Posted By Tania Kindersley.
The sun is shining. It has been a good, productive week. I am generally happy. I have very little about which to complain. And yet, and yet.
I told you, a few weeks ago, that one of my dogs was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. I told you how it struck at my own heart. Since then, I have decided on a stoical and optimistic strategy. The pills seem to be working; there are things to be done. The magical thinking kicks in: I can keep her alive, if it kills me.
What I did not say is that I took her to see the vet again on Friday. He was not optimistic. He is pleased that her lungs have been cleared of fluid, thanks to the miracle of medication. But as he listened to her poor old ticker, with his stethoscope, he frowned. The murmur is still pronounced. That will not get better. That will be the end of her.
Oh, I said, a little plaintive, but you know, she is well in herself. He nodded. I waited, hoping he would give me good news. He would not. He will not say it, quite, out loud, but we both know she is in her final months. For all that she pricks her ears and lopes along like a panther when we take our morning walk, I know that everything is not quite normal. I do not need the vet to tell me that.
Unlike her soft sister, she is the independent dog. She has a cat-like tendency to take herself off on her own. She is the wanderer, the one who does not come when she is called. (She gives me her Duchess look, and carries on with what she is doing, and returns in her own sweet time.) When we are sprawled out on the sofa in the evening, she is the one who will suddenly sigh, jump down, and spread herself out on the floor. When she does this, she looks back at me, with her amber eyes, as if to say: don't take it personally. She just likes a hard surface.
I always know when something is not quite right, because she gets needy. This is most unlike her. She is doing this now. As I sit at my desk and type, she comes and rubs herself against my knees. I keep my eyes on the screen, and stretch down my left hand, to rub her ears. She pushes her head against my leg, as if to say: concentrate. She butts her nose towards me, as if to say: come on, I am more important than those mere letters.
Her sister, who is the intuitive one (she licks tears off my face when I cry during sad films) also knows something is up. She will not move from The Duchess's side, and indulges in frantic grooming sessions. They have a sweet habit of tidying each other, cleaning eyes, ears, eyebrows with gentle, tender movements of the tongue, but at the moment it is all one-sided. The dear Pigeon licks and licks and licks, as if by that very action she can make it all better.
Last night, I was watching Ashes to Ashes. I had not seen it on the television. I was delighted to catch up with it now. It was so funny and clever and well-written that I laughed out loud. It took me back to my own days in the eighties, when I used to go to the Embassy, and hang out with entirely unsuitable gentlemen, and wandered up and down the King's Road, in the days when what is now Marks and Sparks was The Great Gear Market, and the benches outside Safeway were populated with Chelsea Pensioners and punks called Spit and Razor. (Actually, they were very nice suburban boys who would come up on the tube from Amersham; it was just they had piercings and green hair.) As I watched, I stretched out my hand to the Duchess's chest. I could feel her heart, struggling, beating in a ragged, irregular pattern, banging against her ribcage. When I felt the Pigeon in the same place, there was a steady, low, strong beat. I did not need a special veterinary implement to see the difference.
I rolled the Duchess onto her back. She gazed up at me with her straight, grand gaze. I said, out loud: Could you not live for ever?
I said: I cannot imagine life without you.
That is what I have not said.
Pictures of the day are on one, glorious note:
There is a voice in my head which says: well, all that is a bit self-indulgent, is it not? But then I think: what the hell else is a blog for? If you can't indulge, once in a while, then I don't know what else you can do.
No hill today. My mind is with my beautiful canine, and that's enough.