What do you do when an elderly relative, barely fit to look after herself, has an old, sick dog that she won't even take to the vet because she is afraid she'll be advised to have the animal put to sleep?
There were other people, far closer to this relative than I was, and, as far as I know they held their counsel too. But privately I thought, everyone thought, that our relative was being unkind and, perhaps, selfish.
The dog was deaf and blind, his back was humped, he was fed cake because it was soft. His life must have been a misery. His owner's life wasn't much better for he frequently destroyed her sleep with his restlessness and frequent need to pass water.
Well. It all came to a head at last. The poor dog staggered into an open fire and burned his feet and this is the unbelievable part – it happened three nights ago and still she wouldn't get him to a vet. Her cousin intervened today and at last the pathetic creature was put out of his misery.
I know that his owner was not intentionally and deliberately cruel, that she herself is very old and that her dog was a much loved pet and he will be her last dog. I know that she has suffered other terrible losses these past two years which is why she might have clung on to her pet but I still feel I could have done more. I do know that if I had known of this last incident I would have, at the risk of her never speaking to me again, have got that dog to a vet. I still feel I should have, at the very least, spoken plainly to her long ago.