The lovely Dolly had her final trip to the vet's yesterday. We don't know whether it was a spine/nerve problem or kidney failure or just plain old age - she was about 90 in human years - but she'd been getting thinner and thinner and had trouble with her back legs. She was reprieved by the vet on Monday and sent home with painkillers but yesterday I put her in the run with Molly to enjoy some winter sunshine (Dolly loved the sun as long as it wasn't too hot) and she could barely walk. She was dragging herself round in circles with her front legs and it was a pitiful sight.
Although not a great fan of being held, she waited quietly with her head resting on my shoulder and once again the sun shone through the window as the vet was explaining what would happen and Dolly lifed up her tiny face to catch the afternoon rays. When her time came she lay quietly in my arms and passed away very quickly. The nice kind lady vet checked the awful final lack of a heartbeat with her stethoscope and said "She's gone".
I'd forced myself not to cry and and to stay calm for Dolly's sake (and John had been sent out of the room). No animal, or human for that matter, should die in fear picking up on the stress of the one holding her. But when the vet pronounced, be it ever so gently, that she was dead I grabbed her and held her up to my face and sobbed before we laid her on the table, her eyes open and her little legs twitching in a reflex movement as the vet warned they would. I'd never seen an animal die before. Until a week ago when my Great Uncle Bill passed away I'd never seen a human die either. Not a good week.
We'd declined the offer of a private cremation with her ashes returned to us and didn't want to bring her home for burial as it would have been difficult without Molly and our cat Sophie seeing what we were doing. Anyway one day she would have been dug up by someone laying a patio. Her body was left for the vet to arrange her "return to the elements" as they said eloquently at my Dad's funeral. Funny how one death brings them all back.
Dolly then had the current fashionable memorial of being in pride of place in my Facebook profile photo (Uncle Bill's photo taking pride of place in the 1911 Census Group since he was the oldest member of our family tree). My dear Facebook friends - "name" cousins (we don't know each other but we know we're family), those with the same hobbies, fellow marketers, all together in mourning a little tiny furry creature. Those friends are a blessing.
Dolly did not have a good life before she was adopted by us in July 2008. Hints of it were enough for me to cover my ears when the rescue centre talked about it. But then she had "the life of Riley" as my Mum put it. She changed from a shy frightened animal into a real sweetheart. Not quite so free with the kisses as Molly, who's a Chav Bunny, but they were very precious when you got them.
So where is she now? Whilst I'm certain of my place in heaven when I die I can't be sure where animals go. I can't believe they have no soul and there's nothing. Why would God create such beautiful creatures if they meant nothing to Him? When my Uncle Bill died the usual claptrap began. The kind of claptrap spouted by those who believe there is "something out there" and the offend that something on a daily basis. "You saw the shadow of death come for him" "Frieda [his wife] was there". Drivel. So now I'm going to add to the drivel with an observation about Dolly.
I walked back from the shops yesterday feeling like my heart had been ripped out and stamped on. The moon was just coming up and it was the biggest, brightest (almost) full moon I've ever seen. It was as if Dolly was saying "It's alright Mum. I'm OK now" Who knows?