I had to save my beloved Geordie dog - and I had to say goodbye - Helen Martin
This is a sad and depressing column, not something I expect readers to enjoy. But regular readers can probably figure out straight away that this is the conclusion to the pieces I’ve written over the past seven months about my beloved greyhound who had a terminal tumour on his paw.
Neither the vet nor our family wanted to put him through having his leg amputated, so there was no possible cure. Initially, he carried on from December to early June as normal with happy eating, walking and snoozing on the sofa. He had painkillers, bandages and homeopathic pills to delay the cancer extending, even though it had burst through his skin.
It was the last couple of weeks when everything changed. His appetite was suddenly limited to a few slices of chicken and ham and a few treats, plus an almost constant urge to drink water. He was well behaved, obedient, even liked our cat and never did anything wrong.
But he became incontinent - and then looked sad when he watched me clean up. Instead of trotting along, sniffing trees and
meeting other dogs, he walked only about 20 yards and turned home. He lay on his bed for 23 hours a day.
At that stage it was inevitable that I was sitting down with him in the garden, stroking his head, talking to him and kissing him while our vet euthanised him, at which point my tears and howls started.
I couldn’t cry before because that would upset this beautiful, smart dog. When he was taken away my son, my husband and I sobbed not just for losing him but for the mistaken guilt of having had him put down. The euthanasia, of course, was to prevent him suffering. The vet had recognised cancer had extended throughout his liver and other organs, so only agony lay ahead.
That made me think about the comparison to humans with painful, fatal diseases. They are not “ended” to prevent more suffering. They do face suffering but are cared for as much as possible until they die.
That reminded me of my friend for 25 years, and latterly my neighbour, Margo MacDonald, the SNP politician and then
Independent MSP, respected and admired by most people in Scotland. She was diagnosed in 1996 with Parkinson’s disease. The campaign in her later life was that people suffering from a terminal illness should have the right to decide when (and if) to end their lives with assisted suicide. Margo died in April 2014.
If Margo was still with us and living across the road, I guess she would have been comforting me that euthanasia was the vital “saving” of the dog. She’d helped me a lot in life, so just like praying, I mentally “spoke to her” in bed the night Geordie dog had been put down.
I miss them both, of course. But I probably would have cried for many more days if I didn’t have all those memories of Margo, and her opinion that not only animals should be saved and protected from fatal agony, but humans could have that option too.