On February 16th 2011 I wrote a blog-post…saying goodbye to our Labrador Bonnie
Nowhere in my mind did I ever consider that just over 4 years later I would be writing this about Coco who entered our lives on August 3rd 2011. A replacement for Bonnie? Never…a new little character to bring light to our lives and fun? Very much so…
Having gone through the trauma of losing Bonnie so quickly you would think that life would deal you a gentler hand the next time you opened your heart and home to a little ball of canine goodness…Yet here I am today, just over 48 hours after losing Coco once again writing this down as a way of getting my head around what has happened and maybe in this case giving a small heads up to other Spaniel owners about an issue that for all the time I had Coco I had never once read about but in the last two days have read much.
Through all the trials of the past four years I had Coco, she very rarely left my side, she was always happy, always wagging her tail, always thrilled to see people with a special welcome always reserved for the Tesco delivery driver who each week appeared and brought the bag with the dog treats in it…a bag she always found very quickly.
She was just a fun wee thing to have around, she liked her snooze time, disappearing under a chair for added protection as she slept, and despite the daily routine of her hiding when she saw me putting on my shoes for walkies time once the harness was on she launched herself into her outdoor world like any dog does.
Because she had been raised as a pup in suburban Edinburgh the time she spent off the lead was limited, both for her protection and that of those around her…as 20 odd rugby players training in Saughton Park found out one day as Coco decided to use the mass of running bodies coming towards her as a game of doggy skittles as she ran headlong into them leading to hefty male bodies going in all directions and Coco emerging from the rear of the pack oblivious to the chaos she had caused.
That was Coco…just a fun wee girl to have around…
It never seemed to bother her that I kept her on a long lead when walking, she would have chased anything just to play, but usually where other dogs were concerned it was the owners she wanted to talk to not the dogs.
And so life plodded on, and then a few weeks ago she started to have the odd bout of diarrhea, not prolonged or enough to think it was anything other than maybe an upset stomach caused by the latest thing she had decided to pick up when out, something all dog owners can relate to.
Then last Monday night i noticed for the first time that her stools were darker, on Tuesday night they were starting to resemble tar and on Wednesday morning she began to combine the tarry substance with diarrhea and it was obvious that something wasn’t right. Her body started to look a bit bloated, and whilst she was always a heavier dog right from being a pup her weight was always in the range the Vet gave me back in 2011 as a guide and depending on exercise it went up and down. I had recently thought it was a bit high and had started a longer walking regime for her to get it back to mid-range which meant she needed to lose about half a kilo.
Upon seeing what had been passed on Wednesday morning I kept a sample and arranged to get her seen by the Vet on Wednesday afternoon. And then the nightmare began to unfold.
The Vet noticed she was slightly jaundiced and the sample I showed him led him to take some blood tests as he was concerned that her Liver was the cause. At this point for the first time I found out that apparently Liver problems are a Spaniel issue. She had a full examination which also suggested the bloating was being caused by fluid building up which again suggested the Liver wasn’t doing it job properly. I was told to feed her some protein overnight and she was booked in for a scan first thing on Thursday morning.
Coco was always happy at night lying on a comfy chair or the couch, but on Wednesday night she was restless, constantly trying to get on the bed next to me, but failing to get comfortable, until eventually I sat on the couch with her and she seemed to settle down beside me. Coco had a look that would melt the strongest of people, those big brown eyes were hard to ignore, and she spent a lot of time that night sitting looking at me…she knew something was wrong, she couldn’t tell me what but in her eyes it was obvious.
Thursday morning meant an early morning walk to the Vets where I left her to have her tests. The key seemed to be the scan, if it showed lumps or tumors then the prognosis was pretty dire, but if they were absent then I took it that it might be possible to use medicine and a change in diet to give the Liver some breathing space to try and repair itself a bit which it apparently can given the right conditions.
After a worrying wait of a few hours the call came to say nothing had been spotted on the scan and that the Vets wanted to proceed with the medicine and diet option to see if they could get the Liver to work again. The tarry diarrhea had been blood, and because it was being caused by the Liver not doing what it was meant to the options of any invasive surgery was not available to us because Coco would probably have started bleeding and they wouldn’t have been able to stop it.
So armed with a bag of medicines we came home, with a bit of hope that all was not lost and with an appointment made for Monday afternoon at which progress could be monitored and hopefully some signs of improvement.
Coco slept most of the rest of the day, she was able to go outside to relieve herself and there were no immediate signs of problems. But as night came she was restless again, very much unable to settle in one place for a long time. She started to circle which I have since found out was being caused by the problems from her liver affecting her brain…she finally laid down and we tried to sleep.
I was woken just after 3am with Coco being sick, bile and food mostly and a plastic bottle top that had somehow found its way into her stomach though I have no idea how or when. Subsequent checks confirmed it had not had any effect on her. As i was cleaning up the carpet Coco crawled onto the bed and collapsed, her breathing was quite rapid now but similar to earlier and the Vet had said that may happen and just to keep an eye on it. From then until 5am she lay still, her tail occasionally wagging just like the Coco we always knew. My Mum had come and sat with her too and between us we tried to keep her comfortable and eventually around 5am she seemed to settle down and we turned off the lights to give her some peace, I sat on the chair next to her and just kept an eye until at some point I must have fallen asleep.
I woke about 7am, Coco was lying across the bed, her hind end lying in a considerable amount of blood. Somewhere in those 2 hours my wee girls Liver had failed and her body had began to shut itself down to protect other organs. The only comfort the Vet could give me was to tell me that she wouldn’t have suffered. Her Body was in shock and she was completely unresponsive although her heart seemed to be beating quite strongly but all that was doing was making the blood loss worse. When her Liver had failed she would quickly have fallen into a coma, hopefully unaware of what was happening to her, its the only comfort I take from the scene I witnessed.
I called the emergency number for the Vet, I knew already that it was too late and that Coco wasn’t going to survive, by the time the on call Vet could have got to the house we were as quick getting her to the surgery ourselves so calls were made and we made her as comfortable as we could and wrapped her in blankets and towels to move her.
Between the time in the house and the 20 minutes we waited at the surgery for the Vet to arrive I kept talking to her and stroking her head, I have no idea if she could hear me, I whispered the same things I said to her often during her four years with us so I know she was aware of how much she meant to me and those who cared about her. She was a massive part of our family, not just a dog, but family.
Finally the Vet arrived at the surgery and within a few minutes at 8.30am Coco was finally at peace…I got to spend some time alone with her to say goodbye, which I did not just for myself but all those who didn’t get the chance to be there with her at the end…and with that her suffering was over and she entered her final sleep.
I cannot thank Jennifer the Vet enough for all she did on Thursday and Friday, and Gavin who saw Coco on Wednesday afternoon…they are the most professional people I know, nothing is routine and I know how upset they must feel when things don’t work out…they made Coco’s last few days and hours as good as they possibly could, they did everything that Coco’s body allowed them to do…I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
I was asked if they could remove Coco’s Liver to look at it and I said they could, the result of which showed that the organ was completely diseased, without an invasive procedure there was no way of knowing just how bad the damage was and that just wasn’t an option on Thursday when the scan was done…Coco wouldn’t have survived no matter what had happened on Thursday, by the time the symptoms of Liver disease had presented, with the damage done, it was already too late to change the outcome.
What caused it…we will never know…it could have been a genetic time-bomb waiting to go off, could have been an infection that started the process, there is no way of knowing. The diseased state of her Liver suggested it had been ongoing for about 6 months but she showed no signs of anything until Monday that would have led to a quicker diagnosis.
This is a thing that happens to Spaniels…If you read this and own one…remember to ask the Vet next time you see them about it, if you are seeing anything like yellowing of the eyes or gums for example seek immediate Vet help…caught before the organ loses 80% of its function and you might just save your dogs life…Coco was unlucky that nothing showed in her day to day life…she just kept walking, and running, and wagging her tail…and being the gorgeous lovable wee girl she always was.
I will miss her like hell, even now 48 hours later I have a feeling in my gut that is just numb and empty.
She deserved so much more than a life as short as it was, she gave me and everyone who cared about her so much love, cuddles and fun that a massive hole has been ripped in our lives…she cannot be replaced…and for me, going thorough this twice in 4 years is enough…I cannot risk a third time…maybe one day I will change my mind, but I doubt it…I have invested so much love in two dogs in the 10 years since Bonnie arrived…I am absolutely heartbroken today…this is going to be a long time process to get over.
Coco you were an amazing wee thing…everyday you made me laugh…everyday you brought something to my life and I hope you knew just how absolutely you were loved and adored by everyone who had the pleasure to meet you.
Time decreases the pain…but you will never be forgotten…
Rest in Peace Cocopop…Love You xxx