I can’t believe I am writing this. Today we lost our little ray of sunshine, Skibbadee the Shar-Pei. Hubby and I are both absolutely devastated, we are sat here not knowing what to do with ourselves, or how to deal with the silence which now consumes our home.
He turned 11 last November, so had a good long life for a pedigree dog. We were worried at how long the house move last year was taking, as we desperately wanted him to make it to our new home, and he had been ill on and off for a few months, but thank god we finally moved in December, and he settled into the new home like he had been here forever, especially enjoying lying in front of the roaring fire.
I arrived home yesterday and hubby said he would be working late so I walked Skibba on our usual walk, but something felt very different this time. I think it’s because we went earlier so it was still nice and light, and so it was like he was seeing everything in a new light, and for the first time. He skipped along and had a sniff of the snowdrops and daffodils which were starting to come through and we made our way home, happy after a nice long walk. He had his dinner as normal and hubby got home from work at around 9pm and gave him a hug and a kiss like he normally does, and then went off to bed after nearly a 15 hour day. I wasn’t far behind him, I was hoping to get up early for work the next morning.
I woke up in the night, firstly around 2:30am, because I heard the dog flap banging backwards and forwards. We only put the dog flap in a few weeks ago and had been encouraging Lola (Skibba’s younger sister) to go through it, but being as we are firm believers “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, and because of how stubborn he is, we didn’t even bother showing Skibba how to use it. The training wasn’t going particularly well as Lola was only going through the dog flap when you held treats either side of it, so the training had fallen by the wayside really, which was why I was so shocked to hear the dog flap open and close.
I panicked at first that maybe a burglar was trying to reach through the dog flap to gain access, but when the light came on in the back garden, I looked out expecting to see that Lola had finally picked up the hint and used the dog flap. I was astounded when I looked out to see Skibba in the garden and, after I had realised I wasn’t dreaming, smiled and thought to myself what a good boy he is! He was secretly watching the whole time and had figured out all by himself how to use the dog flap!! It was strange because he didn’t go to the toilet whilst he was outside, he just slowly wandered around the garden, stopped now and then and had a good look at it, huffed a few times, and then wandered back to the back door. I smiled to myself at what a good dog he was for using the dog flap, until he started barking loudly and repeatedly for me to come and let him back in! I huffed and stomped down the stairs and told him off for having the sense to go out one way but not get back in the same way, and then went back off to bed. The exact same thing happened again at 4:00am and again just before 6:00am, I had no idea what he was up to or what he was trying to do, but I was so tired at the time, it just all felt a bit surreal and dream-like. I went back upstairs after the last garden adventure at 6:00am and went to go back to bed for a bit. I had planned to get up early to go to work so I could have an early Friday finish, but couldn’t face it when I had been up and down with him throughout the night.
Hubby went downstairs about an hour later and immediately called me – Skibba was lying on the sofa downstairs and his stomach was swollen up like a balloon. He was so uncomfortable he could barely move. I googled “dogs swollen stomach” and the results were pretty damning – it suggested that it could be gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) which is fatal to dogs within hours if untreated. It is so dangerous in fact, that vets call it the “mother of all emergencies”. I knew we had to get him to the vet, and very quickly. I rang the out of hours vet just after 7am and we arranged to get him in straight away. I said to the vet on the phone I didn’t think we would be able to move him in his current state and the vet said we had no choice, he had to operate.
I couldn’t have been prouder of our little ray of sunshine at that moment, he carefully climbed off the sofa and walked to the door, had a goodbye kiss from his sister Lola and managed to jump into the car and then out again when we arrived at the vets. He must have been in so much pain but he was so, so brave, I was so, so proud of him.
The vet arrived shortly after we did. He gave us the option of putting Skibba through the operation, which is a very complicated one, and one that is especially risky at his age, or to put him straight to sleep. We were obviously both hysterical by this point, and you never know which is the best option for the animal, so I turned to Skibba and I said “do you want to try the operation Mr Skibba, or have you had enough?” he looked up at me and I said again “do you want to try?” and he wagged his tail, and walked off slowly through the examination room doors and into the back of the vets where the operating theatre was! I’ve never seen anything like it, but he actually made the decision to try having the life saving operation.
We followed him out the back and gave him a hug and a kiss and told him we loved him. He led the vet through to the operating room, no panic, no fear, no showing off. Now this sounds like perfectly normal behaviour for a well behaved dog, but for those of you who know how nervous and scatty and highly strung and frightened of the vets Skibba normally is, you would agree with me that this really was no less than a miracle.
The vet said the operation itself would take about an hour and he would ring us as soon as he had any news. We got back into the car in the vets car park and cried our eyes out for a good fifteen minutes, and then made our way home to wait for news.
We knew it was bad news when the vet rang my mobile before we had even arrived home. He said he had got part way through the operation but unfortunately Skibba’s heart had stopped and he passed away on the operating table. We of course knew that his chances of recovery had been slim, but to be told he was no longer with us is a feeling I really can’t put into words. The nearest I can get to describing it is when my husband said “it feels like your world is ending”. I totally agree. It does.
We came home and cried and cried and cried. It was hard to know what to do with ourselves sat at home overcome by grief. We tried to sleep but couldn’t, a few family members popped over to show their support, we walked Lola at Skibba’s favourite place, Painswick Beacon, and tried to sleep again but to no avail. Even now I expect him to come trotting into the room to ask for a walk or his dinner, and when I’m lying on the sofa or in bed, I can imagine him stood there next to me so vividly, that on more than one occasion I have reached out to stroke him.
We are just grateful we found him early on and got him to the vets as quickly as we could, and that we were both there to say goodbye to him. If we had both left for work early like we had planned, and he had been left with Lola for hours, god knows what would have happened. He could have been unable to move and in pain for several hours until he passed away right there on the sofa, where we would have found him when we got home. It doesn’t even bear thinking about.
We are also so grateful he made the move to our new house, so he could see our forever home and we would have memories of him enjoying his time here. We are also so pleased that he had an amazing family Christmas with us in our new home too. I just wish he had made it to the Spring and Summer so he could have explored his new garden properly and enjoyed basking in the sunshine, he loved doing that at our old house.
We are now very worried about how his younger sister Lola is going to cope with all of this – how do you explain to a dog that her older brother isn’t coming home? She seems quiet but that could be because she hasn’t got Skibba to play with – I’m not sure how much of it she understands really.
We will take things day by day and hopefully over time things will get easier. I’m trying to remember all the good times we had with Mr Skibba, and talking about them with hubby today we have filled nearly a day’s conversation with stories and memories and reminders of our precious first dog.
We collected Skibba when he was around 12 weeks old. We travelled a long distance to pick him up from Carmarthen, and he was a pain in the butt from the second we brought him home!
Mr Skibba you see, didn’t believe he was a dog. In fact, I’m sure for several years of his life, if not all of the years of his life, he believed he was human! He wanted to eat the same things as us, do the same things as us, and of course, sleep on the same bed as us!
And sleep he did!!! A LOT!!!! On a memory foam mattress too! In fact, after going through several hundred photographs together earlier, hubby and I realised he probably spent 99.9% of his time asleep or dozing on the sofa or in bed!
To say he was not a fan of other dogs was an understatement. Human’s he adored, dogs however, he had a tendency to fall out with, A LOT!
When we brought Lola home after re-homing her around 5 years ago, we thought this may change his perception of other dogs and help him socialise. We thought when we brought her through the front door he would be forever grateful that we had brought him this lovely friend for him, but instead, he gave us a look which was to say “what on earth have you brought THAT home for??”. For several days afterwards he gave us the same look as if to say “it’s been ok, but I think she should go home now”. Poor Skibby!
Anyway, although he tried to carry on with this “I hate my sister” act for several years, we knew deep down he loved her, and he really enjoyed her company. You would often find them snuggled up together, her resting her head on him.
I can’t even begin to say how much hubby and I, and the rest of our family, are going to miss him. It’s only been a few hours, and we already miss him beyond comprehension. We love you Skibba, I hope you are dancing over the clouds and eating tonnes of your favourite sausages up in doggy heaven. There is a huge void in our hearts which will never be filled, I just hope things become easier as time goes on.
We love you always our precious boy xxx