In the late afternoon, Tilda began to have very laboured breathing. I checked her over gently, to make sure I wasn't missing something obvious (like peritonitis), but there was no sign of a blockage. There was a lot of gurgling going on - digestive gurgling.
Despite her obvious discomfort from the breathing difficulty, the rest of her looked quite well. Her eyes were bright and clear, her tail was up, her feathers were glossy..... She has had spells of breathing trouble before, but they've usually passed after some minutes. This one carried on.
DH and I talked about what to do. She was obviously suffering some stress from the breathing difficulty. Our starting point was that if she was still like it tomorrow (today), then we'd put her to sleep. A few seconds later, we revised that, and agreed that if she was still like it this evening (yesterday), we'd do it. I'm sure we've all known people who have kept their pets alive when they should have let them go: I make sure I'm not one of them - but I don't want to cull just to end my suffering either.
She sat in her pen. I sat on the floor to keep her company. She appeared to doze off a couple of times and, each time, I steeled myself because I thought that "this was it". In between times, I used a syringe to give her something to drink. I took the opportunity to tell her again what a lovely girl she was, and how she and Lily (my now-dead White Star) had transformed chicken keeping for me. I also selfishly willed her to let go herself, because that would mean we didn't have to make the call and then wonder if we had done the right thing. I reminded myself that she had tried to go on 2nd December, but I had saved her; we had been so fortunate to have had her company for an extra 3 months, so I should not be upset if she went now.
Of course all this sentiment, and the pressure of waiting, and the distress of watching her laboured breathing meant that the emotion welled up and overflowed.
I was just getting myself into a state, which was not helping and was really stupid. I calmed myself down. DH popped back in to see me before going out, and then I removed myself to watch some catchup TV to distract myself.
I popped in to check on her every half hour or so. She was sitting quietly, breathing hard, but still bright eyed and tail up. When DH came back, we went into the kitchen to make dinner. Tilda was now breathing a little heavily, but it wasn't laboured. I topped up her food, which she ate, and more syringe water, which she drank. She preened herself a bit.
This morning, she's still here.
She's still looking bright eyed, she's eating and drinking. Her breathing is a little heavy but I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't been looking for it. She certainly doesn't look like there is any misery from which she needs rescuing. She's ambling around the kitchen floor as I type.
I'm suffering from a crying-induced migraine, my eyes are sticky. Serves me right for getting myself into such an emotional state in anticipation, I should have known better. It does make me prepared though... for a while.
Inside, I know that it isn't going to be long.