was in prime condition and had clearly been a house cat, and waited to see if her family might claim her.

    My girls named her Danielle, after a neighbor’s baby who had just been born and after about a month, I told the girls she was officially ours.

    My daughters, home from their universities got in a quick visit with her, last weekend. The vet says we will know the right time, and I keep hoping that she will last a bit longer, as long as the vet says there is no pain.

    You gave your son’s dog a sweet life and a gentle parting.

  10. oh India so beautiful so painful — i am BALLING
    i had to put my soul mate down two years ago — same thing started as a huge tumor in her chest. hardest thing i ever had to do. The grief sent me in to a tailspin from that i think i am only just now recovering. I still miss her even with the most glorious two year old replacement hound right here kissing me literally kissing me as i type. thank goodness for the gift they give us everyday.

  11. I could not agree more with the previous comments, early morning tears came to my eyes, of how wonderful we humans can be united with similar feelings. I live in Nicaragua, but I have lived and felt this same emotions for animals.
    Animals and specially dogs can create a special bond with the family, they are loyal and the best listeners, and never judge you!
    Thank you I love the way and about the things you write India, very inspiring and you can easily connet with your feelings and ideas:)
    Greetings from Nicaragua!

  12. Our beloved rescue Edith was with us for 18 years. I think people thought I was exaggerating when I said we’d had her for 18 years, but it was true. In the 15th or 16th year, we started taking tons of photos of her- particularly at Christmas- “this might be Edith’s last Christmas” we’d say. But year to year, she sauntered on- deaf, blind- but happy. We had many conversations with our vet. We didn’t want to be those people who kept the dog alive for the benefit of those she would leave behind. Our vet repeatedly said- “you will know when it’s time, Edith will let you know”… and she did. I will never forget the Saturday morning after a couple of difficult days and nights of not eating, being sick, having accidents… it was time. I made the call to the vet and even though we had been preparing ourselves for this moment for a while, it was much more difficult than I could have imagined. Years later, 3 sweet rescued boys lay on our furniture, sleep in our bed, lounge in our laps. I can’t imagine how I will handle it when each of them passes, but I know there will be others waiting for a home and someone to love and care for them. Peace to you and your family. Thank you for loving your dogs.

  13. ms patty

    Our dachshund also has back issues. We did laser disk ablation, a non invasive new surgery for dogs with IVDD. Reebok has been fine ever since. Please look into it!

  14. Sweet Olympia. We have Flat Coats, and were so thrilled to spy her loping along as you jogged past on the beach. Our family has always shared photos of her glimpsed from various shoots over the years — always with that distinctive, goofy Flat Coat expression of enthusiasm. She is off retrieving in the only place more beautiful than the one she called home for so long.

  15. That’s the way I’d like to go too…the sun setting, a warm breeze, and a loved one holding my head. What a beautiful dog and a beautiful life. Thank you for sharing. xx

  16. My thoughts and prayers are with your family, your pets and most especially, Felix. One never fully gets over the loss of a pet and will forever tear up when they come to mind, as will the special feelings of closeness to a creature who loved us unconditionally and lit up when we walked into the room. For me, the heartbreak is worth it…
    RIP Beautiful Olympia

  17. Bawling as I read this,,I have had to do this twice..and it still makes me cry and feel the loss of my beloved boys. Saying Goodbye is never easy, I have grown to hate and dread it, especially after I lost my Father 3 years ago. I wish you love and light during this time.

  18. This feeling is oh so fresh in my mind and heart. My beloved Sally was 14, but only came to live with us at the age if 12 as a rescue kitty. She couldn’t have been loved more! It’s hard to know if your making that right decision. Are you “killing” them or “putting them out of their misery”. It’s heartbreaking.

  19. So sorry to hear about Lympa, I remember us looking after her prior to her going out to Bryland, .and seeing her when we visited ‘Top Banana’, she was a beautiful dog and she will be surely missed.

  20. A beautifully written tribute and a valiant decision that was humane and honorable. I am so sorry for your loss.

  21. How awful! Poor Olympia. And how awful for your family to observe someone you love go through such a difficult illness.

    I too had a dog who I know waited to die. I knew that Polly was failing, but I talked to her and asked her to stay with me to be a part of my wedding. She was the ring bearer, pushes down the aisle in a pram by one of the bridesmaids. She was a star, and she made my day complete. Two weeks later she went downhill. It was a difficult time, but we were there for her every step of the way. She died in my arms on Boxing Day, two months later. My little girl… I was fortunate to have had such an intuitive, loving sweet being in my life for 18 years. As were you with Olympia. She wanted to die in her humans arms, as did Polly Thankfully they both got their last wish.

    Thanks for sharing. xo

  22. From FLL we are So sorry for your loss. I say we as in Emmittt my 6lb Yorkie and myself. I know his day may come and I dread the thought. She went to sleep with her family around her surrounded with LOVE!

  23. Awww India

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss.
    When we our pets die, part of the family departs.
    The pain and hurt gets better with time, happy memories bring smiles to faces instead of tears.
    Pets and all animals are only with us for a short time, like the gift of an angel, all we can do is love and care for them whilst they are on earth.
    Sending you and your family my best wishes at this time.
    Carol.

  24. How lovely you knew her from a distance. I can hardly bare to run at the moment. I miss my black shadow.

  25. One of the errors of the Universe is the short life span of our beloved Dogs, while so many very old Humans continue to wreck the world.
    I remember so well the conversation with Anna considering if it was a good idea for our Godson to have a new puppy. It was. I’m so glad he got home in time to be with her before she went to sleep.
    With Love,
    Godfather Maury

  26. So sad India, I feel your pain. We have a 19 year old cat that we are facing similar issues. It’s so hard to make this decision. The good
    memories haunt you. In the end they are our children and they give us unconditional love. Glad Felix was able to say good-bye.

  27. My heart hurts so much for all of you. But there is a moment when it is their time to move on for these critters who love us so and we love so. I too am going through this agonizing decision about my best little boy critter who has
    turned into a little old man with a debilitating illness.I live each day with him and know the day
    is coming — but somehow they do
    help us cross this line with them. Olympia’s spirit will always be with you.

  28. I have a dog with IVDD who is walking maby years later after being paralyzed twice. The beginning is hardest – surgery, expressing the bladder, meds, etc. It passes and IVDD dogs go on to live full lives whether in a cart or on their own. Please go to Dodger’s List for info. If you are in FL, Dr. Chavet is THE best and works out of Sarasota and Tampa.

  29. Such a sad time. I am so sorry for your loss. Olympia will always be in your heart and memories. She was surrounded by all she loved when she needed you most. With tears…N

To post a comment click here