Dear Annie

It’s been just over a week since we said goodbye to you. A week of re-adjustments and changing of habits. One bowl of food, not two. One handful of biscuits, not two. I keep looking for you and hearing your bark. Even though you’re gone, you’re still very much in our hearts and minds.

Brussels Griffon. You’re not a common breed of dog and when describing you, I always refer to the movie “As good as it gets” with Verdell. But that’s not how we ended up choosing you.

13 years ago, KK was not a big dog fan. When picking a dog breed, instead of strolling through kennels at the SPCA, he paged through a dog directory narrowing down his choices based on size, hair shedding and outdoor space requirements. The entry for a Brussels Griffon was a match!

You were so much smaller than your little beetle bug! And so stern. That look never changed.

We found a breeder in Durban and within a few months, you arrived. Just like the catalogue had described, you were “full of self-importance, happy, spunky, spirited, and comical.”

From day one, you were an escape artist. You managed to get out of the dining room, up stairs and set the alarm off while we were at work. For a couple who had decided not to have kids, we ended up installing a baby gate in the kitchen to keep you inside during the day with a little dog flap in the back door to come and go as you please.

You loved weekends when we would potter around in the garden and you’d do your best to mess with the leaves and grass.

You were always the first to dash outside an open door to greet guests and run trails along the bottom of the garden, barking at the neighbors dogs behind the wall.

You never knew quite what to do with your chewy and if we looked away for 10 mins, you had buried it in the sand outside.

You exploded with boundless energy and life. I can still remember hearing your laughter as you raced up the stairs and flew onto the bed. Or making sure you snuggled behind us on the couch to watch TV. The breeder warned us that this position meant you were establishing yourself as the “Leader” of the household. True words indeed.

Your favourite position.

There are so many memories of you in my head. The way you walked (pulled) on the lead. How you kick-boxed me when I was dishing up your supper. Watching you stalking and chasing the haadedahs.

Sitting on Oupies lap

Going for walkies with Oumie. You loved this!

In December 2015, our lives changed and a tumour was found on one of your adrenal glands. We were “lucky” that it had been caught early and successfully removed. But you were never quite the same after that. You lost your sparkle.

You hated being on a drip. Sorry Panks.

 

Suddenly old age caught up with you. You had started to go deaf and blind fast. When KK would arrive home from work, you wouldn’t run to the door anymore because you hadn’t heard him come home. If you couldn’t see or hear me in the room, you’d be frantic. You battled to jump on the couch and I started carrying you up and down the stairs in case you slipped and fell down them (which happened often when you ran down ahead of me). You refused to give up.

A little fighter. The ghastly Lenisilone drugs started to take their toll. Mood swings. Bloated belly. Hunger. You weren’t comfortable. A bout of pancreatitis meant a change in diet. Low fat kibbles and tin food. No more grated cheese snacks.

Cuddles…

You held on for another two years before your body gave in. A growth discovered in your belly and on your liver, inflammation of the stomach lining, suspected Cushing’s disease… I’m grateful for the doctors at Fourways Veterinary Hospital for their list of life-saving options but we made the decision to not pursue treatment. 12 years & 9 months is a good age for a dog. We made sure you had an amazing life. We refused to let you spend your last few years in and out of hospital and on medication.

We said our goodbyes on the 30 April. You spent your last day pottering around in the garden, barking at our neighbor’s painter on the roof. For lunch you had a big bowl of cheese and biltong and enjoyed a walk through the complex with your sister. I hugged you at every moment I could and stared at you while you slept in the warm afternoon sun. Emma would tiptoe up to you and sniff your sleeping face. She knew.

When we drove you to the family vet, you were calm. You didn’t struggle. KK and I stayed with you till the very end. We owed you that.

But my heart is broken. KK’s heart is sore and Emma is lost and confused. She misses you so much and you know how much she hates being alone.

But we did the right thing. You were not suffering. You were not in pain. You were uncomfortable but happy.

Sitting with KK on the bed XXX

A lot of people often refer to my dogs as “my children” because KK and I have chosen not to have kids. I always correct them saying, “No, these are dogs. No comparison to actual children.” But when I think of the love and joy that you brought us Annie, I think you were a pretty good substitute. You loved us so much! And we loved you. We called you Panks and I was your mom and KK, Mr non-dog lover, was your biggest fan.

You loved sitting on my lap.

Our first and last dog park trip. You couldn’t understand why the other dogs kept talking to you.

We will miss your smile, your stern face and your joy!

Spatchcock Annie

The year Annie grew old

It felt like she grew old overnight. One day she was running around outside chasing birds, the next day she needed help getting onto the couch. An adrenalectomy to remove a tumor which was growing on one of her adrenal glands and suddenly we were told that “12 years is a good age for dogs like her”. Since January, my dog Annie has never been the same.

Before and after.

According to Dr Carter, we were “lucky to catch” her tumor before it was too late to be removed. The op, although successful, was incredibly invasive and for a little dog who had been healthy all her life, it was a massive shock.Animal hospital stitches operation

Visiting her in the Fourways Vet Hospital, seeing her lying in her own little hospital bed was heartbreaking. Just when I thought it was all over, I had no idea of what was yet to come.

The remaining adrenal gland will not ‘wake up’. She is therefore unable to control her blood pressure which causes her to fall over a lot. She can’t control her temperature properly and often gets depression. This means that Annie lives off high levels of Lenisolone (it’s the canine version of Prednisone. If you’ve been on this cortisone, I don’t need to explain. It’s demonic!).

The op was such a big shock to her body that she has grown old very quickly. She is showing signs of cataracts in her eyes, is hard of hearing and limps slightly every now and then from joint pain. Her little back ‘chicken legs’ (KK calls them this) shiver. And then … a growth was discovered in the lining of her stomach wall. She won’t survive another op…

Monthly checkups with Dr Carter and she stands at the door waiting to get outta there!

Monthly checkups with Dr Carter and she stands at the door waiting to get outta there!

I’m so blessed that my parents have been able to look after both Annie & Emma. Living in a retirement home, it was the perfect setting for Annie to recoup and get 24/7 attention. The hugs and kisses don’t just stop with my parents! All the neighbors shower the girls with attention too! I am so grateful to have the parents I do.Staying with my parents in the retirement home hugs and kisses

KK and I realise that our house is not conducive for an old dog. Annie falls down the stairs and slips on the tiles. But more than that, our lifestyles are not suited to looking after her anymore. We have a full time helper so she has company in the day but when we leave at 6:30 for work and only get home after 7pm after track, that’s a long day without us. Then weekends, we’re out again at track sessions or running races or shopping.

For now we will take each day as it comes. Dr Carter is very happy with her progress. But as he says, “Annie is old.” We need to come to terms with that. Annie Brussels griffon

Lessons from a dog called Emma

My dog Emma is a beautiful and gentle animal. The only thing she stresses about are bees and if her supper is late. I’m a stressor. I pretty much stress about everything. But here’s what Emma has taught me about life:

1. There will be times in your life when you let yourself go and put on weight. It’s okay because you can always lose the weight. It’s about making that change and doing something different. Emma put on so much weight that she could hardly run up the stairs. But she’s managed to lose the weight and has dropped from 7.9kgs in 2012, to 5.1kgs! 

2. Always make time to sleep! Always! Emma loves to sleep. In fact she gets edgy at night if we stay up too late and slowly makes her way to her bed without even being asked. Getting a good night’s rest is priority for Emma and should be for me! 

3. Everyone has a bad hair day sometimes. Don’t stress – it’s what makes you unique! Emma has a lot of hair! It’s in her food, in her eyes, in her mouth. We try trim it as much as we can but it grows so quickly. We’ve decided to leave it because, well, that’s who she is. Love the way you look. Don’t always try and change who you are!582302_10150827184515443_955155940_n (2)

4. In life, we can’t choose our family. No matter what, have their backs. If you don’t, nobody else will. Even though she is the baby, Emma looks after her bigger sister Annie. 

5. Be fabulous! Even if it means adding some colour, a bit of lighting and special effects to your life! Emma was so patient when I took this photo. I was playing around with apps to post to Instagram. The photo came out beautifully! It’s one of my favs!I love you Emma! XXX

ps: In case you’re wondering, her breed is Brussel Griffon.

It’s called tough love

Nobody wants to admit that they have a problem child. You always think that other people’s children are naughtier than yours and that your kids can do nothing wrong. That’s how I felt about my two girls dogs, Annie & Emma. Until recently. You see, it’s hard to admit this but they’ve become barkers. Yip, I have two spoilt, naughty, irritating yappers! (OMG, I said it!).

They bark at the neighbour’s dog, the neighbour’s cat, the neighbour himself. They bark at the security guard and cars driving into the complex. They absolutely hate hearing kids playing outside our gate and they detest the hadedahs. KK and I have pretty much ignored it and when we hear them bark, we shout at them. But when we leave the house, I can just imagine what it must be like! I’d hate to be our neighbour.

I kept thinking that my only option was electric shock collars but then the owner of the dog salon told us about a Chihuahua who has to wear a vibrating collar when he has a treatment because he can’t stop barking. (You see, there’s always someone else’s child who is worse than ours).Vibrating dog collars

So we spoke to the Vet who showed us two options: a vibrating/sound dog collar or a sound emitting bird house. We opted for the collars. My girls hate the collars. As soon as I put them on, they slink away and give me the hairy eyeball. The guilt trip kills me! But so far, so good.Cold shoulder from AnnieEmma looking miserableI think they hate wearing the collars more than the uncomfort of the vibration when they bark. But I need them to learn to stop their ugly habit. I have no other option. I now realize what they mean by ‘tough love’!

I’m holding thumbs that the collars work. I’ll keep you guys posted…