Guinness came into our lives before we were married, when I was 21. He was our first baby really. He was the most amazing pup, very playful and loved chewing his dad’s pony tail!
When he was 2, our son was born. Any fears I had the Guinness might feel pushed out, or aggressive, towards Alex disappeared very fast. He wanted nothing more than to be near him, he used to sidle up to him on his tummy and ask him to play, when Alex was just a few months old and on his playmat. I’m delighted to say I have many videos of him like this, bringing Alex his favourite mangy old stuffed cow to throw for him, even though he wasn’t capable yet!
He grew up with Alex, he was his first word, I’ll never forget hearing him yell “GUIN GUIN” at the top of his lungs and laugh till he couldn’t breathe as Guin chased bubbles with him. He would do anything for Alex’s laugh. In fact once, when Alex cried because Guin had refused to eat a proffered bit of cardboard, he took one look at the tears and promptly ate it!
That’s who Guin was – amazingly intelligent and sensitive.
We brought another puppy into his life when he was 5, followed by 3 cats and another puppy when he was 10. Every single creature was welcomed with a wag, sniff and a lick. He was never aggressive, always playful and loving. He knew every word I said to him.
When he was about 6, the vet pointed out during a routine exam his amazingly irregular heartbeat, assuming we knew about this. We had no idea, and were told that it was the result of a heart attack he must have had. Again, this was news to us. I spend all my time at home, and never noticed anything out of the ordinary. However, it didn’t bother him or slow him down at all. We simply had to warn any vet that was listening to his heart for the first time. We’d get a patronising smile as they carried on, followed swiftly by an exclamation (usually an expletive!) and something along the lines of “Wow, I didn’t really believe you, how is this dog standing up?!” We said it was his dicky ticker, and it was just a part of what made him special to us.
Apart from mild issues like all his hair falling (no cause was ever found, we just accepted it as part of who he was. He had some very snazzy jumpers to cover his baldness in the colder weather too) Guin was strong as an ox until he was about 13. He started to go blind, the vet said it was normal degeneration. Then I noticed that as he was walking along, he would stand still, his jaw would make a snapping noise and he would twitch. It upset me hugely to watch, as I couldn’t comfort what I assumed was him panicking, because he was deaf. I thought he was walking into a beam of sunlight and jumping as it came into his limited vision.
This didn’t happen very often at first. Then gradually he would do it when there was no light. I didn’t know what he was seeing. I thought it was my fault for any furniture being slightly out of place, but there was no logic to it. It happened all the time, every few minutes. I was convinced he was being terrified at every turn. I thought if he ever went off his food I would know that was the time to let him go, but he never did. And I genuinely don’t believe he ever would have. My Guin would go to the ends of the earth for food. He was particularly partial to noodles, and bananas in custard. It makes me laugh and cry at the same time now to remember as a pup, when he tore into a bin bag to find a pile of linguini, and a banana. We came rushing in at the crash to clean it up – he panicked and was torn between which to try and grab since he knew he could only manage one before we got to him. To this day I can’t hear the word linguini without remembering Jezz and I falling about laughing as we voiced Guin’s dilemma – “Linguini!…. Banana!…..”
It wasn’t a big deal, and he was never chastised for it, but Guinness couldn’t control his bladder any more. I assumed it was just accidents through age, but now realise it was more like dementia connected to the Lafora. He simply didn’t know it was going to happen to do anything about it.
We discussed what to do with him at length. My lovely husband’s answer to everything is “give it time and we’ll see”. That’s all very well but I knew he needed me to make the decision, and I felt it was my responsibility as well. I had promised myself, and Guinness, that I’d never drag his life out too long. A family member had proudly let their dachshund live to 16, as if it was some sort of achievement, when the poor love was a walking skeleton of pains. Looking back they have admitted he went on far too long as they just couldn’t bear to part with him. I take my responsibility as a pet owner very seriously and feel I owe it to them all to do what is best for them – NEVER what is best for us.
I had never heard of Lafora. Perhaps if I had, and had told the vet, he could have had treatment. Who is to say if that would have worked, helped, and extended his life? I’ll never know. But I made the appointment to have him put to sleep on the 6th June. We spent the day with him, Jezz took it off work, and just talked and cuddled him. We fed him his favourite foods, without making him feel sick.
I took him into the vets. Sadly I had to wait, in a tiny room, for an hour and a half, holding him, knowing he was about to be taken from me. The nurses were lovely and so apologetic, as we waited for the vet to be free. To this day I don’t remember much of it, I blocked it out. I held him as his life slipped away in my arms and felt empty. I could barely hand him over to them. I had always assumed I would scatter his ashes somewhere nice, but I found I needed him near me. We had his ashes put in a jar, and eventually after many weeks I felt able to put him in the garden. He is in the wishing well, with a beautiful slate plaque. It has his name, dates of birth and death and the words “Gone from our home, but not from our hearts” And I don’t think I will ever forget that special little dog as long as I live, no matter what others may come and go from our lives.
I miss you, teddy bear.
Guinness 9th July 1995 – 6th June 2009