How do you do it? Is it possible or is it best just not to know?
Last year, the last Bank Holiday in May to be precise, Bean my Newfoundland was sleeping just outside the front door after a long dog walk. A few hours later it struck me that Bean hadn't moved and I thought this strange so I went out to see how she was doing, she was fine just in a deep sleep. It was a warm day and so not unusual for the dogs to collapse around the garden and sleep for hours on end after a dog walk but there was something about her that I just did not like.
Once she woke up she seemed to be fine but I decided to book her into the vets first thing Tuesday morning anyway for peace of mind. When I got to the vets I told them that I might have imagined events as Bean appeared perfectly fine and I felt a bit silly. I was convinced the vet would agree with me and say I had nothing to worry about but she didnt. Bean was referred to a specialist after the vet discovered an irregular heart beat. I still wasn't overly concerned because Bean gets checked regularly and has had her heart checked lots of times and nothing has ever been found to be wrong so I agreed to take her to the cardiologist but fully expected the all clear when the time came.
Appointment day came and the 3 of us (Kyle, Bean and myself) jumped in the Landrover and set off. When we got there Bean was taken from me and lead into the surgery and I was told to collect her in an hour which I did. When I went back I had a chat about what had been found and it was that Bean had developed a terminal heart condition - she needed to go on medication immediately that would need to continue for the rest of her life. I asked how long Bean would survive without medication and the answer was about 4 weeks. Even with her medication Bean's life expectancy was only 6-12 months but with luck on her side she could live as long as 18 months - that takes us to 6 November this year .... .6 weeks 5 days away. In total shock, with tears streaming down my face, a confused toddler in one hand and Bean in the other I set about loading my two passengers back in the landrover for the drive home trying my best to appear to both of them that nothing was wrong.
I was advised to stop Bean's walks and all her activities in the hope that this would prolong her life and I thought long and hard about the advice given to me in the tearful days following diagnosis and came to the conclusion that I owed Bean more than that. Although I was aware that Bean's life could end at any moment - she was not - and she would only get a sense that something was wrong if I changed her routine and the life she knew and loved so much. Bean has always been a very special friend to me. She was a character the day I bought her and she has never changed - to me she is one of the most beautiful dogs I have ever known with the most beautiful eyes .... I swear when you look into Bean's eyes you see her soul. Bean is the best four legged friend anyone could ever have.
So I took the decision that as far as Bean was concerned nothing would change. I would not cut down her walks and on the days I ran around the valley with the dogs she would still be allowed to come if she wanted to. If her and Minnie had a mad hour then I would not intervene because I felt that if I changed anything then I would be trying to prolong her life for my own selfish reasons and in doing so I would be cutting down the quality of it for her ..... and so the decision was made - Bean would continue the life she had always known and I had to get my head around the fact that one day very soon my friend would be gone, but this is my problem and not hers. I have also made Bean the promise that should things get uncomfortable for her then I will do what is right by her as she has always done by me.
Bean is 4 years old.
But .....on a positive note Bean is still going strong and is enjoying her days as she has always done. All I can wish is that her happy life continues for a good while to come.
My Friend, My Bear, My Bean!