Thursday, 14 June 2012

Vale Jeddah

It's now almost three months since Jeddah, my mother's miniature schnauzer, passed away from a suspected brain tumour. He would have been eleven this coming July -- not so old, really -- but, as tends to happen with pets, it seemed as though he'd been part of the family for ever.

He was mum's dog, but we were all part of his pack. Over the years, he stayed several times with me or one of my sisters' families, while our parents travelled. Despite Chenna's misgivings, I enjoyed him coming to stay with me, not least because he would make me go out walking, sometimes twice a day (see this post). (I'm very soft when it comes to animals.) Last year, when I wasn't working, he stayed with me for several weeks, settling into a nice routine with Chenna and I (see this post).

I used to take him for walks down at Phillip Island too. He loved the beach, where we'd let him off the lead even when we weren't supposed to, and he'd trot happily up and down, sniffing at the seaweed and the sand. Sometimes he'd splash through the incoming water, fooled into thinking he'd get a drink out of it. If the town was our destination, he'd behave very well while we indulged in a spot of breakfast. If we headed the other way, towards red rock beach, he'd remain off leash all the way back along the fire track, which offered even more interesting smells and places to explore.

When visitors arrived he would bark. And bark. And bark. This could get annoying and a little embarrassing, it must be said. He barked when we arrived around at mum and dad's too. A good little watch dog alerting everyone. His other mildly embarrassing habit, especially when younger, was to pull on his lead which made him sound like he was choking. Very disconcerting! In later years, he seemed to not pull so much and thus this habit went away.

He was very good with the children, and more than one of my nieces and nephews said some version of 'Jeddah' as their first word. No matter how inappropriately close they would approach, always wanting to pat him in the face for some reason, he would bear with them, backing and twisting away, never once getting aggressive. An ideal family dog.

Jeddah started out being an 'outside dog', complete with a very smart kennel built just for him. All year around he would sleep out on the back deck, coming inside from time to time during the day, but spending most of his time outside. Then, my mother started going soft. First she was letting him sleep inside in his day bed on the coldest nights, or perhaps leaving him inside if it was a miserable day and they were only going out for a few hours. Later, they abandoned the pretence that he slept outside, and he snuggled down in the family room every night. In the end, he was sleeping in a special 'night' bed located under my mum and dad's, and was rarely left outside all day. So much for being an outside dog! He did like to be around people.

The next part is a bit distressing, but I need to record what happened.

In the last 12 months, Jeddah started to get seemingly 'old'. His movement seemed hampered, and presumed to be arthritis...  But then in March he had a couple of seizures. Mum took him straight to the vet of course, but without a scan there was no way to tell what caused them. They apparently ceased, but then a week or so later came back.

They started again on a Saturday, while my sister's family was minding him, and the vet gave him some more medication... but by afternoon the seizures were more and more frequent and we took him back down to the vet. It was the most horrific thing to watch the poor little dog crumple to the floor and thrash about, mouth frothing, then emerge disoriented and shaky, crashing into things, standing with his head in the corner (and I only witnessed a couple).

On Saturday afternoon, the vet wasn't too concerned, but said he would medicate Jeddah via a drip and take him home with him for monitoring.We said farewell to our little man, who was already out of it and comfortable on doggy-Valium, and left him in the vet's care. By Sunday afternoon, when Jeddah hadn't responded to any treatment, the vet was concerned.

By this stage, my parents were cutting their trip short and driving home from Newcastle. They arrived home on Sunday evening and on Monday morning (19 March), mum went down to the vet to see him. In her words, there was no decision. Jeddah was effectively comatose. Mum stroked his little grey back, said goodbye, and they put him to sleep for eternity. We suspect an aggressive brain tumour.

It's amazing how one can still feel so much grief for a dog three months later. I'm sorry if I've made anyone cry -- as I have myself.

But Jeddah had a good life. He was much loved by my entire family, and even survived a severe bout of rat poisoning. I will treasure his unconditional love and affection and cuddles always. I will remember the cheeky way he always wanted to come up onto the sofa. The way he liked to patrol the gardens of his various establishments and bury his bones. His manic excitement the moment he suspected he was getting a walk.

I still feel the inclination to grab doggy poop bags when I see them in the park, even when I no longer need them.

We buried Jeddah in the back yard with a family ceremony. A week or so later, I wrote the following for a mini writing competition:
The sheet looked like one of my mother’s, pale with a flower pattern, wrapped round and round with neatly folded edges and strips of blue fabric securing the bundle. Too small; too impossibly small for such a vibrant spirit. A few toys, no-longer needed, formed splashes of colour against the dirt raining down and down, until only three hastily picked geraniums marked the place where our little friend was now fuel for an organic reaction.
Farewell my little friend.


  1. Well i knew i couldn't read this without crying, having two little creatures myself, but a beautiful tribute to a smashing little dog

  2. My condolences to you, your mum and your family, Ellen. RIP Jeddah.

  3. Commiserations on the little guy's passing, Ellen. Our four-legged family members stay in our hearts forever. and anything can set tears off, even years later. but tears are good, they wash hurts away. Vale, Jeddah.