The Last Days of Dog

When Xena was first diagnosed, I started trying to think of nice things to do with her. We did some of them. I stuffed her into my bike trailer and took her through the canals into Vicky Park. The thing is that she was still seriously unwell, even if she was functional with pain killers. Her favourite activities almost all involved physical activity, which she had trouble with.

We went on some nice walks, but not long ones. Her favourite low impact activity was always going to parties, so we went to parties. Sonia’s going away party was large and crowded, with densely packed people, all merrily drinking. Xena weaved among them, charming people and nicking unguarded food. She was a social butterfly. As it got very late, I got worried about her getting tired or trampled, so I took her upstairs to chill out. I was exhausted and wanted to go to sleep, in fact. A lost party guest opened the room door and she darted out and rejoined the stragglers, happy to be in the midst of things.
That was probably her happiest night after being diagnosed and I’m glad she got it.
I found a new flat in time for my eviction. Sonia left the country for the year. Xena slowly, but surely kept declining, with brief rallies. Meanwhile, all the pills she was taking meant she needed frequent walks, during the day. And during the middle of the night. She often seemed at her perkiest, happiest and most mobile at 3 AM.
When I finally moved to a ground floor flat, it seemed to greatly increase her mobility. This week, on Tuesday morning, I took her to the park and she actually ran a bit. Wendyl, my new housemate, took her out for a walk, and Xena excitedly tugged on her lead the whole way.
Wednesday, maybe from overdoing it, maybe from just reaching a threshold, she was much more stiff and limped to the park. On previous days, she would often limber up as she walked, even if she got off to a rough start, but that day her limp just got worse and worse. I gave her pain killers and they didn’t help. I accidentally left treats within reach and she left them alone, preferring to lie on the floor. So I called the vet to make an appointment.
Then I fed her every treat in the house whilst waiting for the cab. I knew this would eventually upset her stomach, but I thought she would not actually experience the ill effects of this. But then the vet was running behind and we waited over an hour. She looked miserable from being in the vets’ office, from the pain in her leg, and presumably from an upset stomach.
Because the euphemism is “putting her to sleep,” I assumed it would resemble sleep in some way, but it did not. She did not tire and relax as much as she crumpled.
Vets say these drugs are humane and painless and kind. Anti-death penalty activists say they’re painful and cruel. Somebody here is wrong.
I wish they had sedated her first.
I’ve never seen anyone die before. The dog I had as a kid apparently got into rat poison and died 10 minutes before I arrived to see him. I was not at the bedside of either of my grandmothers or my cousins. My uncle died in his sleep without warning. When my mum died, I was at opera, seeing Messiaen’s St Francis of Assisi, feeling unhappy about how the hugging of the leper was treated. My experience of death is funerals and loss and digging my first dog’s grave and fetching my neighbour’s drowned cat from the pond. Xena won’t have grave, won’t have a funeral. The only thing left is to give away all her things.
The vet said I did the right thing. I tried to explain I hadn’t just let it go until she was staggering. That she got suddenly worse. That I hadn’t carried her because I knew that also hurt her shoulder.
Today, I woke up extremely early and got on a train to Birmingham to sound check for a gig I played in this evening. Because my life goes on, at least, even if hers doesn’t.
And when we finished earlier than I expected, I got a train tonight back to London instead of waiting for the morning, as that’s easier, so I was feeling kind of good about it and thought I should send a text to … nobody. There’s nobody waiting for me. There’s nobody who cares if I go back today or tomorrow. I have no particular responsibilities. No job. I am uneeded. I can sleep through the night without having to wake up for a walk. If I reach to my side while I sleep, my bed will be empty and my floor bare. I can go wherever I want and do whatever I want. And if what I want is a walk to the park, I’ll go alone.

I killed my dog today

A while ago, I posted that Xena had cancer. The vet sent me home with steroids and tramadol, a pain killer. Gradually, she needed more and more pain killer until today, when something got much worse overnight and she could barely walk at all.

I called the vet to ask how much it would cost to get a housecall and then I started calling for cabs that would take a dog. I wish I could say something nice or reassuring about her death. I showed up at the vet’s office and they were running more than an hour behind, so Xena lay in the middle of the waiting room floor and looked around nervously. Then she limped around with me to a back room, where she was frightened and hurting. She lay down on a blanket they put out. The vet shaved a section of her leg to give her a shot. She sniffed my eyes where I was crying as he pushed in the injection and just collapsed her head down and had stopped breathing within a moment.

He said she felt no pain, but how would he know that?

I took her collar off and her head flopped easily in my hands. Her body was still warm, her ears still soft, her eyes still open.

I wish I had done it before she got that bad. I wish I hadn’t had to do it at all. It doesn’t matter what I wish.

Xena has cancer

Xena has been gradually slowing down for the last year. I thought it was her arthritis at first, but when her limp got bad, I took her to the vet and an x-ray showed that she’s got a tumour in one of her shoulders. He suggested that she might have a few more years if her leg was amputated, but she also might not. As far as they can tell, it hasn’t spread, but they can’t say with certainty and I think it would be a very difficult change for her, since she’s nearly 12.
So, she’s getting pain killers and is home with me. The vet thinks she’ll probably have about 3 good months.
I’m glad that we don’t put dogs through what we put people through.
Xena’s a good dog and has had a good life. She’s been to 10 countries. She’s lived in 3 and in multiple US states. She’s been to parties, weddings, concerts, camping trips, festivals, offices, universities, cars, boats, trains, trams, bicycles and buses.
It would be difficult to overstate how much my life has changed in the decade she’s been my dog. She’s been there for the death of my mum, the end of my software engineering days, the end of my marriage, the entirety of my post-graduate career, my transition, half my time in Holland and all of my time in England.
I’m trying to stay cheerful, since she’s not gone yet and she’s concerned about me being upset. It’s difficult to adjust.
Xena has many friends in many places. If any of you want to come out and see her, I can find a bed or a sofa for you to sleep on.

Dog Travel

One of my friends here was impressed with the logistics of bike travel and the logistics of dog travel. However, neither is particularly diificult. In the interest of being informational, here are some tips.



First of all, get a microchip put into your dog. (In the case of pets, this is literally a mark of the beast.) Put a collar and ID tag on it too. Dogs in Europe need something called an EU pet passport. If you are in the EU, get this from your vet. If you are in America or another country, find the website for your country’s embassy/consulate for the EU member state in which you intend to arrive. They will have a form which you bring to your vet in your home country a few days before you leave. (Some countries require advanced planning in the form of rabies tests done at least 6 months before arrival. Those countries suck.) Have your vet stamp the form several times with an official looking stamp. Many European countries love official-lloking stamps and will request them whenever possible. The pet travel form is good enough for airlines. Take your dog’s pet passport with you whenever you travel.


You need a dog carrier to take a dog on a plane. Your dog is checked baggage, alas. The airline’s website will give you information that lets you figure out what size carrier that you need. Put a dog pillow or newspapers down in the carrier. Throw in a toy of some kind, like a kong stuffed with treats. You will also need hamster-style water bottles, maybe a couple of them in large dog-size. Fill one of them the night before and stick it in the freezer. Fill the other at the airport (or before you go to same). My dog had panic attacks for 2 weeks or so after fyling, but was unharmed in the long run. Do not drug your dog.


Most countries want you to buy a ticket for your dog. Alas, as far as I know, you can’t get a eurail or interrail pass for your pet. The price of dog tickets varies widly country by country. In Germany, it costs the same as a child ticket. In the Netherlands, your dog can traverse the entire country for around 3€ / day. Small dogs in carriers/bags travel free everywhere. Theoretically, you dog must be muzzled, but so far, this hasn’t been enforced in my experience. Heck, my dog is so quiet, so sleepy and blends into shadows so well, that most train conductors / passport agents haven’t noticed her at all. I hand them her ticket and they say “This is for a dog!” as if I have tried to save fare by passing myself off as a caninie.
At least in Germany, taking a dog on an overnight train with sleeping benches is insanely expensive. This may be true in other countries as well.


This is a really fun way to travel with a dog, imo. It combines all the best things in life: dogs and bikes. If your dog is small, there exist baskets especially designed for them. There are also specifically designed trailers for any size dog. Doggy Ride is cheaper than kid trailers (that I looked at) and is a better shape for a dog. The trailer hitch will attack to almost any kind of bike. Realisticall, though, your bike should be multi-speed if you want to tow a dog. Three speeds at least. Probably more if you’re going through especially hilly areas.
I threw down a very cheap foam mat on the bottom of mine to provide padding. There is also a hook thing that (theoretically) keeps your dog from being able to successfully escape. In practice: make sure all the zippers are closed because your dog can jump out the top. Also, zip the zippers around to the top of the openings rather than leaving them at the bottom, because a dog can “dig” them open by scratching if they’re easy to reach. You dog will probably be unhappy the first few times out. I calmed my dog by asking her co-gaurdian to ride behind the trailer saying “good doggie” over and over again, which helped. Now she’s happy to jump in, but that took some time. She’s still nervous some times, alas.
The trailer folds up to a reasonable size and thus can go on any train.


Obviously, campgrounds are fine with dogs, but most will charge a tiny supplement and demand to see a pet passport. Most two star hotel chains are also fine with dogs, but will also want a supplement of around 5€. Guides published by trourist offices almost always contrain information about whether listed hotels take dogs. Most hotels do. Most hostels do not, but some will is you are with a group that takes up an entire offered room. (ie: two of you in a two-bed room).

Stuff to bring

Aside from the documentation mentioned at the top, bring some sort of small plastic bowl that can be filled with water. Make sure to offer water to your dog very often. And obviously, it will need walks, so bring a leash and also plastic bags in case you walk it in a city. Even Paris is getting serious about making people pick up dog crap, so don’t be a part of the problem. Also, getting a ticket sucks. Also bring treats, food and a toy or two. I didn’t want to bring a whole sack of dog food, so I pre-measured many days of food into zip-lock bags and brought those. The dog could eat straight out of the bags and I had baggies for picking up after her. My first time out with the pooch, I brouht along her pillow, but it got wet in the rain and was heavy, akward and smelly. Now, I just bring a foam pad, which is lighter. I wanted to get her a thermarest, but they’re incredibly expensive in Holland. anyway, she’s happy to sleep on the foam.


I prefer taking my dog with me. I can take her into almost every restaurant and even department stores. However, I can’t take her into churches, castles, museums or grocery stores. It’s ok to tie her up outside a store or a church, but she barks like crazy when left alone in a strange place, which might bother other people. And museums take too much time – I can’t leave her barking alone for hours or somebody will think she’s abandonned. I also cann’t leave her alone in her trailer, as she will destroy it by trying to escape. In the past, I have left her alone in hotel rooms, which was fine, even if against the rules. It’s also possible to leave her alone in an airline crate. Dogs find it soothing being locked in boxes and they can’t hurt airline carriers.

Is this REALLY a good idea?

Yes! Well, if you like your dog and it’s healthy. I wouldn’t bring my dog on a grand tour of European capitals because those trips are all about slogging through museum after museum. But if I want to go across a countryside from village to village (which is more fun anyway), the dog is great to have along. Also, people like dogs and it opens up communication.

Chicken was throwing up more than usual and she threw up blood twice in two days, so she went to the vet. The possible causes for this are:

  • She ate a ribbon and it’s irritating her stomach
  • She has an ulcer
  • She has a malignant tumor in her stomach

I think it’s an ulcer. Only Christi’s cat could possibly worry herself into having an ulcer. Anyway, so the vet took a lood sample to test for cancer cells in her bloodstream. We will get a call around 10:00 AM on the results of that. If it’s not a tumor, I think they want to xray her again or something; I can’t remember the exact order of possible future events. Anyway, she can’t have any food until we get an all-clear from the vet. Christi is worried because the cat is being friendly and that’s unusual for her. But I think it makes sense because she just went to the vet and is always friendly afterwards, because we’re not so bad compared to the evil needle-weilding people. And she’s out of food. Hungry cats are friendly cats.
Christi and I went over to Christi’s boss’ house after the vet, since he wote a letter for me. It’s a really good letter. He asked for a CD, so I gave him the CD I have on and another work-in-progress. Then he asked me a bunch of questions about how I got certain sounds and how to do certain FX. I’m starting to feel confident about college admissions. My writing sample is not going to matter very much unless my admission is borderline or the sample is illiterate or terrible. Still, must give them the best thing that I can.
Anyway, then we started talking about how to quickly insert track markers into audio files to burn a CD. He knows a guy who sells Pro-tools, so he called him up at home at 9:00 at night and put him on speaker phone and started asking him how to do things. The guy was totally cool about it. Tiffany saw him play last weekend at 21 Grand, so I said she had said good things about him. She said good things about the whole show and I’m sure if she knew who I am writing about, she would say good things about him in particular. How could you not have good things to say about a guy you can call at home at 9 PM and ask tech support questions? Anyway, he solved the problem and the day was saved. yay.
I hope the cat doesn’t have cancer.