‘What’s this on the carpet? Digger’s thrown up. Go on girl – in the garden.’
‘What’s she been eating?’ my husband asks from the sofa. As if I’d know.
‘This is clear bile, but there’s a patch of something brown as well.’ I go to get water and paper roll from the kitchen, where I find another clear patch. No more brown…
‘Of course, I don’t know which end it’s come from.’
I find out once I begin cleaning the living room floor. I soon run out of paper roll and go to get a new one, glancing through the open garden door on my way. The white and tan terrier looks in at me as if to say ‘What’s happening, Mum?’ Her tail still curls over her back, but her shoulders twitch and one leg suddenly kicks out behind her.
‘Something’s not right,’ I tell my husband. ‘Come here, girl.’
Both dogs come in; Pickle, our old Staffie, runs through to the living room.
Encouraging Digger to lie down, I sit beside her, stroking and soothing as she thrashes and foams at the mouth. My husband takes over as I search online for an emergency vet.
Pickle tries to follow us out to the car, but I have to shut the door on her. I hold Digger in the back seat, to stop her flinging herself on the floor as she jerks and pants.
The vet takes Digger into the treatment area to cool and sedate her. On his return, he outlines the treatment options, but it’s clear he isn’t hopeful. I want to be present when he euthanases her, so she knows I’m still with her. My husband can’t face it and goes to wait in the car.
On the treatment table, her wide eyes show little recognition as her head twists, but I stroke her anyway and tell her she’s a good girl and I think she settles a little. She still twitches in spite of the medication. Her glorious feathered flag of a tail stretches out behind her, but it isn’t waving now.
She would have been five in January.
When the anesthetic goes into the cannula, it takes very little time for her heart to stop beating. I am still stroking the thick fur when the vet confirms she is at peace now.
Digger was a yappy little escape artist, but she was a character and her absence will be noticeable.
Pickle clings to us when we return home without Digger and is subdued all next day. But, at fourteen, Pickle is an arthritic old dog. She is stiff now, like a stuffed dog I had as a child, and I realise that when I’d fed her late, on our return from the vet, I forgot to add her green-lipped mussel.
Maia, our neighbour’s ten-year-old, loves our dogs. While she is at school, I text her mother to warn her Digger has died. Mother and daughter come in after school with flowers.
Her mother tells us how bitterly Maia cried when told of Digger’s demise. Maia chose the flowers – most of them white – and plans to put together a keepsake box. She makes a big fuss of Pickle, who appreciates the attention.
For the keepsake box, we find a favourite old scrap of toy that Digger would seize on her way to greet visitors.
Maia says her dad will put a lantern outside so that Digger can find her way home.
The thought comforts her, so we nod and smile.
Pickle is more cheerful next day – sprightly, even.
Considering she doesn’t know that she’s taking tablets, it’s surprising what a difference they make.