Sad news – Neroli
September 2, 2013 § Leave a comment
On Thursday evening I went out to shut the girls in for the night, and Neroli and Olivia were still out. Olivia usually does stay until the last scrap of light, but Neroli usually heads in fairly early, to snuggle down between Ella and Lily or Claire. It took a moment for me to realise that she wasn’t standing properly, and was keeping all the weight off her right leg.
She actually tried to leap/fly up to the ramp before I could get to her – I ended up having to half catch her in the air. I could feel straight away that there was something very wrong with the leg – her foot was cold, and things were’t hanging right. She was obviously in quite a bit of pain. I managed to get her inside, but it was too late to take her to the vets that night, even if I’d had the car. But I managed to catch someone at the clinic, and got an appointment to bring her in to see Pauline before her official appointments for the day started. I got some Metacam into her (dribbled onto/into a couple of cold chips, which she wolfed down), and tucked her into a nest of towels on the floor in the spare room. Usually I’d try to put her in the cat cage, but it was still in the garage, and I couldn’t carry her out there to get it without risking hurting her. Nor could I leave her unconfined. So she had the old blue crate over the top of her, and was quite snug and safe and warm.
We went to bed fearing the worst, but hoping against hope that it would turn out to be just a bad sprain, like Lily last year.
I got our little weeble to the vets just as Pauline arrived at work. And it only took her a few seconds to confirm the worst. A broken tibia, high up, just like Frida. Given Neroli’s age (nearly five) and her calcium metabolism problems last year, Pauline was initially not hopeful about her chances of a good result with surgery. But she took her for an X-ray to confirm what exactly was going on.
It was a really nasty break. And there was a decent sliver of bone splintered off as well, just to make things worse. But on the plus side, Neroli’s bones actually looked really quite good – no evidence of osteoporosis, and everything suggesting that her calcium levels were fine. Probably helped by the fact that she hadn’t laid for a few weeks. So Pauline revised her opinion, and we decided that yes, we would go ahead with the surgery. The anaesthetic was a risk at her age, but the only other option was euthanasia. And this was Neroli, Little Miss Cute. Nerolina Weebleness McTrouble. The one who could be guaranteed to be the first to investigate whatever we were doing, to leap on your back or shoulder with virtually no warning, to treat us as her personal servants who unaccountably didn’t speak chicken properly. The biggest personality in the flock – talkative, wilful, sweet, stroppy, ferociously intelligent and utterly beautiful.
I lifted her back into the cage, and handed her over, telling her to be good, and that it would be alright, and that I would see her soon. I didn’t say goodbye, or that I loved her. I was only just barely holding it together, but fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) Pauline has seen me in pieces before now. So I signed the consent forms, got a pottle of layer pellets out of the car for them, and drove home. Pauline was hoping to operate fairly soon – early afternoon – so I went back home to wait for news, with the expectation of coming back in the following morning to see her, and hopefully take her back home.
After doing the usual daily chook chores, I occupied myself by cleaning out the spare room and washing things, so that we’d be better able to manage with three patients (Lola and Adelaide still in the big cage, and Neroli likely to be in the cat cage for at least a week, but all together in the same room).
Then I got the phone call. It was about half past eleven, and I can remember the exact words: we’re in trouble with Neroli.
Pauline had begun the operation, but as soon as they put Neroli under anaesthetic her airways started to fill with fluid. She’d been a bit distressed after they took the X-ray, but we’d put that down to the fact that she was in pain, was being restrained, and was kept lying on her side with her head wrapped in a towel to keep her calm while they examined her. She’d seemed fine in every other respect (although I’d thought her abdomen felt a bit fuller and softer than usual when I’d picked her up, but that was probably my panic talking). I can’t remember exactly what Pauline said after that – something about blood and pus, and maybe Neroli had a low-grade version of whatever it was that had made Lola and Adelaide sick, but that it wasn’t untl she was under the stress of the anaesthetic that it became apparent. Whatever the cause was, they were having real trouble keeping her breathing, and did we still want them to proceed.
I could hardly speak, let alone think. I asked if I could have a couple of minutes to try and get hold of Stewart at work – I knew what we were being asked, and I knew what the right answer was, but I couldn’t bear to make that decision without Stewart at least being told. Neroli was very much his darling. Pauline said yes, of course, take five minutes or so, of course. Trouble was, Stewart was in a meeting that morning. We’d discussed him coming in to the vets first thing with me, but had decided that it wouldn’t be necessary.
I think I used every communication device he possessed to try and track him down. Work phone, email, work mobile, everything. But eventually he called back, and I explained what had happened. We decided he’d phone Pauline and make the decision after speaking to her. But I think we both knew there wasn’t really a decision any more. Just a form of words that had to be used, so that Pauline could do what was right. In the end he phoned me back, and I was the one to talk to Pauline and tell her yes, ok, put her to sleep. So they just turned up the anaesthetic, and let her go.
We brought her home that afternoon. She was always so alive, it seemed a particularly obscene joke to have her so still and so cold. Impossible that that was Neroli. Incomprehensible that this had happened. And there’s a really horrible bit of irony too. On Wednesday, the day before she broke her leg, I was across the road from the vets, collecting the Dorking cockerel we’d bought with the express purpose of breeding with Neroli and Lily. How fate laughs at all our careful plans.
We buried her that evening under a double-grafted pear tree, just beside the veggie garden. So we’ll walk past her every day, and get to see her and spend time with her whenever we’re harvesting something for dinner.
There aren’t words for this. How unfair it is. How wrong. How bewildering it is. How death turns doors into walls, and then into nothing at all. I so regret not giving her a cuddle before handing her over. Regret not telling her I loved her. Part of me even wishes I’d made them hold the phone next to her before they put her to sleep, so I could speak to her one last time. Which is histrionic, I know. And pointless. But it’s hard finding a point in any of this.
Our poor little one. Our Neroli. Our beautiful, mad, precious lovely girl. We’ll miss her so much.