The dog had been putting on weight for about a month and I foolishly imagined, because her appetite was unchanged, that she was fine. But she didn't really look fine, she had developed a strange way of standing with her front legs at an odd angle. Her stomach had begun to bloat and bulge, her chest to swell and her back-bone felt sharp to the touch where before it had been smooth and padded. And, usually an avid outdoor dog, it was actually weeks since she'd wanted to go for a walk.
I even went online and found her symptoms and a common cause of death amongst her breed, but as she still kept looking up at me and wagging her tail with continued vigor I sort of ignored everything else.
I just didn't want to see the truth. In the end my son kept badgering me to take her to the vet.
'There is something seriously wrong with her Mum. You've got to take her to the vet. Look at her stomach, its hanging down all puffy and spongy!'
Midge has been by my sons side for more than three-quarters of his life. He has raced through fields, played endless games and either accidentally or deliberately spilled countless plates of food near her which she has always gratefully hoovered up. And while I take the cowards route and keep finding other things that are more pressing to deal with he comes straight out and forces me to take control.
'SHERIDAN!' he snaps.
When my son feels I am not giving him my full attention he will use my first name to startling effect. I feel the gravity in his voice immediately. I stop what I am doing and go and carefully rub the dogs tummy again. It's still that strange bloated heaviness. But she doesn't appear to be in any pain, just grateful, like dogs are, for the attention.
I take Midge to the vet the next morning, just after my son leaves for a 10 day trip to Spain with his school. As we sit in the surgery and wait our turn I think about his last words.
'Don't worry Mum. She'll probably be fine. When I get back we'll all go for a walk, like we used to, up to the common at Nymphsfield. She'll love that, racing around with lots of sniffing and meeting other dogs. Just think of all those walks we've got to look forward to now that Spring is here'
I perch without pleasure on a seat in the reception area. Its still early and it looks like we are the only customers. Midge stands alone, her body swollen dramatically, her legs all spindly under the weight. She looks bleakly around her waiting for the next installment. And then she turns and looks up at me. I wonder how I'm going to tell my son. She starts to wag her tail. I hope she can't read my mind.
An elderly man has appeared and starts to make his way across the room. He moves slowly with a large old Labrador on a lead. It's a black Lab, speckled with grey, and like its owner it is focusing single-mindedly on getting one foot, or paw, in front of the other. Midge suddenly perks up, hurriedly throws me a reassuring glance and totters into the dogs pathway where she starts to wag her tail and bat her beautiful eyes. The dog stops to acknowledge her and for a moment they sniff around with tender care, she small and fidgety, he steady and serious. Then the vet calls us in.
And I plead with time to stretch the short stroll to the consulting room into the longest walk on earth.
Within five minutes of the door shutting behind us the diagnosis is made. She has severe congestive heart disease. It has gained a speedy foot-hold and is in the final stages. I am told that it would be kinder to end it now while her tail is still wagging and she is still able to enjoy her food. I know that already. She looks up at me adoringly and in an effort to remain unemotional I bite my inner cheek until it throbs.
While the vet prepares the lethal dose I feed her dog treats from a large glass jar. They are far too big, more suitable for an Alsatian than a King Charles but she gamely attacks them with what few teeth she has left. It has now become like an animal version of an episode from 'Casualty' and I feel myself caught up in a storyline that I already know the ending of and which I can't escape from.
A veterinary nurse has joined us and we three stand around the table, each in our allotted position, the seconds ticking by unchallenged as a dreadful scene is played out. The vet says Midge may struggle but that it will be over quickly. I feel guilty and hollow.
The vet quietly and calmly talks through the procedure . I cup Midge's dear little face in my hands and begin to stroke her brow with one of my thumbs. She allows her head to drop back into my palm, always so trusting, her gaze focuses on mine and I manage to tell her what a wonderful dog she has been and how very much we have loved her. My mind spins back to when she won 2 rosettes at our local dog show.
She was judged as having 'the most beautiful eyes' and the 'waggiest tail'. She looks deeply into mine and lifts her tail up and then down, just once. It is quick but she doesn't struggle.
The most beautiful eyes and the waggiest tail.
And then she is gone.