MillieHow fragile life can be, you potter along complaining about life (and retirement) and something happens to bring you up short. I wrote a blog a while ago asking the question should a person/s get a dog or even two dogs when they retire? With hindsight the answer, or at least one version of it, seems to be – a qualified yes. The qualification being that if you take these dogs into your home and your heart then you’d better hope that nothing bad happens to them. I’m saying this because we nearly lost our female border collie called Millie (see photo above right). We still don’t what happened and neither, it appears, do the vets. The two most likely explanations are either she was poisoned or she had an epileptic fit. Millie and her brother Archie had just returned from their morning walk with Mrs Summerhouse when she started to shake and then kind of collapsed and couldn’t walk. I wrapped her in a blanket and held her tight but the shaking did not stop. Any thoughts of her being cold were quickly dispelled. We bundled her up and took her straight to the vet. I seriously thought on the journey that she was going to die. She was so distressed and the thing was I felt completely powerless to help her. I felt she was looking to me to do something and I was letting her down, letting her die in fact.

By the time we arrived at the vet I was a jibbering mess. Can you put her on the scales? the vet said. This infuriated me, I said she can’t stand, this is no time to be weighing her. Then the vet patiently explained she needed to be weighed so they knew how much sedative medication to give her. Then I felt a chump. After a lot of questions about how the attack had come on, not all of which we could answer, we left her and went out to the car and cried. I was convinced we had seen the last of her. Then we went home and cried some more. We were told to call in two hours. Two hours of total agony.

When we called it was not good news. She had not responded to the medication they had given her and would need to go to the hospital. We drove to the vet and then, with Millie, pathetically wrapped in a towel from the vet, we drove her to the other side of the city to the Veterinary Hospital. I had thought she was a little improved on the journey but the second we walked into the vet’s room with Millie in my arms, she, the vet, immediately took Millie away as she said she was still fitting. She was gone for three or four days or so it seemed. They closed the door, why did they do that? What are they protecting us from? A couple of staff ran by the window in the door. Oh my God was that for Millie? Eventually having done what needed to be done, the vet returned. It was not a comfortable experience but then I suppose it couldn’t be.

A thousand questions, many of which we had already answered but she had to ask them again because not all the paperwork had come through from our vet. After quite a while I said, I have to ask – is she going to make it? The vet, understandably I suppose, wouldn’t or couldn’t directly answer the question as at that point she didn’t know what had happened and blood tests would be needed to find out. Turned out we still don’t know and the blood tests revealed nothing. However, what she did say was that Millie’s condition was ‘serious’. Mrs Summerhouse who had stopped crying about 10 minutes before, started to cry again. I tried my ‘be strong’ face on and found it sadly lacking. The vet then bombarded us with information, too much I thought, we were stunned and tried to pull out any key bits of information. All we wanted to know was would she live and when could she come home? Questions that could not be answered at this stage.

We went home and the sight of Millie’s lead and red collar hanging on a hook by the front door, set me off again. We had a thoroughly miserable rest of Friday and an equally miserable Saturday, although by then, we were starting to get slightly more positive reports from the hospital. The last one on Saturday we were told that she had eaten. That’s my girl, she loves her food does our Millie. Now it’s Sunday and we’re going to pick her up and bring her home in an hour or so. What we don’t know at this point is what will she be like? Will she have any physical handicaps, or any brain damage, will the whole experience have turned an already sensitive dog into something worse personality-wise? So fingers crossed again.

And the morale of all this? We can’t really find one, not yet. With our two dogs exercise is a vital daily requirement. We can’t walk them on the lead. When they’re off the lead and, in what we had previously assumed was, a safe space, we don’t see then all the time, perhaps we should. Although you do wonder if anywhere is safe when you hear from another dog owner that some ‘person’ had been leaving poisoned marshmallows in one of our local parks where we frequently take ours walking. I can only hope that these people die a painful death from poisoning. I believe in karma so who knows, it might happen. We assume the insurance company will do what they say given we’ve been paying £40 a month for just such and eventuality. Heaven help me I have thought in the past that we are wasting our money like this but looks like I’m wrong, very wrong. I have no doubt that we would have paid the fees anyway, we would not just have shrugged and said she’s only a dog. Millie is a part of our family now and this is what retirement has become for us. I’d like a little less in the way of ‘excitement’ in our retirement, please.

When we took them to puppy training class the woman who ran the class told us, a little callously we felt at the time, that dogs did not love their owners. We were simply a big dog who gave them food. That’s as may be and we could debate for a long time the meaning of ‘love’ but for now whatever their feelings towards us we really do love them and it took last Friday to prove it.

So yes, how fragile life is and here am I complaining about retirement being not quite right, now we know how wrong it could be. Millie is home with us now and seemingly fully recovered. We think Archie missed her but as you can see he was pretty laid back about the whole thing.archie3

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