It Rained on Twinkle’s Last Morning
After days of heatwave the morning Twinkle died it was raining. The irony wasn’t wasted on me. When she arrived in our life in February 2013 she had a phobic response to rain. Her reactions went way beyond the more common dislike of rain which schnauzers are prone to; hers was pure terror, and it was just rain, not water for she loved a bath. It might have been because she’d been in the pen in the puppy farm on the occasions it was jetwashed – a theory with solid basis in fact. We could never know for sure.
But, as time went on and Twinkle learned to navigate the scary new world she found herself in, her rain phobia gently dissolved and she became our most relaxed dog on rainy walks. I could never have predicted that would happen. But then Twinkle always defied predictions and bucked every assumption. She was uniquely herself. The very fact she could overcome by her own strength of will a phobia is a good indication of what a character she was.
We gave Twinkle her place in the world but she made it her own. On Twinkle’s definite terms was how we lived. I was her willing and faithful friend as she dictated her needs to me each day. It happened over time, but when it came to say goodbye, Twinkle and I both understood that I would do exactly what she wanted, or needed, whenever she gave the signal.
Her signals were loud – she barked with a repertoire of sound both Michel and I were acutely attuned to. She masterfully trained us, especially me, to respond to her different calls. Her barks defined my days. She’d bark at me to get what she needed; to move quicker with breakfast, lunch or dinner; an indignant bark frequently ticked me off for feeding the cat before her; a loud and predictable one when I went up the stairs. I never got to the top of the staircase in silence, without fail Twinkle’s voice serenaded each step. My aural memories of Twinkle will always remain strong. Her barking ways were uniquely Twinkle. The quiet of the house in the days following her death was the hardest adjustment to make.
Her last morning, she woke as usual. But Twinkle was silent. I lay in bed and mentally willed her to bark at me to get up. She stayed silent. She was a creature of such solid routine the slightest deviation was always of note. Things happened in regular ways with Twinkle, she needed it so, she dictated it thus, we obliged until the very end. The preceding day her appetite had been iffy. This had happened once before, 3 weeks in fact before when I first found the lump in her neck. We’d discussed with our vet, she was on steroids and other medications, we were waiting to see how things would go. She was fine in herself. Mercifully. She kept to her routines. She wanted to walk, to eat, to boss. She was still the same Twinkle, just with a newly appeared lump and a little less energy. But it was hot. We all had less energy.
The day her appetite slipped, I dared to Google canine lymphoma – I’d resisted until then doing any looking around for what might be happening with her. Nobody had suggested it was lymphoma, but cancer had been mentioned by our vet, of course. I’m not daft, I just wanted it not to be, or rather if it was, I didn’t want to know it was that. I craved the bliss of ignorance. Her last afternoon, I sat with her on the cool tiled floor and felt several more lumps where just one had been a few days before. It wasn’t going the way it should. Something was stealing Twinkle away and I knew it.
We had an appointment booked for the next day. A planned check to see how she was doing on the meds and if the lump was shrinking. It was doing the opposite. It was multiplying.
So the morning she woke and was silent, I knew how the day was going to end. And my bruised, aching heart which I’d hoped would be strong, bulged in my chest as it slowly broke. I carried her downstairs as I’d been doing for over a year, but now I knew it would be the last time. I still hoped I was wrong as I prepared breakfast with Cerise, Albert and Renae seemingly unaware of what was happening with Twinkle. Who, for the first time, lay silently on her bed not stood bossily, noisily, demanding her food be served quick. I knew it was time.
I went into the garden to find Michel and broke down as I told him what we’d both known was coming,
“I think it’s time for Twinkle to go” I choked, my throat closing on the hateful words before I could finish them, tears taking over.
For months we’d witnessed Twinkle’s slow decline. I’d had months to consider what the end might be, what decisions I’d be faced with making. I’d imagined all sorts of scenarios during my darker days, and overthought it all. For in the end, Twinkle made it easy on me. Well, as easy as something so terrible can be. With perfect Twinkle control, she made it crystal clear on her last morning that we had to make the decision.
People say we know when it’s time, our dogs let us know they want to go. Twinkle did let me know it was time, but I don’t believe she wanted to die. She hadn’t been suffering, our vet had assured us she wasn’t suffering and nothing about her suggested in the days leading up to it that she was. But the lumps had accelerated and fast. It was not going to end well, I knew that. But I don’t think for a second she wanted her life to end. Her survival instinct was normal, it was strong. That morning, I’m sure she just wanted to feel better. But, we couldn’t make it better.
Our vet knew, we knew, and I’ve had not one second of doubt since that we made the right decision, guided by Twinkle. She was peaceful that morning. She died relaxed in my arms and I know it was her time to slip off. But I still don’t think she wanted her life over. She just wanted to feel better that day.
Yesterday I collected her ashes. Today I can write about her and I have almost got to the end here without any tears. Almost.
She will always be with me, she was the most remarkable dog to have had the privilege to know, and to nurture, and to be totally devoted to. She was uniquely Twinkle.