Saying Goodbye

To all those that have had to say Goodbye.

Staff pet update, from practice partner Matt Saunby and saying goodbye to his Boxer dog Isla.

Isla was our Facebook pet of the day a couple of years ago. She has had a long, eventful 12 years of life:

The Saunby family bought Isla the Boxer puppy and she settled in well at home with her new big brother Denzel(also a Boxer dog).

Firstly when Isla was only four months old while playing with her big brother she managed to break her leg. The leg was repaired at a orthopaedic referral clinic but the pin touched the major nerve in the back leg so revision surgery was required. She wasn’t able to use the limb for a while so a lot of muscle wastage occurred. Due to repeated issues with the pin it had to removed slightly earlier than was ideal.

Unfortunately this resulted in weakness in the leg and it sadly fractured again. Further specialist treatment was needed and this time a special bone plate was made and applied. Post operatively a huge haematoma developed at the operation site and the limb was nearly amputated. Fortunately, the wound recovered and healed well over a 10month period. However, the plate was then aggravating her so she had to have it removed.

Isla forgave her big brother for the play time injury (most of the time!!).

When Isla was four she also contracted Tetanus (a very rare, often fatal, bacterial infection caught from soil). This disease essentially gradually paralyses them. We spent several weeks hand feeding her and injecting special antibiotics throughout the day and night, not knowing if she would pull through, but we were very lucky and she made a full recovery.

Things were then going great, and she ada

pted really well to changes as the family grew in the home but at age 10 she ran in the kitchen, lost her footing on the floor and re-broke the same leg again. On X-rays it was apparent that she had formed a bone tumour at the site of the old fracture. This is very rare and unfortunate as bone tumours are one of the most aggressive forms of cancer in dogs. Surrounded by my supportive staff I made the difficult decision to amputate her leg that day and to follow up her care with chemotherapy to give her any chance. An estimated life expectancy with this type of tumour in textbooks is 6 months at the most, but we were very lucky as we knew that she was a fighter. She flew through the chemotherapy sessions and was doing very well 2 years later (although in that time she managed to have another tumour on her toe and another one on her vulva, which we also removed!!). She’d outlived all the textbooks!

Despite all this she never complained, she just got on with life. An old, 3 legged dog with cancer could still out run me!! All she wanted was cuddles, walks, the sofa (and a sleep on the bed!). Human patients would have been in counselling/rehabilitation for months. It never ceases to amaze me how truly remarkable animals are in that way, they just adapt and get on with things.

In March this year she had a petit mal (funny turn) and so we sent her for a referral MRI scan. Sadly this showed that she had 3 small brain tumours (tumours are very common in Boxers) and there was nothing that could be done. We knew with time these small growths would increase in size. She was happy so we continued but as the months progressed she slowed down and started to become restless. She still loved her cuddles and couldn’t wait to be lifted on the bed. However, ultimately she became more confused and lost the co-ordination in her tongue which made it hard for her to eat.

She could still run around but we had to make the painful decision to call it a day. We explained to the children what was happening and was going to happen. Children are very resiliant and far better at things like this than adults to be fair (they’re very factual and don’t fully understand the complex emotions/implications), just be honest with them.

It was actually her 12th birthday and they wanted to sing Happy Birthday to her. Whilst they happily bellowed out song and verse I could hardly make a sound; I could just feel the huge lump at the back of my throat.

As I knelt down to give the final injection I could feel my heart being physically torn apart. Despite this being the fifth dog of my own and that I have had to provide this service as a vet for over the last 20 years, believe me, it never gets any easier. It is always un-imaginable to think you’re having to let them go and you’ll never see them again. Isla was one of our original babies, with us long before her human siblings arrived. She went everywhere with us, and was just as much one of the family as her human counterparts.

Grief comes in different stages, and different time spans. Firstly there is the denial , you just can’t believe it’s happened. Although we knew it would come you can still never fully prepare yourself. Then comes the blame/guilt/angry phase. In Isla’s case there was no blame or anger, just guilt – Did we do the right thing? Could we have had longer? Did we wait too long? Did we give her a good life? I could have taken her for more walks, Did she know how much she was loved? Why was I too busy… etc etc. In your heart of hearts you already know the answers but you ask yourself anyway. The final phase is acceptance. This is all perfectly normal behaviour after something like this and I think this reinforces that you did do the right thing for your loved one and that you only wanted the best for them.


The point of this update, whilst being somewhat cathartic for me to write, is to reassure all of our clients that veterinary staff do have pets of their own and fully understand all the emotions, worry, joy and heart break that goes along with pet ownership, and the fears you go through when you have to come to the surgery.

The love you have for your pets/family members is something that non-pet owners can never understand; an never-ending, unbreakable bond. Yes, it is truly devastating when the time comes to say goodbye but nothing can ever take away the immense joy you have shared and the wonderful, heart warming memories you have made that will last your life time- you will never forget them. I can honestly say the good far outweighs the bad.

Would I do it all again despite the ultimate heart-ache? You bet I would………………..