During my life I have been around death far more times than I care to remember.
When I had to watch Scamp die on Saturday, May 28th, among all the anger and
grief at not being able to get a vet to visit my sick friend, there was also
a question milling around in my mind.
Although Scamp had not seemed that poorly on Friday night and despite not
eating her supper, I had no reason to believe that she was more than a little
under the weather – after all, she was only eleven years old!
On Saturday morning when it was obvious that getting to lie by my feet was the limit of her physical capabilities I began to have fears for her and, as soon as I had walked Chap, I started to call for help.
After five hours of trying, I gave up and sat with my friend. She vomitted a few times without the energy to raise her head and had to wriggle out of it. I don’t know when I realised that she was dying because I simply did not want to believe it but, at about 2pm, it was clear that she was no longer trying to do more than breathe. She seemed to be in no pain and was lying quite comfortably so I was able to remain with her without getting any more angry than I already was about my failure to find a vet prepared to make a house call.
At about 4pm she stopped breathing and her head moved two or three times as though she had a slight cough – then she was still.
I was so very angry that, even a week later, I have not shed a tear for her and was able to discover how I could arrange for the corpse to be removed. Surprisingly this was very simple and very rapid. It was collected within an hour and despite the necessarily functional process, I was pleased that it was treated with respect.
The absence of Scamp in my life did not seem as sudden nor to affect me as much as when other dogs have died. For example, when Abbie died a few years ago, I was heart-broken and bawled like a baby. Maybe my presence during her dying hours enabled me to come to terms with my loss or maybe my anger insulated me from my other emotional responses. Whatever the reason, I have not shed a tear for Scamp and adopted another dog in what might seem indecent haste.
The question that was milling round my head was that age old response to death “Is that it?”
There is now no obvious evidence that Scamp ever lived with me. I have photographs, of course, but there is nothing to show that a great hairy creature that had been very aware of my state of health at any particular time had ever been here.
Is that what death is, the simple erasure of a being from the face of the Earth?
Does our passing count for nothing?