I haven’t blogged on the website for a long time, as you’ll have noticed! Most of my ‘blogs’ have been via my Facebook page, and I have recorded videos on there of some free training advice, thoughts and musings.
A month after my last blog on this website, Shadow, an 8 year old Rough Collie with a bite history joined our family. He had lived with an elderly couple before coming to us. As soon as I saw him, I knew that he had physical issues – I’m trained to spot pain and tension in a dog’s body. He was beautiful, loving and full of fun, my gorgeous boy. He settled in straight away, didn’t bother with the cats or Molly.
At the age of 1, his female guardian, by her own admission, pinned him down to cut a matt from his fur and he bit her – unsurprisingly, given the knowledge that I now had. The vet offered to put him to sleep. I was utterly gobsmacked by this. He was deemed to be out of control and they were referred to a behaviourist. However, he became more reactive as time went on, and had directed further bites to his guardians. His male guardian had dementia.
My knowledge of observing pain told me that he likely had hip dysplasia at least – I obviously can’t diagnose as I’m not a vet, I can only observe. His previous home and his foster home were both carpeted. He couldn’t enter our home at first as he was terrified of the ceramic flooring. We had to use towel after towel to allow him to eventually come into the living room, as both it and our lounge have wooden flooring. I’m not allowed carpeting in my home as a licenced boarder, so we equipped our home with mats and rugs to allow him to move around more easily.
I took him to the vet we were registered with at the time. Because it was during Covid, I was not allowed in the surgery. So I let him go in, muzzled (he accepted his muzzle and had worn it for a long time before he came to us. This vet told me, via a nurse at the door, that he had no issues in his back end – she clearly didn’t check or he would have reacted to her, she was the type of vet that didn’t appreciate taking ‘advice’ from a trainer.
I then registered him with another vet in our area. It was quickly discovered that not only did he have hip dysplasia, but also had degenerative joint disease and had for many years, undiagnosed by every other vet who had seen him. There it was, his reason for reacting – he was in a LOT of pain. Shadow was then put on Loxicom and paracetamol to begin with, which wasn’t enough. The vet added Gabapentin to the mix and I contacted a highly rated vet physio, who treated him with laser therapy as he could not have his back end touched without becoming reactive – no surprises.
I can imagine, in part, how much pain he was in, as I have suffered rapid onset arthritis in my hip, which was misdiagnosed as back pain. Due to overcompensating, I ended up in even more excruciating pain when I suffered constant sciatica down my left side and a slipped disc. This meant I ended up having an unnecessary discectomy. When this did no good, I had gone back to my GP, who basically didn’t believe me. It was my post op physiotherapist who finally realised the pain was in my hip, as I had been trying to tell my GP the whole time!! I ended up being referred to a consultant who apologised on behalf of the NHS, and promised to replace my hip within 6 weeks – and was true to his word. It was 6 weeks later that Wee Molly’s Pals was born.
Anyway, back to Shadow. As I’ve said, he was full of fun. When we took him out to the fields where he could run freely (dogs hide pain very well, but it always catches up with them after exercise) without other dogs running up to him, he’d play games with us – running up from behind and headbutting our legs. He loved to roll around in the grass. He and Molly were fine together, although Molly did get overwhelmed by him sometimes, when he became overaroused (he was easily overaroused, something I worked on). When we took him to places where other dogs were, we had a special yellow jacket that said ‘Give Space, I’m in Pain’, and he was muzzled, JUST in case. He had a particular aversion to puppies due to their unpredictability and certainly didn’t enjoy unsolicited dogs running up to him.
In the house, he always seemed to be in our space as we tried to get past him. Always shoving everyone out the way. It was funny, but could be irritating at times, as I’m sure you’ll understand! When he was lying down and half asleep, he would react to us trying to pass him or step over him – he always seemed to be in the space we needed to get past!! So the words, Shadow, excuse me, became his cue to understand that we would cause him no pain by stepping over him. He got used to it and stopped bothering.
His pain started to get worse in spring last year. He was given the Librella injection, a new type of medication to be used in the case of chronic pain. This lasted 3 months. However, I saw him really struggling. He was finding it harder to stand up, becoming more wobbly on his feet, and was extremely stiff after walks. He also started becoming more reactive towards us. I took him to his physio, having put the appointment off, knowing what was coming. She told me it was time. He was in too much pain.
We had to make the awful decision, that at the age of 10, Shadow needed to be put to sleep as his quality of life had diminished. We called the vet and opted for a home visit. We didn’t want him passing away on a metal slab, without his home comforts. The day came, and we had a last, wonderful walk with him. It was a glorious July day, he enjoyed the walk. When he got home, we gave him a special meal, some skooshy cream and a pig’s ear to munch on.
We played some Bob Marley as reggae is calming for dogs. The vet arrived and gave him the sedation. At the moment he was falling asleep, the song Three Little Birds (don’t worry, about a thing, cos every little thing’s gonna be alright). We all sobbed. The vet respectfully gave us time with him. He was being put to sleep the same day as one of my long term boarders, tiny little Mia, a mini Pomeranian. I told him to look after her. As the vet put the canula in his leg, he actually half woke up from his sleep and reacted to her. We laughed, somewhat inappropriately, as she had gotten a real fright. He slipped away and we clung to him for a while before the vet and her assistant carefully wrapped him in a blanket and took him out to their van. My daughter, Eva and I stood as the van went up to turn and then drove past the house. We wanted to witness his last goodbye.
The grief in our house was immense, tangible in the air. We laughed about his last morning walk, where he did the whole whapping us on his way past and also him reacting to the canula. We cried thinking of that last moment of sedation when Three Little Birds came on. We felt empty. The house felt empty. Bless wee Molly, she did her best trying to console us. Things aren’t the same without him, he left a big hole in our hearts.
As a tribute, a friend painted a beautiful drawing of him, and his foster mum commissioned a beautiful chalk drawing of him. That was so unexpected, I was overwhelmed by her generosity and thinking of us.
Losing your love is so hard, but life goes on without them. We are now getting by. Focusing our attention on Molly. She’s such a beautiful soul, always there when you need her. Shadow will always be our beautiful boy, the one with special needs, the joker of the family. We miss him.