This post has taken me several weeks to write and I must warn you that it may cause you upset, tears are most certainly in my eyes as I type this. But they are tears of great memories, of funny stories and of achievements.
On January 2nd, after a struggle with an illness I said goodbye to my original guiding girl; my first guide dog Vicky.
Three years ago today (19.01.15) Vicky wore her guide dog harness for the final time. She walked beside me as I took the children to school in the morning. We took a longer walk home that day. She then sat wondering what I was upto when I took this photograph of her sat in the lounge wearing her harness.
And the reason for this final photograph? It was because in less than 30 minutes a GDMI (guide dog mobility instructor) would be coming to start my training with a new guide dog, my second leading lady Fizz.
I wrote about all that she had enabled me to do in The end of a (half) Era
When Vicky retired it was agreed that she would enjoy her retirement at home with me and the children, the home that she had moved into in 2009. The home that she had been such an import part of and had help to instigate so many changes within.
Most of all (among others) when she guided me both literally and metaphorically through my pregnancy with my son. When she ensured that both of us were safe while he was inside my tummy and while I carried him in his carrier. She had also allowed me to go out and spend time with my daughter (who was just 4 1/2 yo when Vicky arrived) So it goes without saying that she had captured an extra special part of my heart, that no other guide dog would be able to replace.
As my first guide dog, working with Vicky was scary. But also exhilarating!!
When I applied for her in 2008 my list of ‘wants’ was to be able to go to the local shops alone, to take my daughter safely to pre-school (and then school) and to be able to go back to getting the bus to work and being able to not have to rely on someone to drive me.
When ‘murmurs’ of Vicky retiring began in 2013 my list of ‘wants’ was so very different.
Althoigh I no longer, I now had a son. I now went horse riding. I now volunteered with various charities and had such a busy schedule between the children, volunteering and hobbies that it took 16 months to find a guide dog that could follow in the huge paw prints that Vicky had set out.
It was also at this time when I started training with Fizz that I discovered just how much Vicky had had me wrapped around her dew claw!
I had thought it was ‘usual’ to work in circular routes, not being able to just turn around and walk back the way we had come (in the supermarket for example) like when we had walked upto school, which was LITERALLY in the road next to the house, we had to walk up on one side of the road and back down on the other!
It was when training with Fizz I discovered that this was a ‘retriever trait’ and one that I had been allowing Vicky to get away with.
Anyway….. I digress …….
In September last year Vicky had a cyst removed from her hip, it was nothing of any consequence, it had just been a source of discomfort. So just weeks after when I noticed a lump on her side I took her straight back to the vets.
They weren’t overly concern. She had just turned 12 yo and when tested with a needle prick the results showed it was a fatty lump.
So, with the agreement of both the vet and guide dogs we would watch and measure the lump.
In November Vicky went off her food, the lump was measured and there was a sizeable change in it. Vicky was put on pain medication and further tests were agreed.
When I took Vicky in Forbes her X-rays in early December it was felt that actually she would benefit from specialist investigations that my vet could not offer.
Vicky was starting get tired. She was beginning to show her struggle. She was still very playful at home with Fizz, but our walks had become considerably shorter.
She was noticeably loosing weight and her coat was loosing its gleaming shine.
Her pain medication was increased and every hope was placed on her appointment with the specialist.
That was until she took a turn on New Year’s Day. It was heartbreakingly to watch her. The vets were brilliantly though. They put her on a drip and made her comfortable. They even managed to change her visit to the specialist.
So after staying with them overnight I was amazed to see a much brighter bouncy girl bought out to me the following morning.
She was still weak, she was still in pain, but she was also relieved to see me again.
So we went to the specialist. Where we were joined by GDWO (guidebook dog welfare officer) Vicky was so placid that they were able to X-ray her without sedation.
It wasn’t good news.
Although the X-rays didn’t tell them EXACTLY what was wrong with her, they did tell them enough.
The consultant was so kind.
The GDWO was so kind.
We could investigate more.
We could reduce her pain.
But the one thing we couldn’t do was to stop the end result.
Vicky was 12 yo and as a Flatcoat cross Golden Retriever I already knew she was older than most.
The growth on her chest was too big. Whether it was a fatty lump or cancer, there was no option to remove it.
The consultant talked about this and that. I remember asking is guide dogs needed it investigating further (they didn’t)
It was then that I looked down at Vicky. I had sat down on the floor with her by this point. I could see the pain in her eyes, I could feel the tension in her body.
Through tears (just like those that are escaping now) I asked the consultant if we could let her go to sleep and take her pain away?
He was amazing.
He told me he would give me time with her and if when he came back it was too soon I was just to tell him to bugger off (his exact words!) and he would give us more time.
The GDWO went to get Vicky a comfy bed as she was laying on a hard floor and kept banging her head each time she lifted it.
The nurses bought a beautiful white fluffy fleecy bed and we got her comfortable on it.
I spoke to her and thanked her.
The consultant came back and I agreed it was time for her to go.
I stayed with her and held her tight. She was so peaceful, she was no longer in pain….. But she was gone!
My friend that was with me supported me throughout, even though she too was upset. The GDWO told me she would stay with Vicky, make sure that she wasn’t left alone and take care of all the paperwork.
It absolutley broke my heart the minute I walked out of that room and typing his now I am feeling that pain all over again.
Vicky was so much, she gave me so much more than I could ever thank her for or repay her for:
She gave me the me that is here today. There are no words to describe what that is. I just know that the love I feel for her will never be replaced.
It was agreed that Vicky would be cremated and get to ‘come home’
The GDWO took care of all of this on my behalf. She even bought Vicky home to me on 10th January.
The house hasn’t been the same. Fizz hasn’t been the same; I have sat and cried cuddled into her; I have explained it to her. I know she is missing her friend. The whole time Fizz has been with me, she has had Vicky to play with. And now it is just her…….
We have plans to take Vicky for her ‘final walk’ and let her go. Keeping all the memories, the photographs and a few simple keepsakes of her.
Along with the love for her. And although I love Fizz (and wouldn’t change her for the world) Vicky will always have an extra special place that no other dog or human can ever replace.