Diary | When pets get old
There are few things in life that are sadder than an ageing pet.
(Er, if you’re Not a Dog Person, I think I’d prefer for you to just skip this post altogether, rather than commenting to list all of the things in life that you find sadder than that. Seriously, I once unfriended someone on Facebook because they posted a status saying they couldn’t possibly be friends with someone who’d cry over the death of a pet when there were so many dead children in the world who they should be crying over instead. That was the fastest unfriending ever – the easiest one, too. And honestly, I’m not even the kind of person who pretends her dog is a baby, or anything like that: in fact, it really makes me cringe when people refer to me as “Rubin’s mummy” – I mean, he’s a dog, I’m a human? What the hell are you suggesting here?!)
Rubin is 13 now: a fact I constantly have to remind people of, because he doesn’t LOOK that old, and, for the most part, he doesn’t really act it, either. And I DO mean I have to remind people about it CONSTANTLY, by the way, although not by choice. There are quite a few people in my life who ask me what age he is literally every time I see them (and they’re not people I see infrequently, either), and every time, I have to smile through gritted teeth, and try to resist saying, “He’s exactly one week older than he was the LAST time you asked that: WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR YOU?!” And then, invariably, they get this weird, stricken look on their face, and go, “Oh wow, that’s SO OLD for a dog!”, then there’s a horrible uncomfortable silence where you just KNOW everyone in the room is thinking, “He’s probably going to die soon, then!” and I’m just thinking, “Seriously? This AGAIN? Every single WEEK? Are you actually TRYING to upset me?”
So. Rubin is 13, and while in many ways he’s still exactly the same as he always was, I can’t deny that over the last couple of years, he’s definitely slowed down a lot. He’s not very keen on tackling the stairs any more, for instance, and while he still begs to go for a walk, we have to put him in his pet stroller now if we’re going any further than the end of the street and back. (I PROMISE I don’t treat my dog like a baby. No, really, I mean it…)
Lately, we’ve noticed that he hasn’t been showing much interest in his morning feed, which is unlike him, because he’s always been the kind of dog who basically inhales his food as soon as he’s given it, and then spends the next ten minutes licking the bowl clean, just on the off-chance that he’s missed a bit. He was, however, still eating as usual in the evening, and has continued to beg incessantly for dog treats, which he loves, so we weren’t too concerned, and assumed that his appetite maybe wasn’t what it once was, now that he’s older, and less active.
This Wednesday, however, he refused to eat anything at all. Not his morning feed, not the evening one, not his beloved dog treats… and as soon as I realised he wasn’t interested in his Good Boy Choc Drops, I knew something wasn’t right. We kept a close eye on him all day, and finally managed to get him to eat some treats, and also some lettuce (don’t roll your eyes, he LOVES lettuce, and if that was all he was going to eat, I wasn’t going to refuse to give it to him), but when he still wasn’t 100% by the next morning, we needed to take him to the vet.
Rubin has, as I’ve mentioned before, a cyst on his neck, which has been gradually getting bigger over the last couple of years. He’s been seeing the vet about this regularly, and so far their advice has been that, as long as it wasn’t causing him any distress, we should just keep it clean (He wears a bandage around it all the time to stop it bleeding, and Terry has to clean and dress it every night: a task which I am incredibly grateful to him for taking on – I’m ashamed to admit that I’m too squeamish to even look at it…), and try not to let him scratch it etc. The only other option, they told us, would be to operate to remove it: which, given Rubin’s age, would be a risk they didn’t advise taking unless there was no other option.
Right now, it seems there’s no other option.
Until recently, Rubin didn’t even seem to be aware of the cyst’s existence. He obviously wasn’t in pain, and was behaving totally normally, so while it was unpleasant to look at (And particularly unpleasant for Terry to have to clean every night…), we were happy to just leave it be, rather than put him through an operation. Now, though,the cyst has gotten bigger, it has to be drained (by Terry) every morning and night, and although Rubin did regain his appetite by Thursday afternoon, and is back to eating normally again, it’s really obvious to us that we can’t just let him continue like this. On Thursday, then, he saw a new vet, who agreed that the cyst needs to be removed, and who feels it should be done sooner rather than later: if we leave it, it’s only going to get larger, and to affect Rubin more, and obviously the longer we leave it, the older he gets, and the more risky the surgery becomes.
So the upshot is that he has to have an operation.
This new vet wasn’t overly concerned about this: apparently they use a different type of sedation from the place we’ve always taken him, and while there’s always a risk with any kind of surgery, she feels that, as his general health is good, it’s not as huge as risk as we’d assumed. I, of course, am unconvinced: I have a huge fear of general anaesthetic anyway, and it’s not just on my own account – I worry about everyone I know who has to have one, and no matter how confident the vet is that he’ll come through it just fine, I’m completely and utterly terrified. And, I mean, I know it’s the right decision to have this thing removed – it just wouldn’t be kind to allow him to continue trying to live with it when it’s obviously starting to affect his quality of life – but still: I just wish this didn’t have to happen.
Anyway, he goes in on Tuesday morning, and we should have him back the same day, if all goes well. I already had some posts scheduled for next week (I know no one would notice if I took a few days off, obviously: I’m just mentioning them in case you see the posts going up and think, “Wow, what a cold, heartless bitch: her poor little dog is having surgery, and there’s Amber banging on about dresses, as usual!”), but if I do go AWOL for a while, it’s because I’ll be curled up in a tiny ball of terror, rocking back and forth and crying a lot.
I’m sure it’ll all be fine, though.