Google Maps location for Riverport Veterinary Hospital

Riverport Veterinary Hospital
1 Avoca Street
SA 5214

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08 8555 5690

Victor Central Veterinary Clinic
35 Crozier Road
Victor Harbor
SA 5211

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08 7522 4300

I first met Angie and Peter  in August of 2006.  Like most boxers Angie was a lovely dog (and great patient) with a doting owner.  After a couple of visits we confirmed that she had ruptured the cruciate ligament in her left knee and needed specialist surgery.  Off she went to Adelaide for the surgery and Peter nursed her through the recovery period with real care and diligence.  She was 4 years old and otherwise in great health.  It was easy to tell even at this stage that Angie and Peter shared a very close bond.  He had had a few boxers in the past but there was something just a little special about Angie.

After a quiet couple of years, in September 2008 Angie ruptured the cruciate ligament in her right knee.  By this time our new hospital was up and running and I had completed the necessary training so we performed her knee reconstruction in Goolwa.  It was during the recovery period that I really got to know Angie and Peter and appreciate a little more the extraordinary bond that they shared.  Angie had some minor complications from the surgery so I saw them quite a bit for a few months.  Each time I was pleased to hear that Peter had followed my instructions to the letter and done everything he could to help speed up her recovery. 

I fondly remember Peter’s opening line at each of our visits….”I’m sorry I’ve forgotten my hearing aid today, would you mind speaking up a little?”  I began to wonder if this hearing aid actually existed until it turned up one day and we had a nice conversation at normal volume!

I’m not sure if it was hearing aid related but for a period of quite a few months Peter referred to me as “Bryn”.  I have no idea where this came from and after correcting him a few times I came to quite like the mistake.  I think perhaps the hearing aid wasn’t calibrated for strange Welsh names (I am proud of my Welsh heritage so it wasn’t really causing offense jumping from one Welsh name to another!).  After a little while consulting as my alter-ego Peter realised the mistake he had been making, apologised profusely and from then on never skipped a beat.  Anyway, I digress…

Angie keeping me company after one of her procedures

In 2009 arthritis started to affect Angie and a lump developed that we needed to monitor.  In 2010 she developed a strange case of seasonal flank alopecia (hair loss on both sides of the body seen in certain breeds at certain times of year).  I’m not ashamed to say that Peter knew more about this disease than I did as one of his previous boxers had developed the same problem years ago and been seen by specialists at Bristol University.

In 2011 Australia lost the Ashes at home to the old foe.  You may not think this is relevant but it gave Peter a new opening line for each of his visits.  The hearing aid comment would often come eventually but there was almost always a light hearted jab at the Australian cricket team first.  Peter is a proud Englishman and it was around this time that he considered the option of moving himself and Angie back to England.  Together they went through the necessary testing and vaccinations required for the big trip but never ended up taking the plunge.  I believe this was largely due to concerns about Angie being able to cope with the big trip and the significant changes to her life.

In 2012 things started to get a little complicated.  Angie started to look and behave like an older boxer.  In October 2012 she required some significant dental work which she sailed through with flying colours.  In December 2012 she started to develop signs of a urinary tract problem.  She had recurrent infections and bladder stones which eventually required surgical removal in May 2013.  Peter rode through every up and down with Angie, and it was at about this stage that I realised just how closely their lives were entwined.  Peter simply didn’t know what he would do without Angie.

In June 2013 the arthritis that Angie had been developing in her hips and knees took a turn for the worse.  Among other things we elected to give her stem cell therapy.  Unfortunately Angie experienced a very rare complication from the procedure and took quite some time to recover.  With the help of various medications and acupuncture Angie got through this hurdle but sadly developed a severe spinal problem in the following weeks.  A visit to the neurologist in October confirmed our fears and we were faced with the fact that Angie would gradually lose the use of her back legs.

Peter took this news on board and as always did everything he could to make Angie’s life as full as possible.  She was on a cocktail of drugs and gradually required more assistance to do basic things like get outside to go to the toilet.  Peter even ordered a custom-built hind leg trolley from America but unfortunately it proved too difficult for Angie to master.  For months we were amazed at how well Peter and Angie were coping as by this stage all of our staff had come to know them both very well.

As Angie’s paralysis got worse she started developing sores on her back legs as she could only really drag herself around.  We started bandaging the sores and Peter’s daughter diligently visited twice weekly to change them.

Euthanasia is a tricky topic at the best of times and unfortunately we see many patients that have simply suffered for too long.  Many times I had the discussion (in preparation) with Peter and at one stage I, along with Peter’s daughter, were just about convinced that euthanasia was the right decision.  Angie wasn’t, however.  And to her credit, she was right.

I have a simple philosophy when it comes to deciding the time for euthanasia;  Forget everything else that might be going on and ask yourself one simple question….”Is she (or he) happy?”.  If the answer is yes then maybe the time is not just yet.   This has never been more poignant than with Angie.  You see medically she had multiple issues that could not be fixed, merely managed.  However, her pain was controllable, she had help to get around the house and garden and she had Peter to cater for her every whim.  She still was truly happy and this was evident when the two were together, caring for each other.

On June 21st, 2014 I was at home getting my 2 girls ready for their evening bath when I had a phone call from Peter.  Angie was distressed and extra pain relief hadn’t helped.  I must admit I feared the worst (but hoped for something simple) as I swung by work to pick up my home visit kit.

When I arrived Angie was making a terrible groaning sound.  She was clearly in pain.

After my examination I explained to Peter that Angie had developed a severe clotting disorder.  We discussed the options but there was no realistic option for treatment.  Together we made the hard decision to put Angie to sleep.

As I began to give Angie the injection that would end her suffering, she gave me a quiet lick on the hand before turning to Peter and resting her head while looking directly at him.  It was a sad but very appropriate end.

To his credit, I think Peter was stronger than I was at that moment, but neither of us got much sleep that night.

Why do I tell this story?  We often talk about the bond that people have with their pets but it’s another thing to witness that bond in it’s deepest form.

RIP Angie.

This is one patient we will never forget

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