Lemme confess that the first emotion when Sambucca the black labrador finally breathed her last was relief. The sadness and the memories came later. See, she grew a brain tumour and it grew and grew until it was about as big as her head.
When the bump first started we knew it was the end and I told the kids I would just support the old dear and only consider ending things if she was no longer comfortable, not eating, not happy and not interested in a ear rub or tummy tickle. I said I don’t want you shooting me just cos I’m inconvenient and so I’m not shooting Sambucca for our convenience. And anyway, she’s only 87yrs-old in human terms. Born in August 2006.
Well, she hung in and kept eating while getting thinner – which is a terminal sign in a labrador. I was vrot with worry and angst as she started getting smelly and the parasites attacked her – fleas, flies and ticks. A daily bath and shampoo helped but she’d disappear for hours and come back covered again, her hidden spots in our jungly garden obviously infested with the lil bastids. Yet she still kept getting up and walking towards me tail wagging as I got home each day, asking for a scratch. Then Friday she got weaker and Saturday and Sunday she didn’t eat. I added gravy and fat and she refused it. Refused a meal! I knew it was soon. Sunday night she suddenly yowled a bit and then went quiet, considerately choosing Aitch’s birthday as her last day so we can remember it more easily.
It’s a bit worrying that she may have gone to the happy hunting grounds, as there’s no way she can hunt! She needs her food prepared and put in a stainless steel dish preferably covered in gravy. So we can only hope there’s an ala carte section in those hunting grounds.
I started digging her grave early Monday morning and three inches down I came to an astonishing and unexpected realisation: I am not cut out for physical labour! Can you believe it!? I sub-contracted the task and Tom and his mate Jose dug a goodly hole – after negotiating a financial reward – and Sambucca now joins her predecessor Bella, a hamster and a gerbil under the soil in our garden. Also Aitch and her Mom and Dad’s ashes.
Rest in peace ole Sambucca, you made twelve years and five months and were the best watchdog ever: you watched the monkeys stroll across the yard, you watched the hadedas glean the lawn, you watched our neighbourhood kids stream in and out of the gates whenever. You only barked when I got home to say Hey Welcome Back! About Time! Look What A Good Watchdog I Am! and by the way, When’s Supper?!
And that’s when you showed you had 12% greyhound blood, as you tore off round the trailer, gleefully thinking “He’s Home! He’s Home!”. Two laps when you were younger, one lap the last couple years.
Jess was going to call you Sweetie when you arrived, so we hastily canvassed friends for a less saccharine moniker. Terry Brauer from the Gramadoelas of Pretoria came up with Black Sambucca. Just right.
Approaching her 84th dog-year birthday Sambucca started with a red eye which started to bulge. This followed a long slow period in which she went grey, then white, then hard-of-hearing, then hard-of-seeing. She’s still full of beans and has a robust appetite, but the intermittent bulging red eye was not normal. A trip to the vet was called for. Between making the appointment and going the old duck clocked 84. Twelve calendar years. Born 23 August 2006. It says so on her papers from The Kennel Club. ‘Jena’ born out of ‘Yellow Daisy’ by ‘ZinZan Kilgobbin’.
‘Strue. She’s our first non-brak. Amazing. I always thought she was 12% greyhound judging from her sprint round the trailer when I get home evenings.
Tobias rounded her up, so she thought AHA! I know him, he wants to shampoo me! To avoid him she leapt into the back seat of the Ranger like a teenager. Tobias just grinned, mission accomplished! Jess accompanied me and even though old Sam very seldom gets a ride she was a star on her dog mat in the back seat; calm, unfussed.
We also had best behaviour at the vet except when an intruder – an inferior goldenretriever! – dared to leave the consulting room and cross the waiting room floor. How dare it come to the vet on a black labrador day?
Sam advanced on it menacingly. “Hey, act your age!” got her to subside. “You’re not on guard duty now”, I told her. I kindly didn’t mention that she’s never on guard duty.
The verdict was a retrobulbar mass which will probably grow. And ears that need a good cleanout.
Otherwise she’s in really good nick; happy, healthy appetite, shiny soft coat and good joints for an old duck.
“What a lovely dog”, said the vet Laura and her assistant Nikki, giving her another treat. Sambucca bristled when Laura mentioned she could have a cat scan, A WHAT!? but then her thick tail signaled enthusiastically that the lab report agreed with the vet report when we all agreed not to do any major surgical heroics.
So she’s had her first home ear washout, four to go.
Update: She can hear again! Sometimes.
Update: she’s gone . . 6 January 2019: Aitch’s birthday.