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Good-bye Cally



Picture by Ben e.c.
Sweet Darling Cally
     The blissful Summer, quite unlike any English Summer in recent years, is finally over.

        I seem to have spent much of it pottering about in the garden, or lying on my belly in the long grass up at Stockbridge Down, photographing butterflies, usually with a boxer dog or two in tow.

     Even a photographer as amateur as me needs an assistant and Cally, that most matriarchal mother of our younger boxers, is far and away the superior of the three when it comes to that role.

     Cally understands the art of lounging. She knows how to take it slow. Unlike George she knows not to stick her big Boxerly snout into the picture or lick my Carl Zeiss lens. And unlike Myrtle, Cally understands that butterflies are flighty and easily startled and do not want to be pawed and definitely do not want to be eaten.

     The most docile and cautious of dogs, Cally is a big, placid, gentle girl blessed with a thick pelt of velvety soft fur. On the marsh she's like a slow moving mobile shed giving anything she mistrusts or suspects -  a parked bicycle, a tree in the wrong place, a duck - a very, very wide berth. 


     I love the sheer heft and bulk of her, not fat, just boxer-shaped bulk. Hers is the propulsion of a classic car as opposed to the Formula 1 forward motion of her offspring. 

     Cally is utterly content just to hang out and be near you, on the landing, in my study, at the top of the garden steps, her big tongue usually lolling sideways from her mouth,  her top lip snickered under the gum, giant paws comfortably outstretched, thick stumpy tail at maximum velocity waggle.

     Darling Scallywaggle - she's the queen bee of our bug-eyed boxer crew. She is a fabulous dog, comical and beautiful and gloriously over the top in every way.

     I say is but I should say was, because Cally died yesterday. She was put to sleep at lunchtime, at home.

     And with her passing, the lovely summer, the butterflies, the sunshine, the languorous, warm evenings, well, they all ended too, stopped as abruptly as her generous, big heart.

     Because the slipped disc injury which  she suffered late August and about which I was relatively sanguine in a previous post only a fortnight ago, turned out to be far, far worse than we had been given to understand; turned out, in fact, to be devastating.

     Across ten days she went from slightly dragging one of her back paws to complete paralysis of her back end. On the day our vet said she should go into hospital and might need surgery, she was 'knuckling' her back paws and her back legs were folding and she was staggering on them. By the time she came home from hospital one week later, she was unable to walk or stand, was incontinent and clinically and most serious of all, had lost all 'deep pain sensation'.

     Worse still, when we went to bring her home from the veterinary hospital, we were shocked to find her highly distressed. Our poor darling girl, who had never been to kennels, had had seven days of deteriorating mobility, coping on slippery floors with unfamiliar smells, IV administered medicines and fluids and manhandling by strangers. 

     Her agitation and our anguish were further compounded by what turned out to be a severe reaction to the drug, Tramadol,  which had been prescribed for her on leaving the hospital.

     An MRI scan and surgery having been ruled out, we groped our way in the first 24 hours of having her home, to some kind of an understanding of what was happening to her.  

     Apparently the disc which had slipped had not merely slipped but had gone on to rupture, hitting the spinal cord like shot, causing deep bruising and swelling. And as that bruising manifested itself, slowly across days, so did the damage to her spinal nerve increase and so did the paralysis.

     For ten days we nursed and tended her around the clock, sleeping by her side, carrying her outside and helping her to relieve herself, bathing her, drying her, playing with her, keeping her warm and secure and restoring to her in some measure the peace and comfort and distractions of home and family.

     We were holding out for the only glimmer of hope on offer that, the extent of the injury being impossible to quantify, as the inflammation was treated with corticosteroids so first signs of sensation might re-emerge and with them the diminishing promise of recovery.    

    Throughout these last ten days I have been constantly reminded of how, two and a half years ago, she mothered her litter of eight lusty puppies non-stop across what must have seemed an endless six weeks until they were fully weaned. How she fed and washed and tended them; how gentle she was and how vigilant. How she endured their increasingly vocal and physical demands on her, feeding them no matter how greedy their appetites, no matter now sharp their teeth, where other dams are known to get bored or tired or sore and simply stop and walk away.

*****

     In her sleep last week that heavenly stumpy tail flexed and sometimes waggled and her paws twitched ever so slightly when tickled. But we were assured these were reflexive movements, not voluntary or willed. The connections between nerve and brain were most likely irreparably damaged.

     Signs of improvement like her sudden eagerness and ability to lick and clean herself, her desire to sit up and eat from her bowl rather than merely be hand fed, these small signs of her spirit and will at first encouraged us and gave us hope.

     But it became clear that even if  by some miracle, initial feeling should return to those great big paws, the road to recovery for our 32 kg boxer girl, as opposed to say for a dachshund or more portable breed, would be very long, very slow and while we might be able to bear it, recovery for the dog would be arduous, distressing and most likely painful too. And with the inevitable loss of muscle tone to contend with there would be the ever present risk of infections along the way. Thus the more the front half of Cally returned to health and some semblance of normal, the more piteous and unsustainable her plight became.

     Ahead of the vet's arrival yesterday to put her to sleep at home, we hung out with Cally in the garden. She spent most of the morning ahead of the rain, lying in the last of the sunshine, gnawing on a rawhide bone. 

     She was clean, well fed, watered and clear of any pain or infection. Her eyes were bright. She was relaxed and she'd got her voice back, even barking at the sound of our neighbour over the fence. I didn't shush her because I was so delighted to hear that little bark.

     Everyone says she had a good life and it's true she did. She was hugely loved.

     But then like all dogs she gave back in lorry-loads the love we gave her, love which she expressed in her clear delight at making us laugh; in her boundless appetite for food and walks and play; in her hilarious, shop-steward, John Prescott-like determination to marshal and round us up ahead of meal-times and walks and treats; in her stoicism and patience; in the total and utter trust and faith she had in us right up until the end when we said good-bye.

     So yes she did have a good life. Just that it was cruelly abbreviated and we will go on missing, on her behalf, long after she has gone,  the days and walks and other summers which she will not have and we will not get to share with her.
14.09.2013


Picture by Ben e.c.
Sweet Cally

Cally, Summer 2010
The lip-snickered-under-the-gum look


Cally in the Valley
In Wales

September 2013
In the garden last week


London, 2011, picture by Ben e.c.
London girl at full tilt

On the marsh; Jan 2013
Snow dog on the marsh

Asleep with Myrtle
Daughter dog and mother

Camber Sands, 2012
The bug-eyed crew on the beach

Spring 2009
Two year old



RIP sweet girl









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