RP selection coupled with more sad news

Lovely Meg

Meg, a few months before she died

The last time I wrote a post about how thrilled I was to have been selected for The Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ Annual Exhibition, it came at the same time as losing my lovely girl, Sophie. The same has happened again. On March 1st, and within a day of finding out that I had a painting selected for this year’s exhibition, we had to say goodbye to our darling Meg.

I know that many people go through much, much worse, and that anyone who has not had the privilege or joy of sharing their life with a dog as companion and much loved family member will not understand; but for us, it has been a really sad and difficult time. Meg was diagnosed with an oral melanoma some 20 months ago, which had also manifested in an unusual tumour on her front paw. We saw a couple of Oncology specialists and proceeded with a course of Immunotherapy as pretty much her only viable treatment option. I feel sure that it extended her life by well over a year, as her original prognosis wasn’t very positive at all. Still, whether or not that was a good thing is debatable. We’ll never know what was going on under the surface, but both ourselves and our vet believe that in all likelihood she had a slow growing secondary tumour in her brain. She rapidly lost her eyesight and there were various personality and cognitive changes along the way, with a gradual wasting and paralysis of her hind quarters in her final few weeks. By the time we made the very difficult decision to put her to sleep, she had been very unwell for a long time, and had required round the clock palliative care for months.

The progress of her condition was relatively slow, and with every change, she coped and so did we. Her declining cognitive function made things more difficult to assess. She didn’t appear to be overly aware of what was happening to her, and seemed to be unconcerned in her own little world. Her appetite remained strong and we developed a range of strategies to cope with her and keep her comfortable. We also kept in close contact with our vet who visited and examined her on a regular basis, and we always promised that when advised, we would let her go. It was difficult for other people to see her, because from the outside she looked a sorry old girl. For us though, we saw a range of ups and downs in her condition each and every day, and right up until her last week she would confound us every time we felt that the time had come.

Lovely Meg

Meg, aged 6, in her prime

Eventually of course the time did come, and mixed with our relief that she isn’t suffering any more is a profound sadness. We have been unlucky with both of our girls declining over such lengthy timescales, compounded by their ill health overlapping. It has meant that our lives have somewhat been on hold for the duration, and their care has taken a lot of energy – both physical and emotional. It is good to experience some freedom again, but the emptiness at home is also overwhelming at times. They were our family, and in that sense they gave us a huge sense of purpose. Moreover, I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. To remember them both in their prime and think that those days are gone is a strange sensation. A new chapter will of course begin, but they will always be a part of the story of us and will never be forgotten.