The main inspiration for the Hospice was, of course, Maggie and her kindness and gentle nature. However, I have known, loved and lost many animal friends and they have all inspired me in their own ways.
Osha and Angus are just two of them, but their stories are so closely linked with Maggie and the seedling idea of the Hospice that I would like to share their stories here.
Osha came to live with us on 10th October 2015. She was dumped in the pound with two very large tumours, and a vet assessment determined that she had around 6 months to live. She had a mammary tumour, which was large and pendulous, and an anal gland mast-cell tumour. Three days after Osha came to live with us, Maggie was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Osha’s people knew she had cancer and chose not to get her the treatment she needed. When the lumps became very big, they got their friend to take her to the pound saying she was a stray. Thankfully, she had some kind people called Nikki and Cathy who helped her out of the pound after we offered to take her here to give her end-of-life foster care for however long she has left.
Almost 6 months on, Osha is doing really well. We have removed her mammary tumour and believe that it is now resolved, we have x-rayed her and found no trace of metastasis, and on the advice of her vet we have decided to monitor the mast-cell tumour but not to interfere with it as it is presently not causing her any trouble. Osha loves sleeping, eating (she especially loves eating the compost heap and anything else she’s not supposed to eat), walks with her brother Benny, and spending time with us in front of the wood burner. She is very happy and content here, and now that the weather is getting better she is enjoying lying in the spring sunshine on her outside bed.
We love Osha very much and we think she likes life here, too. We hope she is with us for a very long time to come.
I met Angus on a very wet September day in 2015. I was driving home with three dogs and my friend Mary the House Chicken in the car, and I spotted dear little Angus leaning against a bridge on a road in the middle of nowhere in the Highlands of Scotland. He was soaked, emaciated, and unable to stand. I pulled over, knowing he needed help, and my heart sank as I caught him so easily. That is never a good sign.
I bundled Angus into the back of the car and dried him as best I could, then put my coat over him and turned the heater up full to try and get him warmed up. He was soaked through and suffering from hypothermia, and I needed to get his body temperature up. He wasn’t able to stand, and I could hear from the awful noises his rumen was making that he was starving.
It was very late when we arrived home, so I made him comfortable and got some emergency fluids into him; warm water with vitamins, salt and sugar. He slept soundly that night, safe and warm. I knew it wasn’t going to be good news when I took him to the vet the next day, and although he got subQ fluids, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication, in my heart I knew I had found him just a little too late.
I found Angus on Wednesday and immediately fell in love with him. He so desperately wanted to live but by some means – neglect, illness, genetics, I will never know – his little body had gone too far to be able to carry his strong spirit any longer. On Friday night at around 7pm, Angus no longer wanted to drink his electrolyte solution from the syringe or take his bottle, and I saw the fight leave his eyes. I knew then what I had to do; I had to just be with him, hold him, reassure him, and let him know that he was safe and loved so that when his body could no longer hold on, he would pass warm, safe, and knowing he was loved. Angus and I lay together in front of the woodburner and I could feel him fade. He grew weaker and at 7am on Saturday morning, Angus passed away very peacefully in my arms.
Knowing – and losing – Angus was so very hard, but I will never regret a second of the heartache because it meant that he didn’t die alone, scared, cold and hungry on a dark roadside. He died knowing that he was loved, he died warm, with food in his tummy, and with peace.
Sometimes all we can do is make the end easier, and much as it hurts there is also something very beautiful about being able to help someone pass on with dignity and respect, with love and kindness. Sometimes they are the only gifts we can give.
In loving memory of dear Angus, a very special friend.