Our Dog Nutter – Dealing with Grief

July 21, 2020Richard and Lewis

It’s been a while since August last year and we have always wanted to put pen to paper about our lovely dog Nutter, but to be honest just haven’t been able too. We always try to be light hearted and fun on our social media accounts, by showing you the ups and downs of life in general. We are fully aware that on Instagram and other social channels, that you can pick and choose what 15 seconds of happiness to share on a story or post. I guess that is why we have hundreds of filters at our fingertips, because this is really what social media actually is ‘filtered’. No one will ever know what is really going on one hundred percent of time, by just watching someone’s social media accounts and this is why we really do try our best to share some of the down moments too, as this is the reality and often takes away the pressure from others, who may be trying to live that perfect life all the time for social media when we all know this is never going to be the reality.

At the same time though we have to strike a balance, as we wouldn’t want to be the account known as the two blokes who are always having a rough time and constantly moaning about it, which is why even when the bad stuff happens, we do our best to try and flip it and turn it into a positive. The only problem with what happened to our wonderful dog Nutter, is that there is absolutely no way of turning it into a positive, instead we had to deal with the grief and try to get ourselves to a point where we can just remember all of the happy memories. We are very lucky in that we have adopted two amazing children who we love unconditionally and we receive many messages from people saying how that translates through our stories and posts, which is so lovely for us to hear but the biggest support that we receive from people is when times are tough. Social media has often got a bad name for itself, which a lot of you know what exactly the opinion that Rich had at the start but we can honestly say that the support through social media when things get tough is remarkable and really does remind you of just how many loving and caring people there are out there.

We like to think of ourselves as a family account, which I am sure a lot of people specifically relate to the boy and girl but to us our journey to a family started a few years earlier when we brought home our fur baby Nutter, a black and tan Yorkshire terrier whose personality was exactly like his name, as he gave us our first real feeling of responsibility. We took him everywhere and really only left him when we went abroad, although we did look into how much a doggy passport would be but didn’t want to put him through any of the separation points when at the airport etc so decided against it. Even on long days at work we would drive him to our parent’s houses, so he wasn’t left alone for too long and he even had his own pup bag, yes that’s correct a pup bag, just like we now have a day bag with the girly. I remember dropping off and saying things like “his nappies and dummy are in here” as a joke, with my Mum probably wondering if I was being serious or not. But to me he was like my child, we knew about him before he was born as we had arranged what breeder we would buy from, we got photos of him the day he was born, we met him when he was only a couple of weeks old and then collected him at the ten-week point once he has been fully vaccinated. He was literally like our little baby and was the first thing that we both owned completely together, which at first was very difficult as dog’s can be quite alike to having a child, as there is potty training, feeding, walking, a lack of sleep at the beginning and of course the awful poo picking but it was all worth it. He was the nicest little dog that you could ever meet.

The three of us would spend many weekends away together, going on long walks along the rivers, beaches and countryside. I am sure that we specifically would pick locations that would offer us the best dog walks and we would never book to stay anywhere that wasn’t dog friendly, as to us he really was part of our family and after all the only person we had to worry about other than ourselves was him. At Christmas he would have his own little stocking, filled with healthy doggie treats and a few squeaky toys that mostly never made it to boxing day with the squeak still working. Nutter was also a very lovely looking dog, which we are obviously going to say as we were his owners, but he loved the dog groomers and we would often laugh at how he looked when he was first groomed, as he just seemed to have this extra boisterous confidence about him. He wasn’t just loved by us either, our parents and in particular our Mum’s absolutely adored him, as they were the two trusted people that we would leave him with when we went work or went abroad. At which time, there wasn’t any discussions about children happening with them, so to them this was probably the closest they probably thought they would get to us giving them a grandchild, which is hilarious to think back on now.

Nutter was with us through both adoption processes and always got involved in his own little way, by checking out the social workers who visited regularly, probably thinking he was in charge of the whole situation. We were often told by many family, friends and social workers that we will need to be prepared that Nutter may be really jealous when a child moves in, as he will no longer be getting all of the attention. But, in fact, it was us who weren’t getting the attention, as the bond between him and the boy was amazing to see, especially as the boy’s foster carer had always had a dog while he was there, so it probably made his transition to us even easier as he was used to having a little four legged friend around. They were always together and on occasion when the boy was unwell, he would never leave his side and would often start his night asleep in our bed but to be found in the boy’s bed when we woke up. Looking back at pictures now, we only really realised how much of a pair they were and how much they must have loved each other, as every single Facebook memory that comes up seems to be a picture of the both of them. Then with the arrival of our daughter after the second adoption process, he once again often took the lead role of being the parent. The girly was only five months old when she moved in and he would bring her his toys and lay next to her when she was having her tummy time, again he became a little of shadow. I actually think he was more protective over her than the boy, it’s like he knew she was younger and that little more vulnerable because dog’s just have that way of understanding. It was at this time that we really felt our family was complete, we had a gorgeous little boy, a beautiful little girl and wonderful dog that the kids would grow up loving.

It was then in July last year 2019, that we noticed Nutter wasn’t behaving like his usual self and couldn’t do the normal things he would do daily with ease, like jumping onto the sofa or even waiting till morning to have a wee. He also didn’t seem bothered about having a walk, which was something he loved doing and he absolutely loved his food and all of a sudden, he didn’t want it, so we knew something was wrong. Rich immediately took him to the vets, which was a place he was used too, as he always went for regular check-ups and boosters like he should do and knew it wasn’t going to stress him out as he knows everyone there anyway. The check up seemed to be fine, the vet wasn’t concerned but Rich doesn’t cope very well in these situations if he doesn’t like the response and insisted on blood tests as he knew something wasn’t right. The vet agreed, took the blood and explained she would call if there was anything abnormal but not to worry as she thought everything would be fine, just rest and plenty of fluids for him.

About 2 hours later, Rich’s phone rang and it was the vet’s, I could tell by Rich’s face that he just knew something was wrong and on answering he very quickly replied with ‘okay, I am bringing him in now’. I am now in a complete state of panic, as don’t really know what is going on and Rich is just trying to be brave and get it all sorted without worrying me or the kids, with the boy just asking lots of questions of why is Nutter going back. I just explain to him that he isn’t very well and has got the wrong medicine, so has to go back to get the right medicine. Rich heads of quickly with Nutter and I stay with the kids, but ring my Mum to come around, which to some people may think is dramatic but I just knew that this really wasn’t good. After about an hour, Rich calls me to explain what has happened and told me that basically Nutter is diabetic and is in a state of diabetic shock which was his keto acids being too high and essentially attacking his organ functions. They were going to keep him in the vets for the rest of the day and had given him an injection to stop him from vomiting, with all being well he would be ready to be collected early evening and could then come home with the relevant treatment which we said wasn’t going to be a problem for us, as like most dog owners we would do whatever was needed for our boy.

The vets thankfully called and Rich went to pick Nutter up just before 6pm, but that is when it all went totally wrong. While in the waiting area, the vet came out to explain to Rich that Nutter had been sick and would not be able to come home but would actually need to be transferred to an emergency out of hours veterinary surgery, as they would be unable to offer him the care he needs throughout the night. Poor Rich was in absolute pieces on the phone, I could tell that he was devastated and so I asked my Mum to have the kids and went with him to take Nutter to the vets. He was admitted straight away and tests started quickly, so we felt he was in good hands and was told we could go home and that they would call us over night if they needed to. By this time is was almost 9pm, so the kids were at home in bed and my Mum was constantly on the phone to me asking for an update. We got home, had some dinner and went to bed, knowing that we probably wouldn’t sleep with worry but knew it was the right thing to do. Around midnight, the head vet at the emergency place called Rich and explained that she felt they could not provide what Nutter needed and that she had arranged for him to be taken at the Queen Mother Royal hospital for animals. But they did not have a way to transport him there and she was very worried about him being transferred in the daytime as the heavy traffic could mean delays to his treatment which could be fatal. There was absolutely no hesitation from Rich, he was getting his jeans and trainers on in a panic while he was still talking to the vet. I quickly called Mum to rescue again and within less than half an hour, we were back out and on route to the vet to complete the transfer. It took nearly two hours to get there and the drive was terrible, I had him in his dog bed on my lap and never stopped stroking him or telling him it was going to be ok. It was probably one of the longest car journeys of my life and to make it worse, he wasn’t giving me any response. I could tell he was breathing but he just didn’t have the energy to even open his eyes, it was heart breaking but at the same time I knew we were getting him to where he needed to be to get the help.

When we arrived at the hospital, we couldn’t believe the place, it was so modern and state of the art with the most amazing staff there to welcome us and within minutes he was hooked up to all the relevant machines. If he stood any chance, this was the place that he stood it, so we knew we did the right thing. We then had a meeting at around 1am with one of the consultants and she explain that his condition was very bad, it wasn’t just a case of diabetic shock but he was going to be in need of a blood transfusion and was suffering quite badly from pancreatitis. All of which was far too much for me to handle, I just burst into tears, mainly because the sound of the conditions was so serious but it was also just the build up of it all. Rich at this point stayed strong, asking all the right questions and agreed the full support plan and we understood that it was going to be a long process. The hardest bit to hear, was that she didn’t think it was going to be for at least a week before she sees any progress and that she wouldn’t want us to really visit in that time, as it will give Nutter the wrong message of going home, when he most probably wouldn’t be for a while which we agreed to but she did explain we could phone as many times day and night to get an update on him. She also then explained that she would call herself every day, with a full update around 5pm but would call us at anytime if she needed to. Before leaving, I couldn’t really understand what the prognosis was, so I asked the question out right “what chance does he have” and she replied with “your Dog is really unwell and it would be unfair for me to say, but he has a chance and I will do my best to give him that”. We leave the hospital and again I breakdown, this time in Rich’s arms as it was all just so scary and the thought of him not getting better, I just cannot come to terms with. If you are a dog owner or have pets of your own, you will understand that a dog isn’t just a pet, they become part of your family and for me and Richard this was devastating as we knew we would have to explain something to the boy tomorrow.

The next morning, we woke up and told the boy that Nutter was in hospital as he was poorly and that he would be home soon, not knowing what would really happen but hoping that he truly would do. As each day went past there was no real improvement, as every time something got better, something else seemed to get worse. By this time, he had already had two blood transfusions and was being fed by a tube and on day seven, then Vet called for her update and advised that the only way Nutter would have a fighting chance was to operate, which would at best give him a 30% chance he would pull through, but otherwise there was nothing else they could do for him. We agreed to the surgery and they advised us to come in to see Nutter before the operation, just in case and we decided to take the boy with us, as he would definitely want to see him too, as by this time he really couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see his best friend in the whole world who he was used to spending nearly every minute of the day with. On arrival, we were told that the consultant wanted to see us first, so I went in while Rich looked after the boy in the waiting area, to be told that Nutter was very tired and hasn’t walked for a couple of days and to be prepared for him not to move much. I came out and explained this to Rich and the boy, before we then put our gloves on to enter the intensive care unit for dog’s.

On entering the room, there were so many staff and so many machines and you could see that they were doing everything that they possibly could, which really did make me feel so much better knowing that he wouldn’t have just been sitting on his own for hours and hours each day. The consultant took us straight to Nutter’s bed, he was looking away from us but as soon as we spoke, he turned around and knew it was us. The consultant opened the gate on his area and he shot up out of his bed and walked straight over to the boy and they both embraced. There was another vet on the other side of the room, who came over to me and said “he hasn’t moved for 2 days and should not have the energy to do that, but he must love your little boy”. I will never forget this day as the look on Nutters face was like he knew what was going on, in some way I have to take some comfort in this moment knowing that they go to say their goodbyes. We only had about ten minutes with him, as the vet said if they were going to operate, they needed to do it as soon as possible. We said our goodbyes and left feeling completely heartbroken, but trying our best not to cry in front of the boy and trying to make it a positive thing for him.

Later that day the vet called halfway through surgery to explain that his situation was far worse than what they expected, but Rich couldn’t understand this bless him. I could hear him pleading with them to carry on, as there must be something, they could do but, in the end, he finished the conversation, with we will be about two hours, please just keep him alive until we get there. Only I and Rich went and it was one of the saddest and upsetting points of my life, he was alive but not awake and we waited with him holding his paw while passed. We stayed with him for a while afterwards just on our own, where we just explained that we couldn’t have asked for a better dog to have been ours and that we love him. On leaving we said our thanks to all the staff, who were also equally upset as he was known on the ward as the little fighter which gave us a little smile, as that was our Nutter.

The drive home was awful, I mean we have just lost our dog and need to go home to explain this to the boy. How do you explain to a four year old that his best friend is never coming home and that he will never be able to see or cuddle him ever again. We told him honestly what had happened in the most child friendly way we could, he was couldn’t quite understand that he was never coming back and was so upset. If we weren’t broken enough, we had to now watch our boy start a grieving process that he just doesn’t deserve to go through. The support we received at this time from people on Instagram was amazing, we literally couldn’t have asked for anything more and it was a couple of different ideas that were given to us that we decided to put together and be our way of handling this for the boy. We decided to write the boy a letter from Nutter to explain where he was and we got him a soft toy which looked virtually exactly like him. The letter explained that he needed to help other children in the sky that needed a dog to look after them and as Nutter was the world’s best dog it was his job and the he now needed to look after his sister. The letter also explained that boy boy could talk to the soft toy at any time and that Nutter could hear him but wouldn’t be able to talk back. He immediately understood the letter and named the soft toy ‘Mr Nuts’ and said he would have him in his room every day. It was so hard for a few weeks really, as there were times when the boy would ask when he could come back and other times when he would be inconsolable, but together we got through it and are now able to remember the good times and happy memories.

Us two as grown adults have had to deal with the situation and we are able to understand the reasons behind what has happened, but it certainly doesn’t make it any easier, especially for the boy. We still have bad days where the boy asks us to get in a plane and go and get him, which often ends in tears and both myself and Rich still cannot really have a conversation about Nutter without one of us tearing up, but we are trying our best to focus on the future and keep the memories alive of the past. There is some exciting news and adventures at the moment for Nutter though, as initially we told ourselves that we would never get another dog as the pain is just too much but we have agreed as a family that towards the end of this year we will look to get a new family dog and the boy thinks that Nutter is the one who is out there searching for his new best friend, which seems to be the one thing that has got him to come to terms with things, as I think in some way he feels they are working together.

We are by no means perfect parents and are not sure if we did things the right way or not, but we really felt that we wanted to share this with you all now to try and help any of you who are dealing with grief with your children or yourselves, the best thing to do is do what you think is right, as you know yourselves and your children better than anyone else. There is no textbook out there that can really tell you exactly what to do, the only thing that can ever do that is your hearts and that is why we wanted to open up a little more and show you that life isn’t always smelling of roses but it’s how you deal with things and get through it that matters.

Comments (2)

  • marie Telfer

    October 2, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    This is so sad but beautiful at the same time how u handled it with the boy x

    1. Rich

      October 2, 2020 at 7:03 pm

      Thank you very much, we took so much advice in this as wasn’t something we had ever experienced. He still talks about him but he understand, well as much as he can at his age. Thank you x

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