With incredible sadness we need to share the news that our beloved Nell unexpectedly and suddenly lost her fight with cancer on Thursday night.
We discovered 2 weeks ago that her lymphoma had returned immediately after chemotherapy ended, which was extremely bad news. We did not want to cut her life too short for our emotional or other kind of convenience, but we also did not want her to suffer so after much discussion with the oncologist, we made some choices that would make her more comfortable initially. It is difficult to make choices for someone who cannot speak, so we asked ourselves what Nell would do and since actions reveal your character in life, we looked at how Nell approaches things: “don’t give up until you’ve got the last treat out of the toy. “
We have grappled with tricky ethical questions about when is the right time to let go and for whom; is it right to “gamble” by trying something that may or may not bring side effects of unknown quality and intensity; and what does quality of life look for Nell?
We were fortunate enough to set aside practical challenges like cost and logistics of caring for her and for us, our discomfort with this emotional rollercoaster was not a good reason to base a decision about her life – that would have weighed on our conscience too, because we have asked many emotionally challenging things from her during our life together where she did not get to choose at all. So, as hard as it was, we humans owed it to her to keep up our spirits and be there for her when she needs us to be strong.
Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. After a few good days she declined quickly on Thursday – that morning turned out to be the most perfect last walk in her favourite location with lots of bird smells, rolling in smelly patches of grass, sneakily swimming in a frozen pond and even flushing a pheasant with Grace which was the ultimate life satisfaction for her. We thought we had a bit longer with her and we’d promised ourselves that when she told us she was ready, we would honour her wish – that evening, she told us so clearly it was impossible to miss.
The pain of loss is the price we all pay for the years of love and happiness with our dogs – the more of those you’ve been lucky enough to have, the higher the price is when the payment is due. We knew the deal, and have prepared for years. And the biggest lesson she has taught us is how to listen to what your dog wants and why it matters so much – even when it’s something you do not want to hear.
Among the sadness, we are immensely grateful for the bonus time we had with her – if it wasn’t for a series of unfortunate events with coincidentally fortunate outcomes, we would have lost Nell in August suddenly, dramatically and traumatically. Instead, we were able to have six incredible months with her and along the way, we learned countless lessons about life, love and health that will impact our own lives for years to come.
In the last 6 months, we saw a different Nell – at the same time more enthusiastic for life yet softer and more mellow. Her relationship with Grace truly blossomed which was wonderful to watch since we wanted her to have a friend of her own kind to explore the world with.
She was intense and extremely excitable, with extraordinary needs for stimulation, challenges and adventures.
She had an extraordinary life travelling with us to 15 countries with dozens of cities and natural parks around Europe in cars, trains, ferries and boats; taking part in commercial photoshoots and art projects as well as testing 80+ dog toys and games.
She also gave us extraordinarily many grey hairs with incidents like running through wasp nests and a drug overdose in Amsterdam as well as sneakily eating large quantities of chocolate, raiding bins for rotten chicken fillets and swallowing sharp wooden chicken skewers.
She was, quite simply, extraordinary.