5 Lessons We Learnt After The Devastating Loss Of Our First Dog

Many of you know our Shih Tzu x Maltese boys, Gus and Finn. But these little shits weren't our first dogs. Strap in - this is going to get emotional.

In June 2013 we brought home a perfect, tiny bright white Maltese pup we named Fred. When Fred was just 3 years old we noticed he had started walking on a lean and bumping into things. Thinking it was probably an easy fix like an ear infection we whipped him down to our vet who thought the same thing. He prescribed some antibiotics and off we went.

A few days later Fred wasn’t getting any better. In fact, he was getting worse. He starting walking on a lean so much that he was tipping over like he didn’t know where his feet were, almost as if he was drunk. Back to the vet we went. We were met with a concerned face from our vet who suggested we take Fred up to Massey in Palmerston North, ASAP.

It’s never a good sign when they send you to Massey.

After a series of tests including two spinal taps, the team up there decided it was probably GME - granulomatous meningoencephalitis - an inflammatory autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. We say “probably” because they can’t test for it on an alive patient. After several overnight stays and MRI scans, we started Fred on a course of chemotherapy and prednisone.

The thing with GME is that once they have it, it doesn’t go away. The rest of Fred’s life would be spent managing his illness (which we were fully prepared to do).

Fast forward six months - multiple trips to Palmerston North and thousands of dollars later  - we finally thought we had it under control. Reluctantly, we went to Sydney for a friend’s wedding leaving Fred with good friends of ours who understood what he had been going through and what to do while we were away.

In the middle of our trip, the Kaikoura earthquake hit.

We came back to a barely recognisable apartment that took 3 days to clean before it was safe to bring Fred back home. We noticed straight away that he had gone backwards and his gait had returned. The vet recommended we up his dosage and continue to monitor him.

On the morning of New Year’s Eve 2016, Fred went downhill fast. He couldn’t lie down without rolling over and could barely walk. We rushed him back to vet who explained that he had likely suffered a stroke. We had no other option.

Fred drifted away in my arms.

If you’ve ever lost a pet then you know the pain we went through. We were glad that he wasn’t suffering anymore and we know there was nothing more we could’ve done, but we were absolutely devastated at the loss of our little boy. I’ve never cried so much for so long in all my life. Fred’s ashes sit on our bedroom dresser next to his favourite toy, Ducky.

Things we learnt the hard way:
1. If you think there’s something wrong with your pet, take them to the vet straight away. The timing could be the difference between life and death.
2. Get pet insurance. No amount of money could’ve saved Fred, but it definitely would’ve reduced the stress of worrying about the gigantic vet bills.
3. The vet team at Massey Palmerston North are literal angels (but we hope we never have the need to see them again).
4. Those of you who have lost a pet will understand me when I say home doesn’t feel right without one. Getting another pet (or two) when you’re ready doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten about them. And don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.

5. Enjoy every moment you have with your babies - you don’t know when they'll be taken away from you.

Dog bless.


Fred Maltese SMACK BANG

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