My beautiful old boy has been gone for one year today. I can’t believe it has been that long, it feels like it only happened a few weeks ago. I can remember that day vividly (even with my terrible memory). You’d think that with me being a vet it would have protected me from the utter sadness as I’ve dealt with the death of animals many times, but that was not the case.
Carrying out euthanasia was always so scary to me before Darcy died. Not the practical side of it, but the emotional. I’ve always been a very empathetic person and hate to see other people suffering, which is inevitable when clients are saying their final farewells to their beloved pets. I’d dread it when a pet was booked in for euthanasia with me as I’d be so worried about getting upset and looking unprofessional in front of grieving owners. But that changed after Darcy died.
I found Darcy at the Edinburgh Dog & Cat Home in 2010. He had been there for a few weeks, brought in by his previous owners as they had split up and couldn’t give him the attention he needed. I lived with my sister at the time, and she and her boyfriend had adopted a lovely wee dog, Skye, from the EDCH a few years prior. We took him along with us to make sure any dog I was interested in would get on with him. The first dog (a rather large and bouncy boxer x staffie) was far too big and scary for timid wee Skye so that was a no-go. Skye seemed to be anxious around all of the dogs and I thought I’d never find a canine companion of my own. Then they brought out Darcy. He was so beautiful. A leggy whippet- fawn, white and brindle with a white tip on the end of his tail and gorgeous big caramel-coloured eyes. He and Skye got on like a house on fire, so that decided it. I signed the paperwork and we took him home a few hours later.
I was half-way through my first degree in Biological Sciences and Darcy was the best study buddy, offering ad-lib cuddles and reassuring glances. He loved going for walks, playing with Skye and snuggling up to anyone that looked like they could do with some love. I met my now husband in 2012, and at first he thought Darcy looked like a snake (I took great offense at this) due to his long nose, but the dog soon had John’s affection too.
John and I moved into our flat in 2014 and Darcy obviously came with us. This was when his separation anxiety really came to the fore and became a big issue. John was working full-time and I was now in vet school. I tried training, trying to get him used to a crate, but he wasn’t having it and I hated seeing him so stressed. So it was parents to the rescue (Mum in particular). I used to drop the dog off at my mum and dads before uni every day, and pick him up on the way home. As a result, my mum grew very fond of Darcy.
Darcy was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease in 2016. This disease affects the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body and is caused by a tumour in either the pituitary or adrenal gland. It isn’t curable but can be managed with medication and most dogs will survive for up to 3 years following diagnosis. It was just my luck that Darcy’s Cushing’s was incredibly difficult to manage and he was in and out of the vets and the specialists a lot over the next few years. He was always very well behaved at the vets, even though he was frightened, and was generally well except for a bad bout of gastroenteritis in autumn 2018.
On the morning that Darcy died, John and I woke up so find him struggling to breathe. I knew straight away that he was very ill. He had been his usual self the night before so it was a shock. I phoned my work in tears (I graduated in 2017) and said I was bringing Darcy straight in. My colleagues handled everything perfectly. They calmed me down, looked after my boy as if he was their own and did everything they possibly could to save him. But his body was tired and I knew he had had enough.
I lay on the floor of my consult room, cuddling him, telling him how much I loved him while my wonderful colleague put him to sleep. It was so quick and peaceful. I stayed with him for a few more minutes and we said our goodbyes.
The few weeks that followed were so difficult, Darcy had been such a constant in my life and now he was gone. We got his ashes back and I buried them in my parents garden as we don’t have one and he loved basking in the sun there. My Dad and I picked a lovely rose bush to place on top of his ashes so we have a pretty place to remember him. Due to covid-19, I couldn’t go and say hello to him today but my parents did it for me ❤
Losing Darcy has been one of the hardest things I’ve gone through. I now totally understand what my clients are feeling, but I’m stronger for having gone through it myself. I’m still very sad every time a patient dies but I feel I’m able to cope better and help the owners in a better way.
A few months later and I needed to get another dog. Life without a furry wee pal in the house was too strange, so I started looking at rescue centres and asking on vet groups on Facebook. We came across a veterinary nurse who had rescued a lurcher from the RSPCA after she was dumped and left for dead with multiple injuries. The nurse was sadly unable to keep the dog and wanted to re-home her. One photo of the dog in question and I knew we had to have her. So now we have the lovely Penny long-legs and she’s just gorgeous. Daft as a brush, but so sweet.
Now when I think of Darcy it is all the funny, mischievous things he used to get up to I think of, not the sad ones. My husband commissioned a wonderful painting of him from his very talented friend and it hangs in our bedroom so I see him every morning when I get up and every night before I go to bed.
If you’re going through pet loss then please reach out to your friends and family. Pet bereavement support and helplines are available from the Blue Cross at (https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-bereavement-and-pet-loss) , the Cats Protection League (https://www.cats.org.uk/what-we-do/grief/advice) and many other organisations.