A dog owner who ignored vets’ recommendations that her beloved pet of 18 years – who helped her cope with the death of her brother – be put down three times, said her canine friend is “thriving” now.
Emma-Jane Taylor, 50, a director of a lifestyle business from Henley, Oxfordshire, is best friends with her west highland terrier, Charlie, who helped her cope with the loss of her 57-year-old brother when he suddenly died of a brain haemorrhage.
After vets suggested it would be best for Charlie to be put down due to her old age, despite not being in any pain, Emma decided to give her pet “the benefit of the doubt” and see if she improved over time, which she did.
A few years later, Charlie was given another death sentence after enduring a stroke, but to Emma’s and the vets’ surprise, she suddenly sprung back to her usual, perky self.
One year on, Charlie contracted a sickness bug which vets again thought could be the death of her.
Now, Charlie is happy and healthy but needs extra care when on walks, so Emma carries her pet in a sling on her chest, similar to one for a baby.
Since Emma got Charlie in 2005, the pair have been best friends and have barely left each other’s sides – when Charlie was a puppy, Emma would even take Charlie paddle boarding.
The “sparky and always happy” canine has always been “strong, both mentally and physically”, according to Emma, and in 2020 Charlie proved this.
Three years ago, Emma took Charlie to the vet as she was having issues with her bladder, but to Emma’s disgust, the vet suggested it may be time to put her beloved dog to sleep.
She explained: “She gets to the vets, and they see an old dog, 15 years old, and they said they think the kindest thing to do is look at where she is with her life and put her to sleep.
“My partner was with me at the time, and of course, I burst into tears.”
The vet recommended that Charlie have a series of scans, as a dog of her age could suffer from ailments or a life-threatening disease.
But, Emma did not want Charlie to have any scans, so she suggested that the vets test her urine instead.
She said: “The vet tested the sample, and it was just a urine infection – so we went away with antibiotics.
“Thank goodness, I listened to my gut because it could have been a totally different story.”
Determined that Charlie had more life left in her, Emma decided to wait and see if Charlie improved before getting any further scans, as the vet suggested.
She said: “We started only doing five-mile walks with Charlie, and she was fine – she was back to normal quite quickly.”
But, out of the blue, in 2021, Charlie had a stroke one morning in Emma’s kitchen.
She said: “She started walking into the kitchen cupboards, and she didn’t look right.
“So I went in and spoke to her, and she just didn’t seem like she was listening to me.
“She was walking round in circles – the only way I could describe it would be that she seemed drunk.
“I picked her up, and she seemed shaky, and then she was sick.
“It felt like her eyes were rolling around in her head even though they weren’t. I just felt like she had an out-of-body experience.
“When my vet came, we went into the garden, and she was falling over on one side.”
Miraculously, after the vet gave Charlie an injection, she improved almost instantly and was better than ever, with more spring in her step.
Emma said: “It was like some kind of magic. That afternoon, the vet came back to check in on her after saying it could be the end, and she went running up to him with their tail wagging. We both couldn’t believe it.”
To Emma’s amazement, Charlie continued this way for over a year after being told she was close to the end of her life twice.
In 2022, Charlie began to deteriorate gradually and had a stomach bug, and the vet suggested one more time that Charlie should be put to sleep.
She said: “They suggested that we’re probably at the end now.
“But there was no official diagnosis, and it just doesn’t feel right. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt.
“So I stripped back her medication and gave her chicken, rice, and white fish for 48 hours.
“She couldn’t move, but she wasn’t in pain.
“I tried her back on her meds, and she’s still alive today.”
At the same time Charlie was ill, Emma’s brother, Nick Brown, 57, unexpectedly had a brain haemorrhage, and passed away in September 2022.
She said: “There was a short window where we travelled to see and support my brother, and Charlie was unwell.
“I just said to Charlie, please don’t die now, whilst you could go and be with my brother, I need you.
“I’m very spiritual, and I’m very into believing in good energy around us.
“Suddenly, she picked up as if to show that we needed each other, and she got better.”
Charlie helped Emma with her brother’s passing, with the dog giving Emma more love and attention, almost as if she could sense her heartbreak.
She said: “I feel very grateful that we’ve got her, and she’s helped me immensely.”
Emma is still determined to give Charlie the happiest and longest life possible, and since her legs are now weak, she carries her in a sling when going on walks.
She said: “We’ll go out for an hour, and then in that hour, I put her down to walk for like three or four minutes – she mentally wants to do it.
“This sling meant we could be freer with where we went and what we did.
“Charlie is happy and healthy, though, and she is not in pain.
“With all things considered, she is thriving.”
Looking to the future, Emma said: “When the time comes for Charlie to leave me, I will know.
“I will respect that and although sad, I feel this time over the last few years has let me say my goodbyes.
“We will be able to say we gave her the happiest and longest life possible.
“I’ll never regret that.”
Advice from the animal welfare charity Blue Cross recommends owners who are concerned about their dog’s health and considering euthanasia should consult with their vet for advice.
“Talk it over with your veterinary surgeon and your family and friends,” the charity recommends.
“You and your family know your dog better than anyone else, so try to make a reasoned judgement on his or her quality of life. Your vet will help you with this and will often make a recommendation.”
Owners dealing with the loss of a pet can contact the Blue Cross on 0800 096 6606