my guilt over Tanya…..


Tanya was the first dog I had chosen and adopted outwith my family pets that I had been brought up with.  When I first phoned up the local rescue, I had asked specifically if they had any Staffordshire bull terriers in their care at that time, as I had always wanted a staffie cause my friends had one and it was a perfect size for me and so loyal and loving I had fallen head over heels with the breed (and still have), so when the rescue said surprisingly no not at the moment I was really disappointed then the rescue went on to say but we have a staffie cross in at the moment that you have just got to see! So in I trotted to the rescue, silently telling myself on the journey there, not to fall in love, that it was a staffie I wanted etc etc. When I arrived at the rescue I was nervous, and my heart sank when I was told that the dog I had came to see was in the very farthest away cage, meaning I had to walk past dogs either side of me, all barking. I wasn’t nervous of the dogs or their barking I was nervous of wanting to take them all home with me!! So I didn’t look at any dog until I arrived at the last cage, which held Tanya. The cages were very narrow and around 8 ft tall so when I stopped at her cage I couldn’t see her face as she was jumping up and down, hitting her head off the top of the cage, so excited that someone was here looking at her, that was it for me, love at first sight. She was microchipped by her previous owner so I had to wait for a nerve breaking, nail biting week to see if the rescue could contact the owner or if the owner came asking about her. In this week I went to the rescue twice a day to take her out a walk to help bond us and I couldn’t bear to think of her stuck in her cage feeling lonely and abandoned, all the time keeping my fingers crossed that she wouldn’t be claimed by her owners, which at that time I thought was a very real possibility as they had went to the effort of spaying and microchipping her, it was only when I filled out the adoption form that I found out more about her past. She was a staffie/ labrador mix breed with the dominant being staffie. This was the mix to breed pitbulls and when Tanya didn’t turn out to be a pitbull, she had been tried as a bait dog, but she was far too friendly for this so she had been dumped on a motorway lay-by and left to die. Luckily a motorist reported her and she was saved from this fate! So after a long week I finally had my dog! I loved her and she loved me. We were inseparable, the only place she didn’t come with me, was my work.

first day home
first day home
pup Tanya
pup Tanya
When I first got Tanya
When I first got Tanya

Tanya had a few odd behaviours like when walking to the local woods we had to walk through a carpark with lots of pot holes and huge puddles and even in the dark Tanya would work her way around each puddle, never standing in one, she didn’t like mud and the first time she was left alone in my (rented) house for 10 minutes, she chewed the skirting boards, ripped carpet up, chewed stair bannister and chewed a hole in the wall! Cost me a fortune in repairs! Whilst walking in the woods there was a fallen tree that we walked past daily and every time we got near it Tanya would run up to it and start chewing the same area and try to see if she could pull it yet, she loved sticks the bigger the better!

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Tanya was a healthy dog and only every visited the vets for accidents like she jumped a barbed wire fence in the woods and caught her back leg on the barbed wire and she lost a claw whilst camping so had to get it bandaged. She loved the vet well until the last time which I will go into later. Although one evening, not long after getting her, after my work I had poured myself a vodka, lime and lemonade and put it on the table beside my chair then went upstairs to the toilet. When I came back downstairs Tanya had a funny look in her eyes so I called her over. Her front and back legs were both crossed and she tried to walk towards me with them still crossed then fell over. I ran to her side thinking something serious was wrong and she stood back up so I knew it wasn’t her hips had given way. She started jumping about wanting to play so I sat back down on my chair and played with her but she was still acting a bit strange so I picked up the phone to call the vet and went to take a drink of my vodka only to find that the glass was empty! She had drank the lot and was drunk!  A few days later, I nipped to the shops just to return to find that she had eaten 2 frozen chicken breasts, packaging and all! Years later, my friend was holding a mango stone for her to lick, so she was licking away at the flesh on the stone when the next thing she grabbed the stone out of his hands and swallowed it – a huge mango stone! It must have been sore to pass!

such a poseur!
such a poseur!
Tanya & Findlay
Tanya & Findlay

I had 12 fantastic years with her, she was my baby and I would have done anything for her just as she would do anything for me. She helped me through dark times. She loved running, swimming, sticks, cuddles, comfort, camping and hillwalking

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blending into surroundings!

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swimming
swimming

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She passed in 2011 in my arms and it was the most heartbreaking time of my life. about 6 months earlier she had developed a lump on the side of her head, larger than a golf ball. I panicked and took her to the vets immediately but it was benign thankfully but she slowly went downhill over the next 6 months, her walking slowed and she started coughing so back to the vets but they skimmed over the coughing. The coughing got worse and she was starting to struggle to breathe so back to the vet again and they wanted it x ray her so I had to leave her there and for the first time ever she didn’t want me to leave her and pulled the vet to try to get to me, this gave me a bad feeling, so I worried all day until I got the phone call to go get her, where I was told that her lungs were full of masses which was why she was struggling to breathe. There was nothing they could do and recommended that I put her to sleep there and then., but I couldn’t bear not having the chance to say goodbye. So the vets gave me the weekend to say my farewells and booked her in for Monday to be put down. I was devastated. It had crept up on me and wasn’t expected, as she never showed she was in pain.

dressed up for Christmas
dressed up for her last Christmas, although I didn’t know this at the time!
Sally & Tanya
Sally & Tanya

When I got home I spoiled her rotten as much as I could as she was off her food now. So I gave her all her favourite treats and cuddled her all weekend. I had to sit in the garden with her so she could get the wind in her lungs. This stage happened so fast, her coat went dull and stood up rather than being smooth and she was struggling for air but her eyes were still full of life. All night I sat with her and a fan blowing air at her mouth. I went through to my bedroom for a second and she followed me through and banged into the bed. I bent down to her and the look in her eyes told me it was time but she didn’t want to leave me – I will never forget that look, then she took a final deep breathe and died in my arms at 5am Sunday morning. I was broken. I lay beside her cuddling her for a couple of hours before I could phone anyone to let them know. My heart was aching so bad I thought I was going to die and at that time I would have gladly died just to be with her again. We were soul mates and it still devastates me to this day. I am sitting crying writing this. However I am so grateful that she died at home with me cuddling her as that is what she wanted and I didn’t have to make that final decision of putting her to sleep.

I then had the difficult job of arranging her cremation. I phoned around a few places but they were off hand with me and I couldn’t face their brusqueness on the day I had lost her! I then phoned the Pet Undertaker and as soon as I spoke to her I knew this was the person that would look after my baby in death. She came to my house and picked up Tanya. The back of her car was presented beautifully with blankets and heart pillows. Dawn then took her to her home where she put Tanya in the room of rest/viewing room along with her favourite toys and blanket. I went to see Tanya for the last time in the viewing room and Dawn had laid her on a raised plinth set up like a dog bed with a gold curtain in front of it. When the curtain was opened there was Tanya covered in her blanket, head on a pillow with her toys beside her and a red rose laid on her pillow. I stayed there for over an hour crying and cuddling her, it was heart wrenching, I didn’t want to leave her. Dawn assured me that it would be an individual cremation and she would be with Tanya at every stage to make sure her remains were not mixed up with anyone else, as a lot of pet cremators will cremate 3- 4 dogs at a time so you don’t know who’s ashes you are getting which to me is unacceptable!

Tanya's cremation kasket
Tanya’s cremation kasket

After the cremation came the guilt. Could I have noticed the signs earlier?, when the vet originally skimmed over the coughing I should have got a second opinion?, if I had used a different vet? (I was disabled at this point so I had very little money so was taking her to the PDSA, which only charge whatever you can afford, maybe if I had paid the full vet fee elsewhere the outcome could have been postponed?), was I cruel at the end by not pursuing or noticing signs?, could her symptoms been treated earlier? Could I have done more? These questions keep going round and round in my head to this day and the guilt stays with me. Staffies as a breed tend not to let you know they are in pain and this was certainly the case with Tanya, if she hurt herself out walking you wouldn’t know unless you saw a blood trail or until we got home, as there was so many interesting smells to investigate!

I was awake all last night because of the pain but my mind was fully occupied with Tanya, all the memories and all the guilt. I don’t know why she is encompassing my brain so much last night and today as it isn’t the anniversary of her death or her birthday. I think of her every day anyway but not as absorbed in it as I am today. So today I have been telling myself that I am not a vet and I tried my best for Tanya as I always had but it doesn’t make any of it easier! I miss her so much and for the month following her death I kept thinking I could hear her paws on the wooden floor and kept feeling her spirit beside me.

After the month of hearing her in the house I decided it was time to get another dog, I didn’t feel safe without Tanya in the house and it was very lonely time. I believe Tanya led me to Coal, and if it hadn’t been for her death I would never have found Coal and then Tess. I felt guilty looking at other dogs in rescues online as I felt I was replacing her, but she could never be replaced. I never thought I would get another dog so soon after losing her but I feel Tanya knew that Coal needed me as much as I needed him.  When I decided to look for another dog, I was looking for a female staffie preferably red and I ended up with a black male, we chose each other. It doesn’t matter what colour or sex they are, they all have their own personality and I have always found that the dog has picked me rather than me picking them. They know what they need from a human and know what they can give to a human and they know who they want! All my dogs have been rescued and rescued really is the best breed as they have had hard times and have so much love to give. I still hold tanya casket and can feel her energy from it. Both my dogs know who Tanya is and if her name is said they look up at her photos on the wall. I think Tanya has passed on a few of her traits to my 2. Tanya was Coal & Tess’s personalities rolled into one, she was hyper, jumping around like Tess but also calm and loving like Coal. Neither Coal or Tess have replaced Tanya as they have their own personalities and I don’t love Tanya any less than I did when she was alive and miss her every day.

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with my mums 2 dogs Brandy (rottie) and Dougal (collie/lab cross)
with my mums 2 dogs Brandy (rottie) and Dougal (collie/lab cross)

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