It was quick. Mercifully quick.
When myself & Amie arrived home after a few hours away from the house on Wednesday evening we could sense something wasn't right with Gwen. She seemed uncharacteristically tired, off balance and not the Gwen we had been used to for the past 6 years. We decided to check up on her during the night and we both agreed that if she wasn't back to her usual self in the morning we would take her to the vet.
It became clear in the early hours of Thursday that Gwen wasn't comfortable. As soon as the local vet practice opened we were getting Gwen looked at. She wasn't her normal self, but she definetely seemed to be in better health by the time we got to see the vet. I suppose dogs have a sneaky ability to hide any pain.
Gwen was reluctantly left with the vet so they could give her an anesthetic in preperation for blood tests and an X-ray. We left the vet without Gwen and busied ourselves for the day, trying to not to think the worst before a diagnosis. At 4pm we picked Gwen up and were surprised to see that although she had been given some strong anesthetic, she seemed to be back to her normal self, loving and playful. The vet explained that they had tested for various ailments and we should expect a call with the results within 3 days.
We settled back at home with Gwen, giving her a few more cuddles and treats than normal. Gwen seemed tired, but that was understandable after being left with strangers and poked and prodded for an afternoon.
Friday morning came and Gwen had her usual boundless energy. She always loved playing with a ball and would always be the last man standing, wanting to fetch a ball for hours on end. My younger brother once tried to 'outball' Gwen, after 3 hours of throwing with Gwen fetching he eventually gave up.
On Friday afternoon, Amie took the call that broke our hearts. Gwen was diagnosed with extremely aggressive lymphoma with a 100% chance of passing away within a week. The vet broke the news gently but it still left as numb. We rushed home to Gwen, not knowing how to behave around her. During the 36 hours since first taking Gwen to the vet, she had developed a number of lumps in her throat and her breathing was labored. Despite my tears, I held Gwen harder then ever before and made sure she was as comfortable as possible.
'100% chance of passing away within a week', these words replayed over and over in my mind. Just 2 days ago, Gwen seemed fine. Amie and I decided to not make any decisions until the following morning. Gwen was comfortable and didn't appear to be in any pain.
Saturday morning I woke to Gwen jumping on my bed followed by Amie with plates full of sausages and mugs of milky tea. Gwen joined us in bed for breakfast. She loved tea and although she was not usually allowed upstairs, she seemed very at home in bed, guzzling her favourite sausages and drinking tea. Amie looked at me with an expression I will never forget; we knew today had to be the day to let Gwen go.
Gwen has been with us since she was 8 weeks old. As a puppy she had piercing blue eyes and the softest, fluffiest hair I have ever seen. We taught her to sit, swim and fetch. We would walk Gwen on the beach 3-4 times a week and she loved sprinting across the sand or swimming out to sea to 'rescue' a ball. She did everything with us. Gwen was the best company. When I have been out of the country with work, I knew Gwen would protect Amie. Gwen was the most gentle, patient and loving dog I have ever known; everybody who knew Gwen would agree, she was special. Even on my wedding day, standing at the alter waiting for Amie to arrive, Gwen was by my side, calming my nerves; she was my best friend.
For a number of reasons, this year has been tough. Myself and Amie have had to deal with a lot but Gwen has always been there to cheer us up. A few hours with Gwen makes everything seem good.
We spent our last day with Gwen doing her favourite things, swimming in the sea, chasing balls and eating far too much. When the time came to take Gwen to the vet, she was exhausted. I will always remember her licking my hand whilst I lay on the floor of the operating room at the vets. With myself and Amie holding her tight and telling her how much we loved her, she slipped into a deep sleep. Hopefully dreaming of fetching a ball.
Today, the house feels silent and empty. My heart is broken and I miss my best friend so much that it hurts.