Little Tilly will never know how close she came to never enjoying another beach walk. Today, September 4, 2017, was to have been the Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s last. No more runs on Harbour Cove with Asta, her jaws clenched ever so tightly around the ball her Airedale friend would give her eyeteeth to get hold of. Waking this morning to the sound of gulls Tilly had been unaware that she had awoken from what by rights ought to have been her last night last curled up on the bed next to Jane, the woman who has cared for her, fed her and walked her, and carried up the stairs to her apartment, and more recently taken her to the veterinary surgeon to learn the worst, the sum of which the little terrier will never know. And to be frank, it didn’t look good. The tumours that tyrannise her seven year old body – first appearing on her skin thence spreading to muscles, organs and bones – and that have made her sick, and yelp in pain at the lightest, and tenderest touch, were such that today was to have been the final adios. Jane had duly notified everyone with a care for Tilly and all shed tears at her prognosis: Ollie, Jane’s son, with whom Tilly had lived until a change in his domestic circumstances; Juan Carlos the lodger who hadn’t known Tilly that long but like all who came into contact with her was overcome with her loyalty and joi de vivre; and finally Mark, the Californian writer next door who watching how many of us derive pleasure from caring for our animals, and seeing how that affection is reciprocated, remarked that should he have the chance to come back in another life, “I want to come back as Asta.” Mark, like the others wept this morning in the full knowledge that as Tilly stepped into the back of Jane’s Nissan it would be for the last time. Placing the fate of a pet in the hands of a veterinary surgeon whose only hope is to make the imminent passing as swift and painless as possible isn’t easy. I’ve been there three times and all I can say with any authority is that it gets worse each time. Each pup wears an expression that asks, what is happening? They know the routine they love and adhere to has changed but cannot comprehend how or why? They don’t know why hills are steeper and cars are higher, their little legs are stiffer, and food no longer tastes as good. Everything they depend upon and trust is you. Confident that in the last resort there is nothing you would do to harm them is what sustains them. Until. Well, happily for Tilly fate had other plans.
“Like Lazurus she’s risen from the dead,” exclaimed Jane, almost unable to comprehend the turn around in Tilly’s fortunes, who was, by all accounts, back to her old self at the surgery. Her cancer is as invasive and relentless as before, but as if sensing something irreversible Tilly put on such a show of good health that all plans for a merciful end were shelved. She’s not exactly better, but she’s rallied enough to swap tears for apprehensive smiles. Steroids and other drugs prescribed Tilly was sent packing with nought more severe than advice to keep an eye on her.
Way to go Tilly. Harbour Cove awaits.