12 years ago, almost to the day my ex fiance and I adopted Flash. A six month old tri colour, mostly collie that still smelt like puppy.
We had had a house visit and although our house was completely dogo proof the assessor has decided that because we were engaged and in our 20’s that we would probably have children and apparently the dog we had initially wanted to adopt did not play well with children. I was more annoyed because she hadn’t even asked us about starting a family she had just assumed we would. My ex wasn’t that fussed, but then he didn’t want a dog nearly as much as I did.
I think to be honest he had only agreed to it because I had been bugging him about getting a dog for nearly 3 years and in the end he figured that having a dog would be less annoying than me asking for one thrice daily.
Our neighbour, a dog owner herself, had suggested we visit the rescue centre in Congalton, by actually visiting we would demonstrate that we were serious and hopefully be considered first for any new dogs coming through.. We decided it was a good shout.
We arrived to register, said we were keen to rescue a pup and the robust stern lady covered in fur simply insisted we take a look at a 6 month old pup that had been brought in a couple of days ago. Before we had a chance to respond with anything more than a half nod she was gone.
She returned with border collie, with a slightly pink nose, bright brown eyes and bat like pointy ears. He was boinging all over the place my ex looked apprehensive, I was boinging too.
I immediately took his lead, the lady introduced us to Flash and we were directed to the nearest exit to go for a walk with this excited ball of puppy.
It had been raining the night before, everything was slightly soggy including the road.
As we wandered down the road being pulled by this lovely puppy, I turned to notice he was walking along, licking the floor and at that moment I knew that this was my dog.
I didn’t say anything, but just looked at my ex who realised that there was absolutely no way that we were leaving without him.
We were given blankets, food, the lead he had on, his papers we made a donation and within 20 minutes of meeting Flash, he was sitting on my lap in the car (seat belted, 3 points of contact).
I had already been reading up on dogs, having never had one before. Well all except for that 9 month period when I was about 9 when we rescued a bonkers dog we called Scruffy (I think we called him that), who climbed up the curtains with his teeth!
I had read that it was important for your new puppy to learn by smelling where he/she now lives so I had my ex drop us off before our house, so Flash and I could walk up the drive together. Our neighbour was as excited as I was about Flash. She gave us an old bed she had, and loads of other stuff she no longer used and we settled him in.
I continued to read up on puppy training and border collies as a breed and what to expect, I mean we had no idea we we’re going to bring a puppy home that day so unprepared is not the word, well not completely unprepared. I had already made a massive space in my heart for a puppy, and the moment I saw Flash licking the floor, he not only filled that space but took over the rest of my heart as well.
When my ex and I split up and I had decided to make the move from Shropshire to Brighton, there was absolutely no question that Flash was coming with me.
He was after all my idea in the first place and to be honest I don’t really think my ex was overly concerned about looking after him.
It has been 7 years since Flash and I moved to Brighton, we have met and made some wonderful friends, both human and dog.
We have gone camping, we have gone on so many walks and we have quite possibly visited every single dog friendly establishment in the city.
He has been there in every darkest moment I have ever had, and because he is a sensitive pooch, he has always come for a cuddle, or rested his face on my leg when my anxiety, or my despair threatened to overwhelm.
He forced me to leave the house because of needing to walk him, he brought me back from the brink so many times just through being there. He is my best friend, and he is the bridge between my old life in Shropshire, my new life in Brighton and my transformation in this past 15 months.
After spending a few weeks limping, he stopped putting weight on his front leg entirely over the weekend, so I booked an appointment at the Vet clinic.
To be honest I was already apprehensive when I arrived, I sat there and an old couple who had brought in their Cat struck up a conversation with me whilst fussing over Flash.
I got the distinct impression that they rarely ventured into the world and socialize because not only did they have their own mumble language but they also did that thing where you ask a question and then answer it for the person, before they have even opened their mouths.
She asked about the limp and before I could say anything she asked about the lump, and before I could say anything she decided it was cancer and that I was here for Flash to get an operation because he’s a puppy and got a long life ahead of him.
I tried desperately to convince myself that what does a crazy mumbler question-answerer know?
And as though reading my mind she went into a mumble monologue about how her cat has the same type of lump and that’s cancer so this must be too.
They thankfully got called up to see the vet next, and I had 10 seconds of peace before it was shattered by two over excited dogs trying to out bark each other.
Flash was called in next, the vet examined him all over and spent a very long time examining the lump on his shoulder. He furrowed his brow every time he touched the lump, he took Flash’s temperature and we all know where that thermometer went, and Flash gave me the filfiest look when the vet ‘inserted it’.
The hardest thing any Vet ever has to do is deliver the news that your pet has cancer, so it was not surprising that he took his time to deliver his examination results. He used words like aggressive, said it was soft tissue not on the bone.
He talked about being deeply concerned about the size of the tumour, the fact that it feels like it is already spreading.
He talked about amputation is sometimes an option in cases where the aggressive tumour is as big as this, but never an option in a dog Flash’s age, but even if Flash was still young, the location of it is too risky.
He talked about the fact that it will spread.
He talked about the pain Flash was in
He talked about putting him on pain relief and said that all we can do is make him comfortable.
He said that this would only last so long as there is a glass ceiling on the meds, at some stage the tumour will either get too big and start impacting on his organs or the meds will stop working.
The moment the Vet said he is concerned with the lump because it’s cancer my heart fell out of my chest and hit the floor at the same time my tummy did. A surge of adrenaline ran through me and it protected me in the strangest of ways.
The vet talked continuously but I only grasped onto the vital information everything else was white noise. Like the adrenaline clouded my hearing because it knew listening to all of it would have been too much.
I didn’t realise I was shaking and when I tried to talk it didn’t sound like me. It sounded really far away. I basically repeated the bits that I heard in an attempt to confirm that I had understood, and I had.
Flash is dying, and the only thing we can do it make sure his final days/weeks/months are as pain free as possible but at some point either the tumour will grow beyond control or the meds will stop working and at that point I will have to make the most difficult decision of my entire life.
The vet now, apologising profusely for having to deliver this news to me, told me he’d prescribe the medication for a 3 month repeat prescription and talked me through the side effects to watch out for then invited me to return to the waiting for, to get Flash’s medication.
We went back to the waiting room, the mumbling couple was back there. She asked me what the result was and before I could answer she mumbled that she knew it.
The dogs would still going berserk but I couldn’t hear them, I could see that they were barking but I couldn’t hear it.
It was the loneliest and longest 5 minutes of my life.
Thankfully it had been sunny out and so I quickly put them on my face and retreated into my coat as much as I could as I silently cried. Tears rolling down my face in a room full of strangers.
Flash’s name was called, the lady gave me the meds and we got out of there as quick as I could already in full on sobs.
We got home, and I had just enough time to give him his medication before I had to leave for work.
I got into work, set everyone up for calling, then made a couple of calls myself and realised that that had been a giant mistake. I couldn’t talk. I could barely breathe. I messaged my sisters and mum and my best-friends.
Mum immediately offered to come over on the weekend, my sister who is working home for the week due to the C word, one of my best-friends left me a voicemail suggesting CBD oil might help him and my other best-friend popped over and I can't put into words how much I appreciated his cuddle. What was doubly nice was upon seeing him Flash perked up as well. In the wake of this devastating news, my friends and family have demonstrated their love and care for me and it's as overwhelming as the news it self (but in a good way).
And here we are, it’s been 24 hours since receiving this news. I guess some people might be wondering why in the world am I writing a blog about it so soon? And honestly I don’t know. I just started typing. I’ve struggled to actually talk about it, and I know I need to talk about it, so this felt like the next best thing.
I am grateful that Flash doesn’t know. Like when it’s a person they have to face their mortality, but dogs don’t.
They can just carry on living until it’s time for their souls to return to the stars.
I am grateful that this happened now and not 18 months ago, before embarking on this journey because 18 months ago I would have handled it with booze, anxiety and depression. I would have completely isolated myself and Flash and that would have been exceptionally unhealthy for us both.
I am grateful I still have time, even if it’s borrowed and I will cherish every moment I have left with my best friend. As we all should, with every pet and every person we hold dear.