Woody

by richardhutton

My dog, Woody:

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He passed away, Saturday 25th May, at the young age of 8.  He developed diabetes a few weeks ago, and deteriorated very quickly.

Woody was a rescued dog. His original owners had mistreated him, very badly, and tied him up, abandoning him in a wood. He was extremely underweight when he was found. We fostered him when he was about 6 months old – and of course, fell in love with him, and adopted him. He was a sweet, and gentle dog, whose soppy antics meant that even people who hadn’t met him loved him instantly. We nicknamed him ‘puppy’ because he never changed from being a fun-loving, silly dog, all of his life.

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He and our other dog, Bonnie, have been the best friends that I have had in life, really – and made our family infinitely better. Before we took them in, financial troubles and stroppy teenagers meant that there was a lot of ill-feeling and frequent arguments between family members. Really, it can’t be overstated how much this changed, through caring for our two dogs. It wouldn’t matter how lousy the day had been, as soon as people were home, Woody and Bonnie made people feel better, and happier, instantly. They have been my whole life for nearly a decade – what I’ve enjoyed most everyday, for a long time now, was sitting with them, watching TV; taking them for walks in the park, or just mooching around in our garden. It may not seem a lot, but now that one of my friends has gone, it’s brought home just how much this meant. It is not the same with only one dog.

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Woody began to get ill several weeks ago – given the nature of diabetes, it will have gestated for a short while beforehand. For about a week, there wasn’t a sign of just how ill he was – it began with wetting the floor during the night. There had been periods in the past where he’d done this for a several days at a time, every few months. But shortly afterwards it became clear how much water he was drinking. For most of the remaining days, he didn’t seem ill. In fact, I hoped that it was no more than a throat infection. It was only during his final week that he began to deteriorate rapidly. I took him into our vet’s on a Thursday, and what was normally a 15 minute walk took 20 minutes. Two days later, after he had been diagnosed as diabetic, he was so weak that it took us nearly forty minutes to make the short journey. This is one of the last photographs I took of him, during his final week:

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It was clear by now how ill he was.

When we were at the vets, me and the vet spent a long time discussing what quality of life Woody would have as a diabetic – and even the best case scenario would have left him with a very poor one: constantly ill, with daily insulin shots and blood tests, which he found very distressing when the vet tried to adminster them. Woody would also develop cataracts, and become blind in a year or so. Worse still, all of the diabetics I have known have said the same thing: when their blood glucose was at the right level, they felt very sick; when they felt good, it was usually off the chart. Obviously, dogs cannot say how they feel, or self-medicate: even if he had stabilised, and we had managed his illness successfully, it was at least possible that he would be in continual discomfort. He would always be at risk of hypoglycaemia, and its counterpart, hyperglycemia: I’m glucose intolerant, and know first-hand how nasty hyperglycemia is. I’ve also seen a diabetic go into hypoglycaemic shock – it takes only a few minutes, between looking well to being in a state of severe distress. If everybody was out for several hours, and Woody had entered shock, there was a clear chance of him falling into a coma, and not recovering.

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This was the best-case scenario – and there was only a small chance of even this, because insulin tends to prove ineffective on large dogs. The more likely, and even worse, scenario was a drawn-out end – possibly over weeks, but at least over days. I chose to put him to sleep, so that he died a happy dog. The vet gave him a sedative, and I waited with him until he was fast asleep. I’m not a believer in an afterlife, but I hope there is one, and that he is being taken care of, and looked after, and that I will see him again.

I loved my dog. Losing him has been like losing a best friend and a family-member in one go. I would give anything to have him back and healthy. All of my family members have been left heart-broken by his passing. So, I can only imagine the bereavement that somebody would feel when they lose a child, parent, or human relative to this awful disease. There is no known cure for type 1 diabetes, either in animals or humans. We really need to find one, soon. Diabetes UK estimate that there may be a vaccine within 20 years – this is not cause for comfort. Funding is poor, and I suspect a part of this is because people view diabetes as complacently as I had until this week – as a condition which can be controlled, and that somebody can live with, at length, with good quality of life. This is not the case.

Woody will be missed by many people. He made our family better. A completely lovely, wonderful friend, who just made people so happy.

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