Suki – Lakemere Northern Lights
2005 – 2016
Monday 16th May 2016
Today Linda and I had to make a very very hard decision.
Suki, our eleven year old flatcoated retriever has been becoming ever more frail, losing weight and finding standing and walking very difficult. Most tellingly for a flatcoat she was losing her appetite and was becoming very lethargic.
She had lost about 25% of her body weight in a few weeks. We consulted our lovely vet, Alice, whose opinion was that Suki only had a matter of days and that easing the process would be the kindest thing.
The three of us decided that taking her home for a day wouldn’t cause her undue suffering so we made an appointment for tomorrow at the centre in Clayton-le-Dale where Alice will be working.
Alice has been Suki’s vet through some tough times, like when she needed an emergency spay 2 years ago and then lost an eye to an infection, and to be honest we couldn’t contemplate this difficult thing without her help.
It seemed more proper and dignified to have the chance to say good bye properly as a family, so, we brought Suki home and she is sitting on her bed next to me as I type this.
We have decided that we must not be sad but instead we must make her last day as happy and comfortable as we can and remember together the joy and love that she has brought into our lives.
So, I am spending some of today reminding myself of some of the lovely times we have had together. She really has changed our lives in so many beautiful ways since we brought her home from Fran Heslop’s kennels crying in the car with a towel smelling of her Mum, Lizzie, who you can see overrun with puppies in this picture
Suki had been very well socialised already by the time we were allowed to bring her home – Fran apparently even slept in the litter box (shown above) [Linda says NEXT to the litter box :-)] with the pups sometimes. When we got Suki she was tiny and rather overawed at the garden that was her new play space.
She soon acclimatised and demonstrated that she was truly a licky waggy tailed flatcoat.
Clearly her early development was confused a little by being brought up with our cat Gizmo, who, incidentally, had the cleanest ears in Christendom, thanks to Suki’s constant licking
…but she soon learned all of the lovely flatcoat dogginess that would stand her in good stead for the next decade
We got Suki at the same time as we bought a holiday lodge in the Lake District and together we learned to enjoy the many experiences that the Lakes had to offer. Strangely for a flatcoat she didn’t take to water straight away. It was only when we took her on a circuit of Rydalwater that we met another flatcoat who taught her that getting into a lake was about the most fun thing that a flatcoat can do. She doesn’t look totally convinced in this picture, but she soon got the hang of it.
After a tentative sally into the lake she was soon splashing about and ever after she only had to smell water or hear it running to start pulling on the lead in eager anticipation.
This photo was taken the same day and shows what a beautiful and elegant adolescent dog she was.
Water became Suki’s element She revelled in it in all its forms
Halfway up the very steep 2,000 foot ascent to Thornthwaite Crag I was wondering whether I had bitten off more than I could chew, but Suki was loving it and pulled me up the hardest parts, reaching the top barely out of breath. In spite of the fact that there were still a few remnants of snow she was hot and thirsty and so as soon as she spotted this tarn I released her and she had a wonderful soak in some lovely boggy water.
She took me all the way home over the peaks and as we arrived back at the lodge Linda arrived in her car and seemed quite worried by how tired I looked. Suki on the other hand was fresh as a daisy!
We did our best training her, but those of you who have laughed at that Fenton video will know that flatcoats are not the most biddable of dogs when they have a different agenda to yours. When we took Suki to the Ullswater show the compere immediately came over and asked if he could include her in his gun-dog demonstration. We explained she wasn’t gun-dog trained, but he said that would be OK. Our girl then gave a wonderful demonstration of how not to retrieve, as you can see here:
As she blossomed she became something of a film star, featuring in the wonderful film made by Dan Childs for us to promote our holiday lodge business.
She also starred in the films we made with Andrew White of Walks Around Britain (and shortly to be of Countryfile)
Suki loved being on our boat, Ariel, on Windermere, particularly either snuggling up with Linda on the stern bench
..or sitting up with her ears flapping in the wind.
We had some wonderful times together on Windermere, with one memorable summer’s evening when we moored at Brockholes jetty and swam with Suki in the water.
Above all though Suki’s lovely temperament meant she was a fantastic family dog
She joined us on our surfing holidays in Ireland
One evening in Kerry she quietly wandered off, instigating a full scale search party of two miles of beach and road. I finally found her 50 yards from home in the pony trekking stables where she’d been that afternoon as my grandson went for a ride. I think she’d been drawn by the lovely smell of horse poo, about which the least said probably the better. Her selective deafness was a Suki speciality.
Suki’s later years were enlivened by the arrival into our family of Holly, another flatcoat, who relentlessly insisted that Suki was not allowed to retreat into quiet retirement
Two years ago Suki suffered a bout of pyometra and had to have an emergency operation. Shortly after she got an infection in her right eye and had to have it removed. She recovered from both setbacks and continued to live up to the breed’s description of “the Peter Pan of dogs”, crashing through the undergrowth with the same accuracy which has always amazed us.
Just 4 weeks ago she accompanied us on a 10 mile walk up to Tilberthwaite Force and two days later she did her last proper walk with us she joined us on a ramble around the Grizedale Forest where she and Holly had a swim in the tarn near High Cross.
Her decline was then very sudden. She lost body weight awfully quickly and refused to walk. Her appetite failed and she had trouble keeping her food down. She began to find it very hard to control her back legs and we started to realise that she wouldn’t be with us much longer. We took her in the car down to the water’s edge at Coniston where she had a last swim on a warm afternoon, sinking right down and immersing herself with obvious enjoyment.
All her life she has been the happiest of dogs and she has been waggy tailed and alert to the end. This lovely photo was taken just last night on our lawn.
Watching as she struggled more and more, we know that although the decision we took this morning was hard it is the right one for her. Even the special pouch of dog food Linda bought didn’t really interest her, and we really do think she’d had enough.
This evening will be so hard, and tomorrow will be even harder, but we shall make her know how loved she is between now and then.
Tuesday 17th May 2016
We woke, almost hoping that maybe Suki might have passed away peacefully in the night, but she was still there and raised her head and wagged her tail as we entered the kitchen. I put her special breakfast in her bowl and held it up for her so she could feed more easily. She gobbled up a few mouthfuls and then rejected the rest. She refused any water. She’d never have done this before and we know it’s time, but it’s still so hard. I took one last photo and posted it is as today’s Dog Love Challenge picture in Facebook.
We know that loving Suki means having to do what we must later this morning, but she looks so beautiful and her trust in us is heart-breaking.
So for now she was comfortable and Holly her “sister” needed a walk and our love and attention too.
After Holly’s walk I carried Suki outside into the sunshine and put her on her bed in the garden and we sat in the dappled sunlight as I ate my breakfast and talked to her about the happy times we had shared, remembering her escape bids when she’d take off on a walk of her own and end up in the local housing estate. As we talked she seemed very content and relaxed and she ate my last bit of toast. Then Linda joined us and Suki ate some of her very buttery toast and we enjoyed an hour of loving and talking, with Holly intervening every now and then to make sure we all knew she was there still, and to stop us getting too maudlin. Suki knew she’s very loved. Towards the end she staggered up and took herself off to her favourite private place in the corner, where we left her for a few minutes on her own.
We took her on her last journey to see Alice. Suki always loved seeing Alice so we were glad that we were able to take this journey with her. We arrived and Alice gave Suki a sedative and left us to sit with her whilst she went gently into a deep sleep. After 10 minutes or so Alice came back in and administered the injection which sent her on her way with a few gentle sighs. This was a good death, surrounded by those she loved, and dignified to the end. We can’t thank Alice enough for her sensitivity and kindness. We knew it was the right time and the right thing to do but it was still a difficult decision to take. She’s at peace now though.
So Suki has now taken that final leap.
I hope the water is lovely sweet thing xxx.
We’ll get her ashes next week and there is only one place really where her ashes can go. We’ll make a sad trip to the water’s edge at Coniston and take her home to the water she loved so much. Then, whenever we go down there again we’ll feel her happy presence near us, and remember the beautiful girl who put so much pleasure into our lives.
The Suki sized hole that has been growing in Linda and I since she started to diminish needs to be filled with memories and happy thoughts of her. There are plenty to go round. Linda said on the way home that Suki won’t be on the Rainbow Bridge that people talk about but jumping into the water beside it. What a lovely thought.
As the reality of Suki’s loss starts to crystalise I have been thinking about euthanasia – literally, as you probably know, an easy or a good death.
Although we all take responsibility for other lives every time we get into a car, or when we look after our kids and pets, it is very rare that we ever have to confront the direct responsibility for terminating a life. We kill bugs on the motorway with little thought, but the enormity of determining a loved pet’s fate is horribly daunting. I think though that many of us must know when the time is right, but the fear that the consequences of the decision may be awful for your beloved pet and yourself can make taking that decision very hard.
I think if people were aware of the likelihood of a dignified, peaceful passing, such as the one we experienced with our lovely Suki this morning, then they would be able to make that decision, not with less gravity, but with clearer vision.
Linda tells me that sometimes vets do not administer a sedative first, so I would advise anyone in this position to request it, as it was clearly a major factor in making the experience tolerable for all concerned.
I am convinced that what we did today was right for Suki and that waiting longer would not have been fair to her. To have delayed through fear of what was, in a peculiar way, a beautiful event would, in retrospect, have been terribly sad.
I only wish they could do it that way for us humans too
© John Hobson 2016