Death Of A Friend – Saying Goodbye to Bert

Nurse Bert

“We who choose to surround ourselves
with lives even more temporary than our
own, live within a fragile circle;
easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps,
we would still live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only
certain immortality, never fully
understanding the necessary plan.”
~ Irving Townsend

 

And so it seems that for the next installment in my Wednesday series on death and dying that I shall be writing about something very raw and close to home…

On Sunday January 15 at 4am Ben and I made one of the hardest decisions we have yet made for our little family. We chose to euthanise our darling dog, Bert.

It was an entirely unexpected place to find ourselves in. Although, if you have read last Monday’s post, you will see that I was in fact forewarned, after having chosen the oracle card for the week ahead earlier on Saturday morning. A card that I discounted and put down, so that later I might choose another, better card.

That card was such a portend; a heartbroken woman, tears running down her face, cradling in her arms her dead dog – the little ginger pup with the red collar.

Grief

Who would have thought on a sunshiny Saturday morning, with our two dogs Harry and Bert well and happy and flourishing, that by Saturday evening it would all be going horribly downhill for one of them?

Dear readers, this is so often the way death finds us and our loved ones. This is the way the world is. One moment life is fine and normal. The next moment everything is different. Changed forever.

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Our Saturday started as Ben and I grabbed a coffee and the weekend papers in town then headed home to sit on the veranda. We did some writing together before the heat of the day while Bert and Harry sat at our feet, went off for a little wander, and then came back to the shade again.

The farm is in the grip of a heatwave. As I sat down mid-morning to do a little prep work and then start a day of skype readings with clients the boys all retreated to our air-conditioned bedroom – the one cool room in the house. Bert stayed there all day, happy on the bed. Harry and Ben did a little farm work and then came back to the bedroom. It was just too hot for anything!

When I finished work just before 6pm we all headed up to the pool. While Ben and I swam Harry and Bert ran around the edges, following us. Eventually Bert tired of the game and lay down. He’d only been lying there a few minutes when he stood up suddenly. He was violently ill. After which he pooed everywhere and began to shake. Bert looked at me and our eyes locked. I got a terrible cold feeling and a sense of certainty that he was going to die. He collapsed in front of me.

It all happened in seconds.  But even now those seconds feel like hours. I called to Ben that something was wrong and we jumped out of the pool and hurried to Bert’s side. Ben thought he might have eaten something. I was sure it was more urgent than that.

I ran back to the house, my heart pounding, and began to ring the local vets. Frantically I called vet after vet. Most were on holidays. No-one answered the phone. Finally, on the sixth call a vet in Lismore, a thirty minute drive away, picked up. If we came straight away she would meet us at the clinic. By this time Ben had brought Bert down to the house. Our beloved dog was lying on our bedroom floor, his gums pale, his breathing laboured, his heart beat erratic, his body twisted with pain.

I was sure it was a snake bite.

Leaving Harry in our room, Ben carried Bert to the ute and placed him in the back seat, where I climbed in beside him to cradle his head and comfort him as Ben drove us to get help.

Our poor dog. He was in a bad way, and as I felt his heart race and slow and flutter beneath my fingers it was all I could do to stay calm. I poured every ounce of love I had into him, and told Bert stories to keep him quiet and listening to my voice.

While our world spun, life went on as normal for most everyone else. Families came to the dinner table, or sat in front of television. People went about their lives. This is how it is when your world is falling apart. Other people’s lives are progressing as they always have. The only sky that falls is yours. It’s as if you move into a parallel dimension.

The vet was young and inexperienced. She was not sure what to do. She kept walking out of the surgery room, leaving us alone for long periods of time. It did not instill us with confidence.

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It took several goes for her to find a vein. She did a coagulation test, and told us it wasn’t a snake bite. She thought our sick dog might have eaten something. Meanwhile Bert was increasingly distraught, and then began to poo an acrid foaming mess of faeces and blood. The vet thought she might give Bert a drip and then leave him alone in the clinic overnight, after which the senior vets could assess him and give him some scans the next morning.

Our dog was shaking and moaning and the vet wanted to leave him alone and unattended in a cage all night.

Ben asked for other options. The vet suggested an emergency vet hospital on the Gold Coast. But less than an hour further up the road and we could be back in Brisbane, with a place to sleep, and close to our trusted family vet come Monday morning. As soon as the drip was in place we paid the bill and Ben carried Bert out to the car, our plan already decided.

I sat in the back with Bert’s head on my lap, wads of towels under him to catch the stinking bloody waste that kept oozing from him. We strapped the drip to the door frame and raced away.

Ben hugged the speed limit as he drove us home to the farm. The familiar country roads went by in a blur. Night fell. It was still stinking hot, and I was grateful that the car was cool and quiet.

At home one of us stayed with Bert while we took turns picking up Harry Dog and locking the house and sheds. I grabbed a bottle of essential oil and my computer. There was no time for anything else.

We were soon on our way again. Ben concentrated on the road, and Harry Dog sat in the front seat, twisted around so that he could see Bert and I, his eyes worried and fretful.

I rubbed Peace and Calming Oil (the same one I used when I helped my friend Angela to pass) on my hands and then let Bert breathe it in. I rubbed it along his spine. It took away his agitation and helped him to settle. It helped me too.

I noticed everything. The velvety feel of Bert’s muzzle, the raggedness of his breathing, Harry’s gentle and frequent sighs, the steady drip of the saline from the bag into the tube that was bandaged to Bert’s leg.

As we drove I patted Bert, and talked to him. I breathed in his pain, and breathed out love. I thought about the fact that here we suddenly were, pushing ourselves on this frantic journey to get help for our loved one – enroute to an excellent animal medical facility. I was monitoring Bert’s drip, we were safe, and yet there were so many people in the world in that same moment who did not have the care, attention or even the rudimentary treatments afforded our dog.

Bert settled under my touch and rested. But his eyes tracked our movements and he did not sleep. If I stopped patting him or talking to him he nudged me until I began again. He seemed unaware of the smells and the ooze. He became peaceful. Almost content. I filled the car with gentle talk about burgers and walks and adventures and lots of food stories. Bert loved his food, and burgers most of all.

When we arrived at the veterinary hospital it was just before midnight. Ben went ahead to get help and soon orderlies came with a stretcher. They carried Bert away, Ben following, while Harry and I stayed with the car.

As soon as the heavy doors shut and we could no longer see them, Harry began to whimper. I could not quieten him. He did not want me to put essential oil on him. I understood. He wanted to feel his feelings. He did not want to be pacified. Eventually the whimper became a howl. I crawled onto the front seat beside him and held him in my arms. I couldn’t cry, so Harry did for us. Nothing I did gave him any comfort. It was awful.

Ben took forever. Enough time for me to wipe up most of the shit and the blood from myself and the car. Enough time for me to use the remains of a bottle of water to clean things as best I could and to dump all the filthy towels into a vet waste bin.

Finally Ben returned and beckoned us to come inside. The vets had suggested that we bring Harry too, so we clipped him onto a leash and he trotted in beside us.

Reception was similar to a hospital waiting room. While Bert was being attended to by the vet team a nurse brought me a cup of tea. Ben couldn’t stomach one. We sat in uncomfortable chairs and waited, Harry lying pressed against our feet. Above us the minutes ticked by on a gigantic clock.

Then they brought me Bert’s big red leather collar, which I stuffed into my bag.

Ben kept one hand on me, and one hand on Harry. Somehow his hands steadied us enough that we could breathe again and be calm.

The night dragged on.

The emergency vet came and talked to us. The young country vet in Lismore had not forwarded Bert’s test results and records like she had promised us. They were running new tests but it was clear that Bert was a very, very ill boy. I asked if she could run the snake venom panel again, and the vet told us that the first test in Lismore would have been done too soon, and therefore was possibly unreliable. The best way to test would be with urine, but they’d need to insert a catheter. Bert was dangerously dehydrated so they were currently pumping him full of fluid. The vet agreed that it looked like snakebite, but the tests would take at least an hour. She was quietly reassuring. They were getting things under control.

I still felt cold to my core. It didn’t seem real and at the same time every detail was seared into my memory. I was certain we were losing him.

The vet went back into the surgery to do her work and a nurse took us to another room where we began filling in forms and giving our credit card details.

Finally we were asked to come through into the big, airy treatment room. There were several dogs in crates, most of them sleeping. There was medical equipment everywhere, and teams of people in scrubs working at lab stations.

It was three in the morning and Bert was now resting on a comfy bed in a large open cage on floor level. The nurses had given him a pillow for his head and a stuffed toy to keep him company. The vet was sitting beside him on the floor.

Harry went over and licked his face and cried a little. Bert rallied and licked him back. Suddenly Harry pulled away and went and sat on his own with his back to us, near the door. Ben and I gave Bert cuddles and hugs, and told him what a good boy he was and how much we loved him.

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The vet staff urged us to go home. Bert was stable, they had given him pain meds and he was getting dopey. Soon he would sleep. They would call us as soon as they had any results. We could come back and see him in the morning.

One final round of cuddles and we did go home. We scrubbed ourselves clean under long hot showers and then slid into bed, worried and exhausted.

We’d only just gotten to sleep when the phone rang. It was 4am. The vet had news. She had decided to do an ultrasound of Bert’s belly while they waited for the snakebite kit. She’d found a large mass on his spleen that was bleeding heavily into his abdomen. Then the snakebite test had come back positive. Bert needed urgent surgery for the mass, but his blood wasn’t clotting because of the snakebite. If she attempted surgery in his current state he’d bleed out.

He was bleeding out anyway.

On top of that it was likely he had damage from the snake venom. Heart damage. Nerve damage.

The vet was distraught but professional. She began talking surgeries, transfusions, risks, medications. Chemotherapy. Radiation. Months. Pain management.

Everything was risk. Everything was a gamble. All of it would mean more suffering for our beautiful boy. But she could try.

Meanwhile Bert was resting comfortably, finally asleep from the pain meds and a sedative.

So, Ben and I told her we’d call her back.

We sat on the bed with Harry beside us and we didn’t even need to talk. We just looked at each other and both of us shook our heads, tears running down our faces. It was enough. We couldn’t let him suffer.

So we called her straight back and asked her to euthanise him. We didn’t want for him to have to wait for us to travel to see him one more time (although we wanted to, but that was about our needs, not Bert’s), or to wake him up when he was finally calm and asleep. The vet explained that it was easy for her to do. She just needed to add a little extra medication to his drip. The vet promised us that she would hold him and stay with him until he passed. She had been unable to be with one of her own animals a few weeks before when her elderly pet had taken ill and had needed to be put to sleep. It was something she wanted to do now for Bert. I knew she would help Bert to feel loved, and one more time Nurse Bert got to comfort and support someone in need.

Because that’s what our beautiful dog always did. He loved you and stayed with you and looked after you until he was sure you were okay again.

It’s been ten days now.

Our home feels emptier.

Harry Dog is pining and clingy.

There’s too much room on the bed.

If I drop food on the floor it stays there.

Even though we are grieving our hearts are full, because this goofy dog who came into our lives when I found him abandoned and near death one hot summer afternoon – in a cardboard box at a suburban shopping centre – turned out to be one of the greatest friends we’ve even known.

We’d had him nine years almost to the day.

Nurse Bert. Our dog. Our friend. <3

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75 thoughts on “Death Of A Friend – Saying Goodbye to Bert

  1. Strength to you, lovely one. Thank you for writing with beautiful, heartfelt detail. Tears while reading. Am sending so much love and warmth to Bert. Feeling a broken yet full heart for each of you. I hold you close.

  2. This is so sad 😭😭😭 I can’t imagine the pain you are going through! Bert and Harry are quite lucky to have you guys. I’m sorry this happen to your dog, but you loved him for all of those 9 years and he knew that. You chose the right thing, suffering and being in pain isn’t something that Bert would enjoy. You weren’t selfish and as a dog lover I appreciate this. Sending so much love towards you. I’m sure Bert is in peace and is looking after you. Stay strong! ❤

  3. I am so sorry for your loss. I have tears in my eyes after reading this. It is definitely a kindness that we can do for our loved ones but such a hard decision to make. Hugs to you and your family. Peaceful journey, Bert.

  4. Heartbreaking, I could hardly read thru tears for you all as I know that heartache too well. Lots of hugs to you all including Harry xxx

  5. You have written so many words of wisdom that have brought a sense of peace and hope in the lives of others, Nicole. In some small way, may you and your sweet family find comfort and peace in knowing your friends from around the world are holding you in their thoughts…sending you much love. Take care and bless you, dear ones!

  6. Heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking Nicole. I read this through tears. Cherish all your memories of your special Bert. I know he’ll live on forever in your heart. Sending big hugs to you all at this sad time xo

  7. Nicole,
    Reading this story about Bert breaks my heart. Something similar happened to our dog 3 years ago. I remember well feeling like I was in an alternate reality as people went about their daily business. I think we both grieved for at least a month but I did find that writing down my remembrances of his funny character and collecting pictures as you have was very healing. Like you and Ben, we had another dog and hopefully having Harry around will help you work through the feelings although they feel the loss, too. I know I went through a lot of guilt about the circumstances surrounding my dog’s passing but I pray that you feel reassured in knowing that there was really nothing you could do but allow Nurse Bert to go to a peaceful place. It takes a very strong and caring person to do what you and Ben did for your beloved companion. I’m sorry for your loss.

  8. Sending lots of love and hugs to each of you, Nicole. Thank you for sharing Bert’s story with us, it has been important for our closure too. Hope he has his nurse’s hat on in Heaven for all the lucky people and pets who cross his path xxooxx ❤️💙💜♥️

  9. Dear Sweet Nicole, my heart aches with you as tears fall. Sending prayers on Smoke for strength and healing, peace and love as you traverse through the onset of emotions and wander in the memories of joy, of love, of friendship with your beloved Nurse Bert. My heart and prayers go out to you, to Ben and Harry held in Love and Light <3<3<3

  10. RIP Nurse Bert. Cannot imagine the heartbreak you and Ben and Harry are going through. Having Bert torn from you so rapidly and violently… He was lucky to have you there, knowing how to soothe and comfort him – just as he’d done for you and others. Sending you love and hugs and lots of visions of green meadows for Bert to romp in. Give Harry a hug and a belly rub from me. Hold each other close and know that we are all grateful for your sharing your insights, your life and your work with us. I cannot believe how generous you are, in the midst of what can only be heartbreaking turmoil – you gracefully show us your heart, your lessons and your world. You are a gift to us, my Warrior Princess, Queen of Hearts. Love xoxoxoxo

  11. Damn, Kiddo, damn. So sad. Nothing replaces a tail wagging, drooling best friend. Mark Twain once commented hat the only thing bad about dogs is they do not live long enough. Reminds me… I have a crystal here for you. Big smiles through huge tears….

  12. My heart aches for you ,Ben and Harry . Bert knew how much you loved him and he’s still your boy . God bless Bert he will continued to be loved. Love and sadness, Jo-Ann

    On Tue, Jan 24, 2017 at 2:57 PM, Cauldrons and Cupcakes wrote:

    > Cauldrons and Cupcakes posted: ” “We who choose to surround ourselves with > lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle; > easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we would still > live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain im” >

  13. Such a sad, sad story and an incredible encounter from the beginning where you chose the grief card to the final parting. Thank you so much for sharing this. I too, remember the day my dad died and when we came out of the hospital, the sky was blue, the birds were singing and people walked past us laughing. I remember thinking my whole world had just fallen apart and here were these people having the happiest moment in my time of grief. You are right Nicole, it is only our world which has fallen apart but not so for others. To you, Ben and Cafe Dog, Harry, may your days soon sparkle as the heaviness and emptiness of grief pass you for happier times. Sending love and hugs to each of you xxx

  14. I’m so very sorry. I feel like crying……I understand, we went through something very similar with my beautiful girl, she was my doggie soul mate, and we too were so devastated. I still miss her a year later, but I’m honoured to have had her in my life for 8 years. <3

  15. So many tears….. I hope we can all “do a Harry” and cry some of the endless supply for you
    Vale Nurse Bert
    Your star shines brightly beaming love to all who need it <3

  16. So sorry to hear of Nurse Bert’s passing. A huge loss to your family. Hope you were able to bring him home and bury him at the farm. 💕

  17. Tears are flowing down my face as I read this. My heart is broken for you and for nurse Bert who sounds like he was an angel sent from heaven. He came to do amazing work here and heal people and now his work is done he has gone over the rainbow bridge.

    God bless Nurse Bert and love and hugs to you and your family Nicole.

  18. I’m so very sorry. Our pets are such close family members. One of my dogs died three weeks ago. My sister’s dog a few days ago. Why are our dogs struggling so much right now? Is there something in the energy that is difficult for them?

  19. Oh my gosh- I am moved to tears and reminds me of my Frankie and Joni, both of my beloved Bichons passed at 14, just two months apart.. Then, we lost one of victor’s dogs quite suddenly. Two out of 3 died in my arms. The other, my Frankie, had a similar experience in that we didn’t want him to suffer before we could make the drive over the mountain. The vet did the same for us. We are left with our little munchkin, Melody. I’m so sorry for your loss.. You really got to my heart with your story and beloved Bert! God be with you my friend!

  20. Bert knew how much he was loved in those last hours and was aware of the loving comfort you were giving him to ease his suffering …..blessings to you all 💙💚💜

  21. I made the mistake of reading this at work and am now finding it difficult to concentrate on anything else. I have been thinking about Bert – the happy and caring gentlemen that he was. You were meant to find and rescue him that day. What a wonderful life he had with such a loving circle of family and friends. Thank you for allowing all of us to be a part of your grieving. Much love.

  22. OH SO SAD!!!! I just bawled my way through the whole thing and for awhile after. And several times since then! HOW GREAT IS LOVE EVEN WHEN IT HURTS SO!!!! I have lost several dear pet friends and have 2 old cats I love so and I know what’s coming. BUT OH THE JOY OF THE LOVE SHARED!!!! I am not sure why it is so hard when we know they are in spirit and in LOVE….guess it is for ourselves that we grieve. JUST REMEMBER THE LOVE YOU SHARED WITH WONDERFUL BERT and time will heal….. Sending much LOVE111

  23. I would have done exactly the same. I am so sorry you are going through this. I lost my dog six years ago and have not been able to face getting another since. (his leaving was similarly fraught, I sobbed when I read that the vets had put a pillow and a cuddly toy for your boy.. mine did not have that) sorry, I am shutting up now. I know what you are going through tho. Thank you for posting

  24. Oh Nicole! So sorry for you all. He was loved and loved in turn.
    How fortunate you both were to find each other and spend those 9 years together. Much love. Mxxx

  25. Thank you for sharing. It must have been so hard to relive that emotion and pain. Losing a pet is so very hard. Thank you again for sharing your life with me, I feel blessed to know you and be allowed into your life.

  26. I am weeping as I write this. Nicole – so sorry for you and your family. You expressed the whole experience so beautifully. We lost our black Lab, Bacchus, at the age of 14.5 years in early September 2015 (we adopted him when he was only 2 months old). He was our “son” and he died in our home. I left the room for a minute and that’s when he died. When I went back into the room, I noticed that our 8 cats were sitting at attention (in rows) at the entrance way of the room – wide-eyed, quiet and respectful. I had never seen anything like this in my life. Animals are so intuitive. And he was beloved. We buried him in our backyard, with a beautiful natural stone bearing his name. A year and a half later, my husband and I still weep when we speak of him. Forever in our hearts. We send you, Ben (and Harry) our deepest condolences and most loving energy.

  27. Dear Nicole, Thank you for sharing Bert’s life and the ending of his life with us. You are such a brave and open person. You touch so many people with your genuine honesty. I am deeply moved and am so very sorry that you and Ben have lost your very very faithful companion. We will miss hearing about dear dear Bert. You are in my heart! Sending you lots and lots of love across the miles.

  28. Choosing to read this on my break at work was a bad idea…! My heart is broken for you and I have tears streaming down my face. Pets are a huge part of the family and saying goodbye is one of the hardest things to do. Having had animals my whole life, I know that pain all too well. Love to you x

  29. Dearest Nicole ,
    Reading through the final moments you shared with Bert was heartbreaking ; wondering the strength you required to relive them while writing it down to share with all of us. Kindness was one of the very first emotion you expressed to Bert. That and love went on to exist for him till the very end. Anything moulded in kindness and love , goes a long way, to become an immortal masterpiece of art.
    Lots of Love,

  30. Oh Nicole, I am so sorry to read of your dear Bert’s passing. I am sure that just as his final hours are clear and vivid and etched in your mind that many joyful and playful moments of his life with you are also clear and vivid and will bring a smile to your face as your heart greaves. My heart aches for you. Sending you love.💖💖💖

  31. This was beautiful. Thank you for sharing this loss with us. And thank you for making your Bert live again in your writing. You also helped me see more of where my mom is, I’m so glad I found you Sending you my thoughts and love.

  32. Oh Bert. It does not seem fair that a champion and beautiful soul like Bert was not given more years on this earth. We had to let our dog Arthur go on Monday, and I am totally devastated. Your ability to share your heartbreak has helped me through it so much. Arthur was also a ‘Boxa’ and also a nurse, and a nanny. He spent the first four years of his life suffering neglect at the hands of some useles humans, but we made sure that we made up for it for the second half. Arthur battled liver cancer for the past year, with chemo and diet, but it finally bested him. From feeling fabulous for most of the time, he became very unwell very quickly and I’m glad we had the courage to end his suffering, as I’m sure he would have struggled on with it for longer if we had let him. Your writings also helped me clarify the parts I was doing for me and the parts I needed to do for him. If it were all up to me I would never let him go. Now I feel like I have lost a limb, as I am sure you, and Ben, and Harry do, and my heart is on the floor. Thank you so much for helping me get through this part. I’m so sorry that you have to be going through it too. So much love to you all. Xxx

  33. Nicole, I am so very sorry. My heart goes out to all of you and I thank you for sharing this. It is a moving testimony to your love for Bert and a tribute to Bert. Oh I cried, they are family aren’t they?

  34. Read this with tears running down my face. You couldn’t have done more for him and you gave him such comfort. Much love to you all xxxxx

  35. Dear Nicole,
    I’m very glad I didn’t read this at work. I find when the tears start they come for pain I’ve held back and haven’t had the chance to deal with. But I always feel the cleansing and healing once the tears finish. My heart goes out to you all.
    Kate

  36. I could just ,and only just , manage to read this this morning . Nicole it has broke my heart about Burt . When you have dogs yourself you can relate . I am so sorry . I have no idea what else to say R.I.P sweetheart ❤
    Cherryx

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  38. My heart is breaking for you…I’m reading this and crying. After my precious Lisa passed away…a few days later…I was lying in bed missing her, crying. I heard the familiar jangle of her tags…just like when she would make circles on her little dog bed (She’d start there and later jump into bed with me). I held my breath, thinking I must be imagining things…but I heard it again as clearly as …well, as clearly as any real sound I’d ever heard. So with a trembling hand I turned on the lamp but nothing was there. I know she came to tell me she was ok. <3 I hope you find some comfort.

  39. My tears flow as I write! My two girls are my joy and companionship. I have lost one that I still miss today and came close a year ago to losing my closest one yet. My deepest sorrow and prayers. May your memories soon bring joy.

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