Sunday, 15 November 2015

A Sad Day

Yesterday was a very sad day for us, as it was the day we said goodbye to our dog, Duchess.  After many months of discussing it and going back and forth, we finally decided with very heavy hearts that we simply could not give her the home she deserved.  The decision reminded us, once again, of the cost of autism.

When we bought Duchess, she was an absolutely beautiful puppy and we very carefully chose a Newfoundland because of the incredibly gentle reputation of her breed.  We knew she would become one of the largest dogs around but were perfectly happy with this, as we've always had large dogs.  We were very hopeful that a gentle dog would be able to make a bond with Adam and be a source of comfort and companionship for him.  

Sadly, this was not to be.

As the months passed, it became clear that Adam was not bonding with Duchess.  She tried to be friendly with him, to encourage him to play, but he appeared overwhelmed by her puppyish enthusiasm and despite our best efforts to prevent it, he would regularly lash out at her.  He would kick her, slap her, punch her and even attempt to dig his fingernails directly into her eyes.  Duchess was so gentle that she never made any sort of aggressive move towards him, she simply tolerated his treatment of her.  We tried many, many times to teach him to be gentle with her but, as in so many areas, we simply could not make him understand.  In an effort to protect Duchess, she ended up spending a lot of time either in the garden or locked behind the gate in the kitchen until Adam went to bed.  We were so conscious that it simply wasn't the life we wanted to give her or the life that she deserved.

But we loved her and we didn't want to give up.  We kept hoping that Adam would become used to her, would stop mistreating her and that, at the very least, he might ignore her if he wouldn't bond with her.  There was just one day in the summer when something clicked in Adam's head and he spent a good hour playing with her in the garden.  She bounced around him and he laughed in delight...but then the switch flicked again and it was as though the moment had never happened.

It's not a pretty sight,
struggling to breathe
Added into the mix, both Adam and I have had many asthma attacks during this last year.  Even though I'm a lifelong, chronic asthmatic, I haven't had health problems this severe for a very long time.  But in the last year, I've been in two ambulances, A&E twice, signed off work for a total of two months and it's gotten to the point that the doctors had no more medication to give me - I was already on the lot.  Eventually, I wondered if I might be allergic to Duchess - despite never reacting to any of our previous dogs - and so I asked the doctor to run tests.  These confirmed that I do indeed have a "level three" allergy to dogs, which on a scale of 1-6 is only really moderate but with a severe underlying condition, it made me stop and think.  And, over the last six to eight months, as Adam was on more and more inhalers and nothing was actually stopping the wheezing and coughing, it prompted me to have a conversation with his class teacher. What she said was sobering.  She told me that every single day, Adam arrived at school wheezing but that throughout the day, his breathing cleared.  He always came home in good health.  She asked me whether there might be anything in the home environment that Adam might be allergic to...?   It didn't take long to put two and two together.

Eventually, after many conversations and even more tears, we made the heartbreaking decision that we needed to find a new home for Duchess.  Thankfully, with the help of my sister, we found her a loving family on an eight-acre horse farm who were looking for a new dog to replace their beloved pet who had died a few months ago.  From the moment we introduced Duchess, it was clear that she would be absolutely treasured and would have a fabulous life with them so we are very grateful to have found what we very much hope will be Duchess's "forever home".

But that didn't make yesterday any easier as we said goodbye to our big, furry friend.  And even as we watched her jumping for joy and gambolling like a tiny puppy around the pastures, we cried many tears.  It seems strange to say that the house seems quiet now, as we do after all have an autistic son who is never quiet unless he's asleep but there is an absence and we are very aware of it.  Both of us feel as though we've failed in many ways because we've never, ever rehomed a pet in all our years of having cats, dogs, guinea pigs and even fish, they have only ever left us for "the great kennel in the sky" as we gently call it.  But however hard and painful this decision has been, we also know we've given Duchess a chance at having the life she deserves with a family who will absolutely adore her.

But that knowledge doesn't take away our sadness at losing our friend.
Our last walk together

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