Tuesday, 1 March 2011


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

It turns out that the Duchess's heart is failing.

We had a crazed night last night with retching and snorting and the throwing up of white foam. If the emergency vet on call had not been the most senior and august of the vets, of whom I am slightly frightened, I would have woken him at four am. At one point, I thought perhaps she had really bad indigestion or stomach acid, and found myself grinding up Gaviscon tablets in the kitchen with a rolling pin at quarter to five and trying to work out a way to get them inside her.

We managed about two hours' sleep and then drove up to the vet. It's congestive heart failure. It's age. It's what happens.

There are pills and medications, but the vet will not yet give me a prognosis. The poor dog has been stuck with injections to treat her symptoms now (fluid on the lungs, which apparently is a thing that happens) and she is dopey and sleeping. I am to take her back on Thursday, when the situation will become clearer.

I stupidly went on the internet. Everyone says: DON'T GO ON THE INTERNET, and they are right. It said awful things like six months to live. I am refusing to believe that. I am planning special heart diets and heart supplements and a heart regimen. The older niece, who is a nutritionist, is already on the case.

I wish I could say I was being tremendously butch and stoical about this, but I am not. I was never a dog person, and I spend quite a lot of time pretending I am still not. I just happen to have these two who are so beautiful and charming and funny and affectionate that I fell for them. But the truth is, I am like one of those crazy old women with the dogs and the piles of yellowing newspapers who never go on holiday because they will not leave the canines. I can't say oh well, it's just a dog, because it is not. It's an absolutely huge love that comes rolling down the track like a runaway train. So when the sad news comes, I am left quite without defences.

The family is rallying round like Trojans. The sister and the older niece and the Man in the Hat happened to walk past just as we returned from the vet, and caught me crying. I was rather embarrassed since the poor MITH has never seen me weep before. I do not do it in the attractive, misty way of the Hollywood actress, but in the noisy, snotty way of a six year old child. My face looks like salami and everything goes red and blotchy. It is not something that anyone should have to witness. They did not seem to care (how's that for unconditional?) but surrounded me with love, and we all lay on the grass for a while in the sun, which has the first of the spring heat in it, and even managed to make jokes, once I had recovered myself. The dear brother-in-law rings up to make sure we are all right.

It's not one of the big life tragedies. As I endlessly say to myself, there are worse things happening in Chad. (I do not know why I always say Chad; it just scans well.) But it is a great love, and I'm not shy about admitting that, and, as with all pure loves, it carries the seeds of sorrow in it.

The sun shone all day, but I have no pictures of it for you. I spent the time with my dog.

1st March 1

1st March 2

1st March 3

1st March 5


  1. I am so sorry. We were told our lab had the c word and then when the vet was doing the biopsy it turned out to be a fat ball.

    Take care and all the best.

    Helena xx

  2. Maureen Gillespie1 March 2011 at 18:51

    Am so sorry to hear about the Duchess's health problems. As a dog person, I understand the heartbreak involved. Hopefully, the news on Thursday will be good. All fingers and paws here in Dublin will be crossed.

  3. I have an old dog and a young dog. I love nothing more than watching the youngster (Dixie)cavort and play, joy abundant in every wriggling inch of her gleaming Black Lab body.
    Then I look at my old girl Zara and my heart sometimes stills. She's been the very best of dogs, loyal, loving, funny and full of her own little inexplicable quirks. She's great with Dixie, but now she's finding it hard to keep up with all of her antics.
    I feel no shame or difficulty whatsoever in saying that I love my dogs and my heart's been in bits over the loss of some incredibly special animals. I know it'll happen again in the future - but I wouldn't be without them - not for a second. Hug the Duchess and Pigeon - lots.

  4. I am so sorry. I have been through that special kind of heartache too, only with cats.
    My loving thoughts for the three of you.
    Take care of one another, and rest.

    I hope for good news on Thursday.

    Cristina xx

  5. Yes, spend every minute you can with your four-legged loved ones. When we attach to them we know that our hearts will be broken, but the joy they bring makes every pain worthwhile.
    Well, I'm typing through tears as I recall nursing our cats through their final illnesses and am filled with sorrow for how you must feel right now.
    Veterinary medicine has much advanced over even a few years ago, so you may have hopeful news. I will certainly hold all of you in hope. - Minnie

  6. We lost our two elderly cats in the space of a year not so long ago so I know how you feel. Sorry.

  7. Oh Tania, I am so very sorry. This is heartbreaking stuff. I hope that they're all wrong (the bloody internet especially) and that the Duchess surprises everyone by living many more happy years. Sending all sorts of love and big big hugs from Laurel Canyon.

  8. Dogs are as much members of a family as humans are, and that seems utterly right and reasonable to me. My thoughts are with you and the beautiful Duchess.

  9. Oh Tania, how my heart goes out to you... We lost our family dog 6 years ago and I still dream about him. Their love for you is so pure and unconditional that their suffering is felt acutely. As I hurtle towards my 40s, I find myself increasingly broody - not for a baby, but for a puppy of my own. How you get used to their love and warmth. I hope it works out for the best, whatever that may be for you all. xx

  10. Oh no, I'm so sorry. I only know her thru your blog, but she does seem such a lovely noble looking lab, with so much character. I would miss seeing her photo, so I can't imagine how you're feeling. I do hope that it's just a scare; vets in my experience have been a bit prone to worst case scenarios. Love to you all, Kate x

  11. Oh Tania I'm so sorry to hear that. They're never JUST a pet and it winds me up so much when people say that.

    Give the Duchess a gentle pat from me. Hope the news on Thursday is positive.

  12. Oh sweetie, I am so sorry. As Kipling said somewhere, "beware/of giving your heart to a dog to tear", and all things and animals and people whom you love are hostages to fortune, but we humans never learn. And are the better for loving, in any case.

    I'm thinking of you and the Duchess.

  13. I'm so sorry to hear this. As a dog person who has lost dogs and currently has cats, this really hits home. Sending you and the beautiful and regal Duchess lots and lots of positive thoughts.

  14. Oh Tania, I read this with tears welling up. I am so, so sorry. I hope your darling Duchess is more comfortable now and that the news on Thursday is what you want to hear.

    We were never dog people until my mother was given a dog who made us fall completely and utterly in love with her. When she died my heart broke. She was never 'just a dog'.

    Sending you love and hugs xxx

  15. Oh Tania! I'm so sorry, that's awful. I had to have two days off when my dad's seventeen year old dog became ill as he was so distraught.

    I'm sure the whatever the vet can do will make her quality of life much better for a good while yet.

    Thinking of you, love Christina xx

  16. I am so sorry to hear this, it is a dog owners heartache that they do not live as long as we would like. Big HUGS to you all.

  17. Tania, I am hoping for the very best for you and the Duchess. Never mind 'just a pet', sometimes it can be much easier to love dogs than people, when dogs ask for so little and give so much, whereas people are more, ahem, challenging.

    Am keeping fingers crossed x

  18. Oh my good god Tania, I wish I could convey quite how sad I am to read this...quite how much I wish I could do something to help or reassure or comfort...so I'll just say to hug the dear old Duchess and hug her tight and that I will be thinking of you both and I hope it goes without saying that I am praying (lapsed Irish Catholic - it's what we do isn't it?)for positive outcomes and treatment and many many many more trots through the beech avenue.
    A tear just escaped and fell onto the keyboard, I'm so sorry, how dare I cry, but as I type with my dear sweet elderly feline leaning his head against my leg, my heart is breaking for you.

  19. I am so sorry to hear about the Duchess. It isn't much, but know that this goofy person and her two canines in Alabama are sending happy and hopeful thoughts your way. Our family had a bassett hound that made it two years past a rather dire prognosis, and my only bit of advice is stay hopeful and keep doing what you're doing. You're such a good pet owner, and you know when something is wrong, which is key to fixing it. Regardless, you've taken great care of her, and I'm hopeful that you'll continue to do so for a good long while. Give Duchess and the Pigeon an extra biscuit for me, and take care.

  20. I have been a reader for quite soeme time now and am finally breaking my cover.I am typing this with teary eyes as I am sure anybody who has a beloved pet will understand.

    Best wishes to you and the ladyships.

  21. I am so very sorry to hear about her health. I do understand that this is a huge blow to you and the heartbreak involved is immense. My prayers.

  22. Oh Tania.

    I'm so sorry to hear this news. Animals give us warmth and love and nurturing... and so much love..

    I have no words, but remember to enjoy the time you have left with her. Dogs can surprise you.

    I'm hoping and praying for all the best for you...

  23. I'm so sorry, it must be a really difficult time. It's great that you've got family and friends to help you through. The Duchess looks such a beautiful dog, and through your blog I've come to feel as if I know her. Sending virtual hugs and good wishes your way.

  24. Tania - such heartbreaking news. I am thinking of you, the dear old Duchess, and her sister, Pigeon. Much love to you all. x

  25. My heart goes out to you across the ocean. My 17 yr. old Jack Russell is in the same place and I try to just enjoy every day with her knowing that she has had good years and given such happiness.
    iLife your blog and always the photos of your slice of heaven.


  26. I am so sorry to hear this news. Used to be amazed when people said their dogs were their best friends, how sad I thought. Now I am a dog owner and the joy she has given me is beyond anything.

    You will be in my thoughts.


  27. Much love to you and your lovely lovely dog. How is the Pigeon coping? My dog is elderly and it's so unfair that they don't live longer. Take care and I hope it's good news on Thursday

  28. Oh, Tania, I am so so sorry. It is such a pure untainted love with a pet, with no hint of anything bad or painful or difficult, and as a result it's just dreadful when they're ill. I'll be thinking of you and the duchess today.

  29. I'm so sorry to hear this Tania. I hope the time you have with her is happy, however long it may be. Keeping my fingers crossed for better news on Thursday.
    Take care.

  30. Like at least one other person above, I've been reading without commenting on your wonderful blog for some time - it's the first I go to every day. And I'm so, so sorry to hear about the Duchess and her health.

    I will be keeping everything crossed for Thursday, and for good news. Like others here, when it comes to animals I entirely 'get it'.

    The Duchess will have many people rooting for her...


  31. I'm so sorry Tania, and have everything crossed that it's good news on Thursday. My poor old dog had heart problems too, but lasted a lot longer than the vets thought. Hoping the same for your lovely girl too.

  32. Just to let you know I'm thinking of you xxx

  33. So sad. Hoping for good news today. Do what is right by her - you will know what to do. But I'm sure that there will be many happy days still.

  34. I'm very late to this but thinking very much of you and your beloved regal lady dog- this brought little tears to my dog loving eyes xx

  35. My heart goes out to you. There's no companionship quite like that provided by a dog.

    Thoughts and healing energy are headed your way from the midwestern US -



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