It's just coming up to two years since Molly, who is just short of fourteen, was given a baleful, lucky-if-she'll-have another year, prognosis * from the vet.She tires more easily, is greyer and slower and has various age-related symptoms and health problems, but very largely they've been quite good years for her, and we've appreciated the time that we've had with her. Emy, her vet, when I remarked at some point that she had exceeded the forecast by some way, said that she tended to be reluctant to make such predictions because people often berated her if their animals did live longer. I suppose I can understand this, but I can't really imagine being angry because of having more life with Mol than we expected to have.
Lately, though, she's been giving us something of a roller coaster ride of worry. She's been slightly wonky on her back legs for a few weeks now, but without giving us great cause for concern, we put it down to age and a pain-killer and a rest usually fixed it, then just over a week ago she jumped up on the sofa next to Tom, turned round then started suddenly to whimper and cry and was unable to move her back end at all or raise herself. It was quite late in the evening and there was little chance of a vet, so we gave her a painkiller, bedded her down downstairs and I slept (not much) down there with her. One of the worst things was she really needed a pee but couldn't stand to do it. At about five in the morning, on about the fourth attempt, she finally got up on her feet again and the immediate cause of distress being resolved, she slept peacefully. I phoned Emy who said best let her rest if she's recovering, and by the end of the day she was more or less back to normal and carried on that way for a few days. However, when it happened again at the end of the week, later at night with no apparent trigger when she was going to bed, we took her in on the Saturday morning, still in a pitiful state, and Emy gave her cortico-steroids, injection and follow-up pills. Emy's initial diagnosis was spondylitis, a kind of arthritis of the spine, which causing a pinched nerve.
The medication worked a treat. By the following day, Sunday, the first really fine and sunny one we've had for a while, we were able to take her out in the car to the coast at Erquy, she was comfortable an enjoyed a walk along the harbour wall. There was a hint of a twinge in the evening when she jumped down, but she had a good night and was bright enough the next day. But that evening, Monday, she missed her footing a couple of times and was cramped up and crying again on going to bed, so it was the two of us downstairs again, where she seemed to be able to sleep better, and early this morning she happily jumped down, took her constitutional in the garden and scampered upstairs to join Tom in bed.
We were due to start reducing the dose of the steroids today, but I rang Emy and gave her an update, and she recommended maintaining the higher dose, especially in the light of the fact that she - Emy - is going away for a long weekend on Thursday, so I went to get some more of them. We chatted a bit (I left Mol in the car) and she said that there was a possibility that it could in fact be a tumour on the spine, either spread from the earlier mammary tumour or developed independently, rather than simply the spondylitis. An x-ray would determine this, if it were so then the steroid treatment would remain the same, but we would then know, and, she said, 'it might make certain decisions easier'.
On returning home, Mol was in such a weak and miserable state again that we were beside ourselves, and resolved that we would have to do anything, even the final, heartbreaking thing, to stop her from suffering, and I rang Emy straight after her lunch to book the x-ray for tomorrow. Mol wolfed down her breakfast she'd left uneaten from the morning despite barely being able to stand to do so, we took it in turns to cuddle her on the sofa, and after a few hours she jumped down spryly, followed me about mischievously from room to room, asked for a walk (only a short one but taken briskly and cheerfully) ate a good dinner, sat on my feet in the kitchen scrounging carrot peelings, rolled around on the mat and generally behaved as though there was nothing whatever the matter. The very thought of having her put down seemed like an abomination.
And so it goes on, one minute she has us convinced this is it, the next she's bright as a button again with barely a limp. We don't know what's going to happen next, and it's all very exhausting. But tomorrow's x-ray should give us more information, and a it more idea what we might expect and how best to deal with it.
Update on the update: The x-rays showed no tumour on the spine, and not a lot of spondylitis, in fact, but what Emy did identify was a hernia in her groin which may be a large part of the problem. The treatment remains the same. She was on very lively form during the visit; doors inadvertently left open meant I had to dive to stop her racing out of the door onto the street when she was placed on the ground after the procedure and ignored for an instant while I was waiting in the waiting room. But later I had to go out and left her at home with Tom and she's been uncomfortable and miserable for much of the afternoon, and is still moving with a lot of difficulty. Rest and medication is prescribed, but she can't go on with the steroids indefinitely as they have undesirable side effects. We just have to do what we can and see how it goes.
Molly on the harbour wall at Erquy, Sunday 16th February
[*An odd footnote to this: when looking back over that post from two years ago, I saw again an anonymous comment which I noted at the time, because I couldn't identify who it might be from, yet it had a ring of kindliness and sincerity and I had the feeling I ought to know its author. However, unable to solve the mystery, it slipped from my mind. Then, a few months ago, I was indulging in a bit of casual googling and lurking of the 'I wonder what happened to...' kind, as you do (don't you?) and found Rommy's owner. Re-reading my old post and that particular comment with the knowledge thus gained, the piece of the puzzle fell into place. Most probably that reader has long since drifted back off into the ether, such impulses of curiosity being usually short-lived, but in case not, for the record, I was surprised, intrigued (I could surely only be found by an outside chance and/or a very circuitous route) and really very pleased. However removed one might feel from remote past selves, I've learned one can be quite surprised by joy to learn that other people associated with them are still in the world and making it a brighter place. And I was very touched that P chose to partially de-lurk to extend such a kind and sympathetic comment about our Mol. I hope you and your beautiful family are well and thriving, and still blessed with the love of a good spaniel!]