Thursday, August 28, 2014

Farewell to a loyal old lady

 Toffee in February this year. Still fit and healthy

Yesterday the vet arrived to check out Toffee who had a large open wound on her side. She'd previously caught  and torn a  teat on the wire fence when she and Princess got out one night six weeks ago. At the time Grant called the local vet in  who gave her a course of antibiotic injections. Meanwhile Michael and I treated the wound daily and I left the medication (Zambuc  - good Oz ointment,  and South African tissue oil ) which he applied in my absence.

When I returned from leave, Michael told me that Toffee's matatizo/problem was worse. Grant called in a provincial vet; Albert, head of the askaris  brought him to my home and we consulted together. The vet said that Toffee's wound was cancerous; he said he'd anathematize the dog, go in, cut out all the cancerous tissue and sew her up again. His opinion was that afterwards she would be good as new. I wasn't at all convinced about operating on cancer areas. Toffee is apparently about 12 years old, so I asked the vet about humanely putting her down. He and his assistant seemed horrified that I would suggest this; they said they'd recently operated another older dog on another mine and it survived well.
 Michael lifts the sedated Toffee onto the examination table

Michael and I duly set up an operating theater in Grant's large bathroom and although the doctor promised to be here at 10am yesterday, he and the assistant duly arrived just after 2.30pm! That's Africa time for you.

The assistant sedated Toffee, Michael lifted her onto the table and the vet examined her. 

Within minutes Michael called me from my desk and said the doctor wanted to speak to me. The doctor told me that the cancer had spread into Toffee's groin area and to operate would mean great pain and suffering without the guarantee of her being well again. Now he and his assistant quoted a statement from the Tanzanian Animal Welfare Society about humanely putting animals out of their suffering!

When I agreed that the best thing for dear old Toffee would be euthanasia and would he administer it, he said they don't have the drugs!  He asked if  the hospital would supply us large dose of general anesthetic which would put the dog to sleep permanently. Getting anything from the hospital involves a long procedure ( waiting on the veranda with dozens of other patients) and with the dog twitching as she was coming around from her light sedation, I knew I couldn't go the normal route. So  I phoned Grant and asked him to help. He immediately got hold of the doctor, and once he'd explained what we needed, the doctor asked him to come to surgery to collect the medication. 

Within minutes, Grant was at our gate and passed me two bottles. I took these to the doctor thinking now the deed would be done. Not long and Michael called me to the bathroom again. The doctor held up the medicine and said it was incorrect. The doctor had given us local anesthetic instead of general anesthetic! I phoned Grant again; he fetched the bottles and went back to the hospital. The doctor called the anesthetist - a most taciturn man - and this time Grant phoned the vet  asked him to speak directly to the anesthetist!

Five minutes later Grant was back at the gate, this time holding a syringe with the first dose, and two small vials with liquid to be administered after this, using new needles each time. I handed the first one to the vet's assistant who gave it to the vet. Michael bound Toffee's leg above the elbow to enable easier access into her veins.  Albert was at Toffee's head and kept stroking her. The vet  injected the first one intravenously while Michael untied the twine. Meanwhile the assistant was setting up the final two injections. The vet subsequently administered these two, continually listening to Toffee's heartbeat. 

Finally after fifteen long minutes, dear old Toffee was at peace. 

The reason for posting this in detail may seem a little bizarre; but it's to show how different and difficult things can be here in the boondocks. In South Africa I've had to make this already traumatic decision and take a beloved pet to the vet's surgery. Within minutes the vet would have the animal on the table;  I always stay with my pet till the end, and as soon as the needle goes into the vein, the patient closes its eyes. Another minute or two and the vet listens to the heartbeat and says: "It's over."  

 All I can say in closing is:

 kwa heri  ma rafiki/ goodbye my friend


  1. So sorry Jo; it is a hard thing to do but sometimes the decision is an easy one.
    Very interesting to read about the process; we recently had our two old and infirm dogs euthanized and the process, as you said, from beginning to end took less than a minute.

  2. Jo
    I have been here so many sad times
    I will leave you with kipling's poem
    It always helped me
    THERE is sorrow enough in the natural way
    From men and women to fill our day;
    And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
    Why do we always arrange for more?
    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
    Buy a pup and your money will buy
    Love unflinching that cannot lie
    Perfect passion and worship fed
    By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
    Nevertheless it is hardly fair
    To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

    When the fourteen years which Nature permits
    Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
    And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
    To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
    Then you will find - it's your own affair, -
    But ... you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

    When the body that lived at your single will,
    With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!),
    When the spirit that answered your every mood
    Is gone - wherever it goes - for good,
    You will discover how much you care,
    And will give your heart to a dog to tear!

    We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
    When it comes to burying Christian clay.
    Our loves are not given, but only lent,
    At compound interest of cent per cent,
    Though it is not always the case, I believe,
    That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve;
    For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
    A short-time loan is as bad as a long -
    So why in - Heaven (before we are there)
    Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?


  3. i am so sorry for your loss, and worse, that it took so long with so many efforts to be made to give her peace.

  4. It breaks my heart to read of this and how long it took. Good to know at least that she is at peace now.

  5. We don't realize how 'easy' life is here for us --compared to other areas in our world, like where and Grant are living now.. It has to be HARD...

    Sorry about Toffee --but your are right: he is at peace. God Rest his Soul...

    Prayers for all who loved Toffee.

  6. Thank goodness the mine's doctor could help out and that Toffee is in a better place. Plus she got to teach her replacement. Sorry.

  7. Oh I am very sorry to hear this sad news. Losing a furry friend is very hard. She sounds like a wonderful dog and it's good that she is no longer in pain or suffering. You did the right thing but oh my how hard that had to be.

  8. Toffee seemed like such a wonderful dog so it is sad to see her go. Perhaps her getting that tear/wound enabled you to find the cancer more quickly and put an end to her suffering. RIP dear Toffee. xx

  9. It's hard to make such decisions but you know they are right. Yes it is a different world. We love our faithful furry friends.


  10. Jo, so sorry for your loss, We maybe having to do the same with our Goldie Girl soon. She has good times and more bad times, but the quality of life is important.. Sending big {hugs}!

  11. I see how difficult it is where you live to take appropriate care of a sick animal. Of course I shouldn't compare how it is here. It seems to me that or they do too much or not enough !


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