I'm making a bucket list for my old labrador, too

Only the best will do for a dog with not long to live

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The Independent Online

Occasionally, you read a news story that resonates so powerfully and personally that it hurts. This was how I felt reading the report that dog-owners Symon Spencer and Theresa Clancy had compiled a bucket list for their eight-year-old rottweiller Coco after discovering she had a terminal illness. Symon and Theresa had gone to the vet after noticing that Coco was walking with a limp, only to to be told that she had bone cancer and that her life expectancy was four to six weeks.

Their reaction, once the tears had dried, was to compile a list of treats for Coco to make her last days as enjoyable as possible. This included many food-related items that we can be sure any self-respecting dog would appreciate – eating fish and chips on the beach, having an ice cream, getting a Big Mac from a drive-thru – other activities calculated to get tails wagging – playing football on the beach, running into the sea, going for a swim – and some things for which, frankly, it’s hard to imagine that Coco craved over her short life – sitting in a police helicopter, going to work with her owners, and appearing in the media (big tick for that one).

The story of Coco strikes a particular chord with me as I am in the same position with my beloved dachshund Rovi (no stranger to the media himself). He was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma a couple of weeks ago, and the likelihood is that he has between three and six months left before the disease finally claims him. It is a quite shattering state of affairs, but the vet’s advice was clear. Your time together is short, so do all you can to make it enjoyable.

Our vet, a man of huge distinction who has the most exemplary bedside manner, told us the story of his labrador, who had also been given months to live. Throughout his life, the dog had been on a strict dietary regime, but with time running out, the handbrake came off. Every night, the vet would stop on his way home, buy a rotisserie chicken, and share it with his dog. So determined was the labrador not to miss out on his roast chicken dinner that, a year later, he was still going strong.

 

The clear implication was: give them a reason to live, and who knows what might happen? So, without formalising in the shape of a list, we have determined that Rovi’s final days will be replete with the things we know he loves - like sautéed calves liver (I know what you’re thinking, but he’s a middle-class dog with a very refined palate), ice cream, minced beef, going to the beach, lying on the sofa, and sunbathing. He is not, it has to be said, the world’s most demonstrative dog (in fact, there are times when he forgets he even is a dog) but he has found a way to tell us what he’d put on his own bucket list.

Anyway, we are strictly following vet’s orders. Do whatever he and you like doing, and don’t put anything off because you might not get the time to do it. What a metaphor for our own lives, I thought.

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