Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dog Tired

All is not harmony here in Welsh Wales, and the source of the discord is a very sad one. Mortimer, the DevilDog, is getting on a bit. In dog years he's heading for 100, which for a Patterdale Terrier is nothing sort of miraculous. Normally you could expect them to self-destruct long before then, and he did his best early on in life, jumping out of pick-up trucks that relatively speaking were the height of a two-storey house. Often while they were still moving.

The downside of such youthful exuberance is a that he is now pretty much crippled with arthritis. Despite evening primrose oil, cod liver oil, glucosamine, chondroitin, Omega 3 and anti-inflammatories, he moves very slowly and only when there's food on offer. His eyes are milky with cataracts, he's bony and thin, going bald in places, but his nose still seems to work

The new house has two steps down into the garden which means for the most part we carry the DevilDog outside whenever we think he needs a pee. He does his business, wanders back to the step (or somewhere near it, sometimes the living room window about five feet to the side) and barks to let us know he wants back in. It's not ideal, but it works.

Lately he's taken to barking when he wants out, or when he wants a drink. Sometimes he just barks for no obvious reason at all. This is fine during the day, since we're not there; fine in the evenings as we can take him out and bring him back in again. When it's less fine is at four in the morning, which is rapidly becoming his favoured barking moment.

Four in the morning has little to recommend it, at least here in deepest darkest winter Wales. It's pitch black, often cold, always raining and two and a half hours before I actually have to get up. If, like yesterday, all that needs to be done is a quick put out and bring back in again, I can be back in bed by quarter past. If, like today, the barking has come after the fact, then I have to stumble around bleary-eyed cleaning up dog-wee from the carpet, and my side of the bed is cold by the time I crawl back in, half an hour later.

It's not easy getting back to sleep when you've been woken by a plaintive bark. The DevilDog doesn't holler like some beasts I have known. He doesn't go on and on and on. Instead he just barks once, then pauses for a while as if wondering whether anything is going to happen. Then, just as your waking brain has persuaded itself that you didn't hear anything, really, he barks again. I usually manage to drift off to sleep again around about the time the alarm clock starts playing the Today programme.

This morning I managed to sleep through an hour of Naughtie and Evans wittering on about politics and world affairs, which meant I was an hour late for work. Yesterday I struggled to get up and very nearly poured coffee all over my cornflakes (which I suppose would have saved on the washing up). Who knows what joys tomorrow will bring? I suspect they will involve barking. And it being too bloody early in the morning, thankyou.

We are going to have to face up to the truth sooner rather than later. Quite apart from the inconvenience to us, the fact that Mortimer has started barking shows that he is becoming distressed. Throughout his life he has always been very reserved when at home (although out on the farm or chasing delivery drivers is another matter). His was ever the quiet nudge of a wet nose when he wanted some attention; he has never been overly pushy. Even now he seems more embarrassed at being a nuisance than anything else.

I've been through this dilemma all too recently with Chiswick and really don't want to have to face up to it after everything else that's happened in the past year. But I can't get away from the fact that soon, all too soon, I'm going to have to take him on that one way trip to the vet.

the DevilDog in better times



Blogger Peter said...

Tiredness - having spent half a hour last night chasing a mouse that the cats brought in and abandoned in our bedroom, I know what you mean.

I say mouse generically but I suspect Speedy Gonzales may have emigrated to New Zealand.

I think it is the cats idea of fun and sharing - why they cannot just lend me their favourite book or cd I don't know . . . . .


January 14, 2009 7:28 pm  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Aw James, I'm sorry about this. When we lost Patches months back, the small consolation was knowing he wasn't in prolonged pain - it appeared he had a tumor and it ruptured, and from then it was only a few days until the end, but at least he didn't suffer long.

Still, I'm all too familiar with that 'embarrassed to be a nuisance' look a dog can have. I'm sorry.

January 14, 2009 11:40 pm  
Anonymous norby said...

Aw James, and poor DevilDog as well. We talked in my veterinary science classes about whether animals have certain feelings or not, and I think that's one of those times when animals do know and feel what's going on.

You've had a rough year my friend-I'll be thinking of you.

January 15, 2009 7:56 pm  

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