I’m going away for the weekend.
I’m getting on well with things I have to do before I go.
I’m returning from having lunch with my mum, and choosing her some warm, cosy clothes. I stop at the top of the lane to let the dogs out, collect the post and say ‘hi’ to a neighbour who’s passing. The dogs are already making their way down the lane as I jump into the truck and pull away.
A soft thunk and the front wheel bumps. My stomach falls a thousand feet. An unearthly howl. I stamp the brakes, tear the door open…my dog, my Jilly, writhing in a small ball of frantic pain; she can’t stand she flails around and around in a macabre nerve jerking dance. I scream for help, hoping my neighbour will hear. Nothing. I try to still and calm Jill’s frantic movements, she grabs my hand and chews frenziedly…I’m yelling, shouting, screaming for someone to come, someone to help – nothing. Jill’s jerking subsides, she quietens, her eyes mist and plead. I lift her gently into the truck, sobbing. Skye and Ness look on in confusion.
I’m driving to the vet. I can’t go fast enough, road works, lights, lorries. Please, please move, get out of my way, let me pass. I call Jill’s name, talk, sob. Don’t let her die, don’t let her die. Arriving at the vet after what feels like hours, we carefully lift Jill out of the truck on a stretcher. She is still, cold, in deep shock. I hold her head, whisper to her ‘Jilly, Jilly, I’m so sorry’ ‘don’t go, don’t go’ ‘please Jilly, please, please, please…’ But something inside me knows, something knows too well.
The vet leads me away; my hands are dripping blood, bitten through. “You must go and get your hands seen to. Leave us, well do everything. Go, go. Go on, go. We’ll call when we’ve had a thorough look and assessed the damage. Go”
Somehow I drive to the health centre, somehow I drive home. My mind replays, replays, replays.
A phone call. No bones broken. Deep shock. She’s on a drip, and morphine. Yes, she’s calm, not in pain. She’ll be assessed more thoroughly in the morning.
Morning is hours away. I can’t settle. My mind, replays, replays, replays.
No sleep. Just thoughts of Jill, and images of her tortured, writhing on the lane. My hands swell and throb. The pain helps.
Early morning I phone as soon as I can. She’s had a good night. She’s tried to stand. The prognosis is looking better. They will x-ray her at lunch time to see what the damage is.
“Do I know if she peed?”
No, no I don’t.
The x-ray results show her tail has been pulled out of her sacrum. This has damaged and/or severed the nerves to her rectum, bladder and back legs. Icy finger trail down my spine, I knew, I knew.
My vet carries on talking, I’m not quite hearing. A paper, some research has been done on this type of injury. He’s having a copy faxed through. Once he knows more and understands the findings and predictions of the research, we’ll see what can be done.
The phone rings. Not the best of news. The recovery from this kind of injury is very variable and could take years. No way of knowing. No, he didn’t think she’d work again, not at her age. She’s nearly nine. He’ll do what I want. I have to make a decision.
I knew I knew.
Jilly lives for me and her work. Single minded in her dedication. She waits for my every footfall. She knows what I’m going to do by the clothes I appear in, even the socks on my feet. Always by my side, always waiting by the door, always asleep by my boots, always first by the truck. Her wet, cold nose nuzzling my hand, questioning the next job to be done.
Without her ‘life’ she’d pine away.
I know what decision I have to make.
We go for our favourite walk, Skye, Ness and I. The dogs bewildered, stop, look, search; run back to me, asking for reassurance. We walk where we walked together on Tuesday, we explore the careering streams, we watch the deer, we trample the wet moor, and climb to the top of the ridge. A gale blows our faces backwards, hail bombards us with fierce biting intensity, cold rain relentlessly drenches. A primal scream forces itself up and out from the depths of my being, the wind tears the sound from my lips sending it spinning, careering and dancing into the heavens, beside me Skye and Ness throw back their heads and howl.