Grace accompanied me to the village choir rehearsal at 7.30 pm on her second day with me. Annemarie kindly drove Grace and me down to the local school where the rehearsal takes place as my car wasn’t due to repaired until the following day. I was worried at how Grace would behave – I had no clue. I could only hope for the best…and prepare for the worst.
I carried her in and put her in her crate with some of her favourite chew toys. She seemed to settle instantly and I started to relax a little, until I saw the familiar pulling back of her lips as she was about to be sick. I leapt off the piano stool and pulled the crate out of sight of the choir members as Grace hurled most of the contents of her stomach onto her bedding. I cleaned her up as best I could, turned her bed over and dragged the crate back into the rehearsal room. Three minutes later, the same thing happened. Poor little Grace – the two minute car journey had made her feel really ill. So this was something else we had to work on – being comfortable in the car and not being travel sick.
For the rest of the rehearsal Grace, snoozed, looked at me and listened to the choir singing. She didn’t make a sound and I couldn’t believe how good she was to be so relaxed in yet another strange place with more unfamiliar sights and sounds all around her. I didn’t just ignore her during the rehearsal. while I wasn’t playing the accompaniments, I would wave to her, and blow her little kisses so she knew that she was involved and not forgotten.
It was really hard for me walking into that particular rehearsal. It was the first one I had been to without Chandi by my side. I found it impossible not to cry through out some of the songs – the words and emotion upset me so much.
As well as this choir, I also accompany another ladies choir that rehearses in town on a Friday morning. Again, Chandi was my constant companion, lying on her comfortable bed next to the piano while I played and occasionally rolling on her back while the choir sang. The first rehearsal I was due to go to, was just a week after my precious girl had died and it was torture for me.
I knew everyone would want to know where Chandi was and I just didn’t want to talk about anything, and answer any questions, no matter how well-meaning. In order to not let the choir down by not going, I decided to arrive just two minutes late, so they had started the warm-up and I could just go in, sit down at the piano and keep my head down avoiding eye contact and conversation. as I sat down, I heard a voice shout ” where’s your dog?”. I didn’t look up and tried not to cry. Impossible.
The tears streamed down my face for pretty much the entire rehearsal, but I willed myself to just keep playing and I did, without playing a wrong note or missing a beat. Sheer will power and determination. At the end of the rehearsal I had my music already packed away and I shot out of the door and back to my car before anyone could say a word.
This was the first time I had been out of the house since that terrible night. April 26 was the day Chandi was going to die. I did not know, did not expect it and it was I believe, the worst day of my life. I have had some appalling days and suffered so much loss, but this was like nothing I have ever known.
Chandi had been having some problems with her seasons. She had been in ‘Persistent estrus’, basically in season, for three months. My Vet had tried Homeopathy, which so far hadn’t worked, and I was about to start Chandi on a different combination of Chinese herbs to try and resolve the problem, which was most likely caused by cysts on her ovaries. She was doing okay in herself though and while I was concerned about her, we were still able to enjoy our lives together and go out for nice walks.
Chandi had seen our Vet the day before and had been checked over, tummy felt and everything found to be as normal. We had a new Homeopathic remedy to try and my vet was hopeful. Chandi seemed happy and relaxed and I took my cue from her.
Friday dawned and after getting back from choir rehearsal in town, we went up on the Long Mynd for a walk. We had a gentle walk together – Chandi seemed a little less energetic than usual, so even though she turned to go up a path that would take us on a longer walk, I called her to me, deciding that a shorter walk would be a better idea that day.
We walked round to a large rock where we sometimes sit down and have a cuddle together while we look at the view. Chandi stopped and turned to walk over to the rock and I followed – she wanted a cuddle and so did I. Once she was bored with sitting down, we walked on and headed back to the car. It was a normal day.
She ate her lunch that I freshly prepared for her and went to bed for a sleep. My only piano pupil of the day came and went and then it was time for Chandi’s last stroll of the day and she was keen to go. She was panting a little more heavily than I would have expected and I suddenly wondered if she had a temperature. I left her in the hall and went to get the thermometer. Her temperature was 39.5 degrees centigrade and I was instantly concerned.
Along with the Persistent Estrus there was always the danger that she was going to develop a Pyometra – a life threatening uterine infection that if not treated promptly could be fatal. I had been closely monitoring Chandi for signs of Pyometra and knew to act fast if I saw anything that concerned me. I was worried, but Chandi appeared okay and was still sitting by the front door waiting for the walk that I had promised. We never did have that walk. I phoned the Vet, explained the situation and was told to come over to the surgery straight away.
By the time I arrived it was after hours – after 6 pm. We went in and our Vet felt Chandi’s tummy as she had the day before to see if she could feel any swelling in the area of her uterus. I knew from the look on her face that all was not well. “I don’t like the feel of this” she said. “There has been real change since yesterday and I think we need to X-ray”. I asked if it was her uterus and was told it felt more like spleen. My heart thudded to the floor. I had been here before with Pepper.
I lifted Chandi onto the X-ray table and put on the heavy protective lead gown. I always stay with my dogs when at the Vet – that’s when they need me the most and I always step up to the plate and try my hardest not to let them down, no matter how terrified I am feeling.
Chandi lay as still as a statue during the X-rays and I told her how beautiful and good she was. Our vet, looked at the X-ray and showed me what she was seeing. “Spleen enlarged and not in the correct place”. There was also an area of uncertainty in her uterus and from the X-ray alone it was impossible to say for sure whether or not there was a Pyometra in her uterus that was simply pushing the spleen out of place due to large amount of infection. There was only one way to find out and since there was a chance that it might be a Pyometra and nothing else and removing her uterus and ovaries could cure the problem, I had no option other than to agree to emergency surgery.
I had time to bring Chandi back home and collect some things for us both. I would be staying the night with Chandi after her surgery, just as I had done with Pepper. It was such a feeling of dread that I slowly drove Chandi back to the Vet, holding her paw as I drove and telling her how much I loved her. I didn’t want to go back.
I stayed with Chandi while she was given the sedative and as it began to take effect and make her feel peculiar she pulled away from me. As she started to fall asleep, I held her and she was finally unconscious with her head in my lap. I stroked her for a few seconds and then called the Vet who had left us alone so Chandi wouldn’t feel any more stressed than she had to.
After what seemed like hours, the Vet came out to talk to me. I already knew what she was going to say. The main focus of concern was her spleen which was very enlarged. Her uterus also needed to be removed as it was inflamed. Chandi could survive without both organs, so I had no choice other than to agree to them continuing with the surgery and being removed.
It was around 10 pm by this time and I went outside and walked up the quiet country lane and started to cry. I got far enough away into the countryside, staggering up the road, blinded by tears, and felt an overwhelming need to scream. Sinking to my knees in the road, I howled and screamed and knew that this was not going to end well. I had made a mistake. I should not have agreed to them continuing with the surgery. I knew it.
It was under a full moon – one of the most beautiful I have ever seen that I tried to talk to Chandi. I wanted her to know that she had a choice and that it was hers to make. She could choose to leave if she wanted to, if it was her time and if she’d had enough. I could see her beautiful brown eyes in front of me as real as though she were looking at me. I wanted to run back to the Vet and tell them to stop, but I wasn’t brave enough. I was still clinging to the hope that she might be okay.
Pulling myself together, I decided I had to think positive and went back to the Vet’s surgery and made Chandi up a comfortable bed on the floor of the hospital for when she came out of surgery. I sat with my back to the warm radiator shivering and shaking with shock while I waited for the surgery to be over. The Vet suddenly appeared in front of me and I looked at her and asked “Is she dead?”. “No” was the reply, but I found tumours on her kidney, under her ovary when I went to remove it and in other places. They can’t be removed and I have really tried but I can’t continue.”The tears started to roll down her face at that point.
That was it then, I had no choice. I had to let Chandi go under the anesthetic. I asked the Vet to cover her up so I didn’t have to see how she’d been cut open and hurt, and went into hold her paw and tell her I loved her while her life was ended. I hope she knew I was there and how sorry I was that this had happened. It was horrific. There are no other words to describe it. My beautiful girl was gone. Just like that – gone – and I felt so jealous of her being free from all the pain that crushed me as she took her final breath.