My Dog is Dying . . .

Coping with Grief / Coping with Grief : Litsa


My dog is dying.

I’ve googled that sentence more than once now. It brings up article after article about how to tell if your dog is dying or helping you predict when it will happen. For some reason, it brings up surprisingly few articles about when you know that your dog is dying. There is little guidance on the excruciating anticipatory grief of knowing that is happening. There are shockingly few reflections on the painful emotions that come up when making decisions on behalf of your best-fur-friend.

Let’s back up a bit. Six years ago my dog had a huge tumor that could have killed him, but it didn’t. I wrote about it then, in case you missed it. Ever since then, he has been on borrowed time. He has been growing tumors from nose to tail. Fast-growing tumors, slow-growing tumors, fatty tumors, cancerous tumors, tumors to remove, tumors to watch, tumors to ignore. At this point, he is a dog held together by tumors.

That might be part of why it is so hard for me to accept that he is really dying. It feels like he’s defied the odds time and again. Sure, he’s a 14-year-old pit bull. Time isn’t on his side. His arthritis gets worse by the day. The cancer has spread to his mouth, where all that can be done has been done and it has started growing back with a vengeance. He’s had cancer for so long that it just seems like a normal part of him.

And yet I know the inevitable is coming. I find myself bracing for it every day, hypervigilant and tense. I watch his every move like a hawk. Did he eat? How much did he eat? Does it look like he’s in pain? Is that tumor bigger than it was yesterday? On his bad days I find myself mentally preparing. I’ve brought myself to tears more than once thinking about my world without him. I think about his long, happy life. I remind myself that I don’t want him to suffer.

It is endlessly painful that we don’t speak the same language. I want nothing more than for him to be able to tell me if he’s in pain. I want to explain to him why there is a ping-pong-ball sized lump in his mouth that isn’t going anywhere. And yet I’m also grateful in some ways that we can’t communicate. He seems blissfully unaware of his own mortality, unaware of the content of conversations held with vets right in front of him. So this communication gap is brutal, but it also means that I’m able to spend my time with my dozen-year companion who has no idea that he won’t live forever. So maybe it’s not all bad.

In this limbo of anticipatory grief that I live in these days, I’ve been reflecting on all the things that arise when we think about our pets. This big, doofy dog of mine has been there through ups and downs. He’s brought me so much joy and comfort and love, whether I deserved it or not. Watching this animal age, watching his illnesses spread, I am struck by the immense responsibility I feel for his well-being. It’s harrowing­ to know that you hold your animal’s life in your hands, to realize it falls on your shoulders to decide how much suffering is worthwhile suffering and how much suffering is too much suffering. I think of all the people I know who have said, months or years after an animal’s death, “I prolonged his suffering for too long because I wasn’t ready to let him go”.

I keep asking the vets what they think. Just last week I took him in and a different vet saw him, one who I’d never met. After examining him, the vet launched into a well-rehearsed, “this dog is dying, when the time comes, please don’t let this animal suffer” speech. I cut him off. I explained the last thing I wanted was for him to suffer and that was why we were there – to ask his expert advice. Is he suffering? How will we know? He’s a pit bull, after all. They’re hearty dogs who don’t easily show pain. In his 14 years of life, I’ve only heard him whine when someone forgot to give him his 7pm meal. Once it was clear we were on the same page about this whole suffering thing, the vet’s strong and decisive tone shifted to something far more unsure and ambiguous.

“When the time comes, he’ll let you know”. They must teach this phrase in veterinary school, as I have now heard it from three vets and a vet tech. How, I want to know. They make it sounds like it will be obvious, but I’ve known enough people who seem to carry regrets that they missed or ignored the “he’ll let you know” memo when it finally came. I wanted specifics. How would I know?

I received the same vague answers. He’ll stop eating. He won’t show interest in the things that used to excite him. Okay, sure. That seems reasonable on paper. But in reality, it doesn’t seem so black and white. There are days his breakfast goes out at 6:15 am and he doesn’t eat it until 3 pm, at which time he might pick at part of it and leave the rest. But then by the next morning, he’s standing at his bowl waiting for food, gobbling it up immediately, looking up ready for more.

There are days that he seems to have no energy to leave the couch, no clear interest in toys or playing in the yard or moving. And then other days his tail is wagging and he bounds off the sofa, eager to get outside to (slowly) chase cicadas and UPS drivers. As long as it is more good days than bad days, as long as nothing on those bad days looks like unmanageable pain, I tell myself the good days are still worth the bad. But that’s a decision I have to make for him, one that he has no control over. And I worry every day that I’m going to get it wrong. I worry that he’s trying to let me know and I can’t see him or hear him. It’s hard to see the label when you’re inside the bottle, after all.

And so here I am, on this roller coaster of waiting for my dog to “let me know” something that I’m not sure he’ll actually be able to let me know. I try to think about it and not think about it. I’m appreciating the time we still have, while grieving the already-gone walks and games of tug-o-war and being greeted at the door. I’m embracing endless porch naps, while I worry and wait and worry some more.  I’ve put travel plans on hold for the foreseeable future. I give him doggy ice cream and help him up on the sofa when his legs won’t cooperate. I don’t try to stop him anymore when he barks at the mail carrier. Who am I to take away any of the few remaining mail-carrier barks he has left in him?  And just like that, the days keep passing.

Join the conversation – leave a comment below.

Let’s be grief friends.

We post a new article to What’s Your Grief about once a week. Subscribe to stay up to date on all our posts.

Related Blog Posts

Related Blog Posts

See More

29 Comments on "My Dog is Dying . . ."

Click here to leave a Comment
  1. Minky  July 20, 2021 at 4:19 am Reply

    You read my mind (and Woody’s) and I know the uncertainty and hyper-vigilance all too well. I know this day will come and after 18 years and eight months, I only know this for certain: He will pass at home where his kitty brothers did. My husband is in home-hospice now too and wants them to go together—that’s a classic Catch-22 I can’t face—I just ponder the pros/cons all the time too. Thank you for capturing the love for a creature so aptly. You have truly earned the love of a dog—that is a worthy gift that will always be with you. 🐾❤️

  2. Claire Willis  July 12, 2021 at 11:04 am Reply

    There are no words for the loss of a little dog by a deer’s foot. This is unspeakably difficult and I am wordless – but only to say I am thinking of you and your pooch and will carry the sorrow from afar with you. This must be soo incredibly shocking and painful. I will hold you all closely in my heart.

    Claire

  3. Kathy Sea  July 12, 2021 at 3:54 am Reply

    I just lost my little dog yesterday. Wednesday we were outside the house and he was trying to play with our younger female dog who joined us just a few months ago and they became such great friends. So he was bouncing around trying to get her to follow him and he went out into the back just a few feet suddenly I heard him squeal with pain and by the time I got back there he had been stomped badly by a mama deer. He led such a sheltered and quiet life I can’t hardly believe that this was the way he was meant to leave the planet. I’m just devastated. To make matters worse my other dog is also devastated and I don’t know how to help her. She gets so upset when I’m sad about Plato so I try not to show it which isn’t good for me. This was so sudden, so shocking and he was having such a good time in his life with his new little sis. It’s just shocking unbelievable.

  4. Mike Donoghie  June 18, 2021 at 8:16 pm Reply

    What you and your dog are experiencing is excruciatingly difficult, so please be patient with yourself. I’ve experienced 3 digs dying in my life. My experiences were similar to yours, and we, my Mom and I, perhaps,waited longer than we should have to have 2 of those 3 dogs put to sleep. I also think that veterinarians, like medical doctors, are trained to address death or impending death with people, as you mentioned and they try their best to answer end of life decisions. Ultimately, it’s your decision, and whatever decisions you make will be the right ones in this case because it’s obvious that you love your dog very much. Your dog knows that, and I think understands that this is a painful time. Why? Because they just seem to know us well. Try to remember that your dog wants you to be happy, and that he or she is aware that you are suffering too. You are being brave by facing the difficult problem and you’re sharing it with others. Finally, perhaps pray about it to whomever you choose to identify as God. In my case I’m a Catholic Christian. May God continue to bless you with His wisdom, compassion, kindness, and empathy.
    Sincerely,
    Mike Donoghue.

  5. Beryl McClelland  June 16, 2021 at 7:59 pm Reply

    Our precious dogs, cats, horses, birds, cattle, or any other animal do not have an issue with death. They know their life is terminal – just like ours!! They accept it knowing their spirit will be set free. I have “felt” the nose or nudge of many of my “family members” who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge and they just want to let me know they are still here in spirit. As far as the saying “He’ll let you know when it is time” is true. Amos is stoic with pain but when the end comes he may not be… he may be very verbal to let you know the pain is intolerable. The light in their eyes goes out too but this is different from good days vs bad days. I liked the idea of taking frequent pictures. I looked at pictures of one of my girls and it was so obvious that I made the right decision to have the vet come to the house to let Calli cross over. Be mindful of other pets as they will also grieve the loss of a pack member. It is important to let the other pack members be present when the pack member is allowed to cross over as they need to “know” that their friend has died. Planning ahead to schedule a vet home visit is ideal if you can do so. It is easier on everyone as far as stress level. Grief is still present but you need to grow from the grief.

  6. Ann Frances Rooney  June 11, 2021 at 7:22 pm Reply

    I am so sorry you were not given more information, what to look for, etc with your dog. The question “How will I know?” all pet parents ask – I asked.. I am a bereavement specialist for pet loss (semi retired). If you check the website under NorthStar Vets- pet parents- bereavement and pet loss – there is a “Quality of life Map” along with information on loss. Seeing in black and white the changes, helps the heart and the brain connect. I usually recommend taking pictures of your pet, every other day and compare. There is also Lap of Love, that come to your home for in home euthanasia. Many pets find going to the vet very stressful. Lap of Love ( Veterinarians) has helped many of my clients-very compassionate and are located all over the United States. Keeping you in my thoughts

  7. Claire Willis  June 9, 2021 at 10:01 am Reply

    one more thing I just want to add here. My vet last week told me that right now vets have the highest suicide rate of any professionals. They are overtwhelmed with requests for treatment. At the large local vet hospital in my city, he tells me that on an average there are 20 emergencies a day that need to wait 24 hours. I think the adoption of animals during covid has increased the demand for care. I don’t know if its different in other places but bear this in mind if anyone is considering putting their pet down. It may not happen when you want it to. the decision to do that was the hardest one I ever made and I was grateful that the vet came to the house and I could hold my dog as he slipped away.

  8. Claire Willis  June 9, 2021 at 9:55 am Reply

    The love of a pet is so different than the love of a person. the love we fee for dogs is pure, uncomplicated, and unconditional. Our relationships with people are often filed with conflicts as well as love. The two loves are just different – not more or less. Don’t let anyone ever say “its just a pet.”
    I read a beautiful quote by Jaime Anderson I want to share.
    “Grief, I have learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”
    We need to treasure our grief as an expression of our loving.

    1
  9. Pat  June 9, 2021 at 9:38 am Reply

    Your article about Amos moved me greatly. I just lost the best dog I have ever had in my 60 years on this earth. His name was Bronco and he was a 7 year old min pin. He developed diabetes about a year ago and we seemed to have his sugar levels on track all this time but he went blind about 6 months ago. But being blind did not slow down my little buddy. He still got around very well and loved our walks as he knew I would not let him run into anything so he felt like a real dog again every time. Then he took a turn for the worse last weekend while I was out of town – something I will regret the rest of my life. Basically his organs started to fail and he defecated everywhere before giving up and collapsing. My poor wife had to deal with this by herself and I never got to say goodbye to the best dog I have ever known. He brought me so much joy, entertainment, and love everyday and I cant stop crying.
    The good news with Amos is that you have the opportunity to say a proper goodbye when the time comes. My Bronco gave up, and I know he is now in a better place but I still cant get over him and everything in the house reminds me of him. I have never felt this kind of pain before and only wish I had one last goodbye with my buddy before he went off to the Rainbow Bridge. Hug Amos and love him as long as you can and I’m sure he will let you know when he is done.

    1
  10. Laura Sherman  June 9, 2021 at 7:49 am Reply

    I am in the same boat right now. Our 14 year old beagle mix has lumps everywhere and was recently diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma over his left hind leg. His zest for living is still
    there, but there are subtle and sometimes not so subtle signs that he is slowly leaving us. His breathing is labored at times and he sleeps a lot. I pray that we make the right decisions at the right time. It’s hard😥

    1
  11. Marty Tousley  June 8, 2021 at 11:07 pm Reply

    I’m so sorry to learn that you and Amos are facing the end of his life, Litsa, and I know how much this hurts. I wish the life spans of our precious animal companions weren’t so much shorter than our own. I’ve written a lot about pet loss; you may find this post helpful: Anticipating the Death of a Cherished Pet, http://bit.ly/2N3AQSl Thinking of you ~ Marty T ♥

    1
  12. Eldavia  June 8, 2021 at 7:37 pm Reply

    Is it OK if I recommend a book written by a friend? it is called Death Sucks- A straight up guide to Navigating your pet’s final transition by Alexa Linton.. all about the things you are going through now and how maybe to ease your pain in the process and immediately afterwards. .

    I think pet grief can be as real and painful as loosing a human.. grief is grief and it hurts.

    2
  13. Suzanne M Utts  June 8, 2021 at 4:33 pm Reply

    I think vets have a hard time of it too. They likely are taught to say “He will let you know when it is time.” The unpleasant side of being a vet is when it is time to help the animal leave this life.

    My 17 yr old Westie never let me know via his attitudes or his appetite etc. We knew he was not well and he was on medications for an ongoing skin infection that was caused by his immune system breaking down, but he wasn’t in pain. When he went blind he still wanted to play frisbee in the house. His hearing was still great and so was his nose, so he could follow the sound of the frisbee as it bounced off the walls and woodwork and his nose always led him right to it. About two weeks before he died, he decided he didn’t want to play frisbee. That was about the only sign and my husband refused to believe it and refused to let him go, until finally Murphy collapsed. We took him that night. My husband could not bear to go into the exam room with me, and so I faced it with the help of God and the vet. I knew I was placing Murphy into the loving hands of the God Who created him, so I held him and kissed him and told him that it was ok to go Home with God, and that I would come Home later. When it was over the vet and I hugged and she cried as hard as I did.

    Four months later we found a young Cairn Terrier at a no-kill shelter and we adopted him. The same vet who helped Murphy go Home saw Rocky for the first time. She was overjoyed to see this little dog and how we loved him already. The circle of life.

    I still miss Murphy but the pain is not there. I know I will see him again. Go read Isaiah 11 in your Bible. Animals are in Paradise. Heaven is Paradise.

    1
  14. Denise Johnson  June 8, 2021 at 3:01 pm Reply

    What you wrote is a beautiful tribute to your dog and a very clear picture of what we dog lovers endure. It hit me double, and not just because my dog is a 15 year old pittie going through the same thing. I’m also experiencing anticipatory grief for my husband, who is in the middle stage of Alzheimer’s. Both my husband and my dog are thankfully oblivious to the decisions I must make in the years ahead. How do I know when the time is right for my dog? Will I eventually have to place my husband of 53 years in memory care? I am watching them both die in front of my eyes.
    I do agree that somehow I’ll know when “it’s time”… but that time is different for every person and every dog. I see a grief counselor regularly and am trying to learn that I can trust my instincts. It won’t diminish my sadness. Maybe it will allow me to stay in the moment and appreciate the good days. It may seem odd that I’m equating the loss of a dog to the loss of a human. Someone in my Alzheimer’s support group actually said to me “it’s only a dog!” That hurt, but animal lovers know that attachments, support and love come in all forms.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and know that your dog is lucky to have you looking out for him. Sending you hugs.

    1
  15. Leanne  June 8, 2021 at 1:30 pm Reply

    Ah I feel your grief and pain. We recently had to say goodbye to our beautiful 10 year old boy Fangles. A rescue. A husky/shepherd who looked like a wolf in cream,grey & light brown colours. He was gobby, cheeky and chatty boy.
    He & we lived with epilepsy ( hard to control ) had gran mal cluster siezures since age of 2.
    He also had benign growths, skin infections, dermatology issues.
    Then old age caught up, and he developed heart failure, advanced liver disease or cancer and kidney disease.
    But he got on with it. Tough cookie. Still chatty until the end. That was over the last year. The vet had called him Lazarus over the last year.
    We had lived with his diseases and conditions for 8 years. He fought.. we fought. That was the deal.
    He lived on beef steak, venison and whatever treat he wanted. As we knew it was getting closer. The end of his life. He had as many cuddles as he would allow us to give him.
    He was beautiful & thankful til the end, which was quick, we knew it was his time to go. He told us I believe.
    It was so peaceful and right.
    Doesn’t ever stop us missing our furry child.
    He was family.
    Big hugs. Xx

    1
  16. Nicky Lambert  June 8, 2021 at 12:47 pm Reply

    What a wonderfully worded article. I am in the same position as you are except it is my cat, Pixie. She was diagnosed with an inoperable vaccine associated sarcoma in 2019 and the vet told me “we are looking at months”. She is still here. Her lump is very large and she is very think but she is still my loving, beautiful little cat who loves nothing better than to snuggle in the crook of my arm when we’re in bed and stare at me with love. She smiles with her eyes at me all the time and lives for her food. She chatters at birds in the trees, she loves having treats and she responds to me by talking with her tail which is so expressive. I have been watching her like a hawk for over two years, monitoring and worrying about every little thing, grieving for her, worrying whether I’m doing the right thing. The fact is I know I am – she loves her life, she has a wonderful quality of life and I feel I will know when she’s had enough because she will let me know. I can’t bear the thought of it but I try to think how lucky I’ve been – in 2019 I thought I was going to lose her in a matter of months. I still have her. I try to take each day as it comes and love and cuddle her as much as I can. We can only do our best for our wonderful animals and it sounds like you are doing the best for your lovely dog.

    1
  17. Deb  June 8, 2021 at 12:45 pm Reply

    My heart just breaks for you, Litsa, knowing you’re going through the nightmare of anticipatory grief over your furbaby, Amos. You’ve described the sheer agony of this heavy (yet blessed) responsibility very well, and it’s a time any pet parent who cherishes their beloved furchild never forgets. I could write a book on it, but mainly wanted to offer some suggestions and resources for you, because losing my furchildren was where I got my biggest and most thorough and meaningful education in grief.

    Somewhat ironically, my first suggestion would be to visit https://www.griefhealing.com/articles-columns-books.htm#Articles%20related%20to%20Pet%20Loss%20and%20Grieving and see the *extensive* resources there on pet loss. Be sure to see Marty’s Pet Loss Links, and if you are so moved, also her Discussion Group/Forum, including a category strictly for this, where you can find many posts by members dealing with anticipatory grief. There is also this specific article Marty wrote on the this topic, with several other links to follow, including one on Hospice Care for animals (Ella Bittel’s hospice work is beyond wonderful; I had provided Marty with that resource): https://www.griefhealingblog.com/2013/12/anticipating-death-of-cherished-pet.html

    Despite your ambiguity about wanting to know/not know how Amos is feeling/thinking about many things, I would seriously and strongly suggest you consider hiring a respected Animal Communicator to find out. This can proactively help you in ways you probably can’t even begin to imagine, and provide much-needed direction, directly from your treasured boy, including about him “letting you know” when the time is right. Please trust me in this – animals LOVE and are so very grateful for this type of direct connection, since it is first nature to THEM. (I also know because I’ve done some of this work myself; in fact, my own animals were my own first major teachers in this, as is often the case) I have used ACers both before and after transition, as have many other people, including Communicators themselves, who are also often too personally distraught during such times. (in other words, we’re still all human 😉 ) To that end, Marty has also compiled a list of some recommended professionals (though there are many more around the world) here: https://www.griefhealing.com/animal-communicators.htm

    One of my own recommended Communicators is Teresa Wagner, for her unparalleled compassion and kindred spirited-ness, her professional psychology background, and decades’ worth of experience in this modality, as well as her incredible website where you can learn more, and book appointments: https://www.animalsinourhearts.com/animal-communication.html

    The worry, pressure, rightful sense of moral duty, the “not knowing” and so much more, are huge factors in dealing with anticipatory grief over our beloved animals, often widely differing from the same regarding many human relationships. (the closest parallel I ever found was child/baby loss) Add to that the “disenfranchised grief” area this also lies in, and it may be the most difficult thing you ever go through in this lifetime.

    For both Amos’ and your own sake, I hope you will check out these many supportive resources compiled through the years, to create even deeper, richer meaning in your shared journey together. I sincerely hope and pray this will be of help to you both. I am holding you both in my heart.

    1
  18. Marsha  June 8, 2021 at 10:46 am Reply

    The Universe does work in mysterious ways. I never read the emails although I cannot bring myself to unsubscribe. Today I was called to read the email. The talk about grief not getting smaller, our lives growing around the grief makes more sense. I am still waiting for my life to grow around the grief. AND then I saw your post My Dog is Dying. My precious Sophie, the Boxer, has degenerative myelopathy or it could be arthritis of the spine. She is still a healthy, happy dog, but it is becoming more difficult for her to be mobile even with me helping her with a sling. I too wait. People tell me they won’t judge me. That makes me angry. Why do they say that? It is NOT time. She eats, wants treats, loves to sunbathe. It does make me sad that she can’t do her zoomies or run or get off the couch without my help. But she seems oblivious to it. I am waiting for her to tell me when she has had enough. She has been with me through my husband’s illness, his passing, the move into our new home, through COVID. She is my best friend. She is my last link to my husband. I pray for strength when the time comes. I am sending you and Amos much love. Thank you for sharing.

    5
  19. Earla Legault  June 8, 2021 at 10:39 am Reply

    Hi, I was in your same boat about 10 years ago with our dog Sasha. We were told on a Friday that most likely we would need to put her to sleep on the Monday. I took the whole weekend to write with her by my side, to draw and to really feel what I had to feel. I created a zine, like a little comic book about it I would love to share it with you sometime. I have shared it with a number of friends who found comfort, because there wasn’t really anything out there that gave them comfort. I know now that I could call what I went through anticipatory grief, some thing that I’ve learned more about through reading it in your blog.

    2
  20. Kathy Averbeck  June 8, 2021 at 10:19 am Reply

    I’m reading this with my 14+ year old black lab, who we rescued 12 years ago, sleeping by my side. He also has tumors covering his body, but thankfully none are cancerous. He can no longer go on the long walks we take daily and I know he’s not feeling great. So I can relate to your story and thank you for sharing it.

    3
  21. Kym Porter  June 8, 2021 at 10:06 am Reply

    5 years ago, my son died. 2 weeks ago my cat died and this week we are headed to the vet for the fourth time with our 16 year old dog who the vet believes has a tumour in her lung. As you wrote about your dog, some days are good and some days, we struggle to decide…is this her time, her time so soon after our cat left us and we still grieve for our son. My husband has set out four different food dishes within a 15 foot radius just in case it is one of those days where energy is lacking. The dishes he lovingly prepares look like charcuterie boards.
    She has two beds, one in the living room and one in the middle of the kitchen. We have learned to walk around her and her paraphernalia. When it is her time to leave, we will have more space to walk however the space she holds in our hearts will remain constant. In closing, we struggle to deny the grief we are already living with and try to allow ourselves to just hold space for our dog.

    6
  22. Phyllis Eliza Maiden  June 8, 2021 at 9:27 am Reply

    I really think you might have to let your dog go. I did it a year ago and yes, it is painful. The price we pay for love is grief.
    I held her while she went and told her I loved her to the ends of the earth. I thanked her for all the love she had given me and the comfort I had gained from her.
    Her love was unconditional as I am sure your dog’s is too.

    Dogs are not good at showing pain, but I do think if he has all these tumours things are not working right and he must be in pain.

    Be strong and remember you are doing it for him, so that he slip away with dignity.

    I feel for you and send you love from me.

    3
    • Nicky Lambert  June 8, 2021 at 12:50 pm Reply

      Dear Phyllis

      I know you probably thought you were being helpful with your comments but nobody knows Amos better than his Mum and I don’t think your observations are very helpful really. You don’t know that he’s in pain and I’m sure his Mum would know if he was.

  23. Suzanne Coronel  June 8, 2021 at 9:10 am Reply

    You will know. One day you’ll see him and just know it’s his time. It’s sad but there will be a look of yearning and understanding.

    4
  24. Maureen Mullin  June 8, 2021 at 9:01 am Reply

    I’m so sorry for what you are going through with Amos – for both of you. We went through something similar with our last two dogs. The first one, “Doc” was 14 years old, had dementia and was deaf and nearly blind. It seemed to me his quality of life had diminished to a point that it seemed cruel to continue his life. My partner, however, felt otherwise and we struggled for quite some time. When I finally convinced him that it was indeed time to let him go, we took him to a vet (unfortunately one we hadn’t seen before) and the experience was excruciating and traumatic for all 3 of us. We had a very difficult time coping with that grief, especially my other half. The next time came when our 8-year-old rescue, “Rags” developed cancer on his paw, then his side and both tumors were removed. Then the tumor came back on his paw and he would have to lose his leg in order to remove the tumor. There was a significant chance another would develop quickly elsewhere. At that point we contacted a hospice vet who came to our house, managed Rags’ pain, and helped us decide when the right time was to let him go. It was very peaceful death and we both felt as good as we could have about the decision. We miss him like crazy and I’m in tears as I write this, but I know we did right by him and that’s a totally different feeling than we had with Doc.

    We were told the same thing both times, “You’ll know when the time is right.” But the truth was, we didn’t. We needed help.

    I wish both you and Amos peace and comfort in this difficult time. One thing I’m sure of is that Amos feels your love and he knows you are doing your best for him.

    5
  25. Ann  June 8, 2021 at 7:28 am Reply

    A shorter reply than you deserve but I wanted to thank you for writing. Thank you for addressing a very real and existent struggle of love and greif all animal families have known. Counselors could not bring themselves to even validate the pain of loosing my soul mate and I’ve rarely felt comfortable expressing the associated trauma that preceeded the loss of my Oliver. I’m sorry for your struggle, for the pain you are both in and the loss you are facing. You are definitely not alone in this experience. I can only say this. He trusts you and you will and have done the very best you can. There is no one that could care for him or honor him more than you and your very best is all that is possible to give. He knows and no matter how much it all hurts, that is what matters.
    Hugs.

    2
  26. Claire Willis  June 8, 2021 at 6:45 am Reply

    I don’t know the name of the person who wrote this deeply moving article about the anticipatory grief around knowing your dog is dying. I wanted to address them directly. I was so deeply moved by it as I traveled that road last year. This is such a lonely and invisible grief as not everyone understands the complexity of this decision or the love one feels for a pet.. That decision to put Nico down is the toughest I have ever made and probably the kindest. I was fortunate in that I believe my Nico did let me know when his nasal cancer left him struggling to breathe one morning and I called the vet immediately. There are also animal intuitives who might be able to help. I just want to say that I completely get and have lived this anticipatory grief and it was excruciating. I too did not travel for a couple of years or leave him. I also want you to know that while I miss him deeply everyday, I have a new dog that I completely love so just to say there is love after love. Also this poem by Ted Kooser offered my comfort – so I am putting it in here as well. He described the nature of the loss so poignantly. I wish you clarity in your decision and the strength to walk the journey that your pooch requires.

    Death of a Dog

    The next morning I felt that our house
    had been lifted away from its foundation
    during the night, and was now adrift,
    though so heavy it drew a foot or more
    of whatever was buoying it up, not water
    but something cold and thin and clear,
    silence riffling its surface as the house
    began to turn on a strengthening current,
    leaving, taking my wife and me with it,
    and though it had never occurred
    to me until that moment, for fifteen years
    our dog had held down what we had
    by pressing his belly to the floors,
    his front paws, too, and with him gone
    the house had begun to float out onto
    emptiness, no solid ground in sight. Ted Kooser

    If I can be of support in any way, I am happy to.

    3
  27. Megan  June 8, 2021 at 6:05 am Reply

    I could’ve written this article myself. My 13 yo American Staffy is going through the exact same thing. I know her days are numbered and I continuously ask myself how will I know.
    It will be heartbreaking when she passes. My husband and I bought her when we bought our first place. My husband passed suddenly last year. When she goes it will be another link to my past that I am losing. A link to my husband. I already feel like I’ve lost so much.

    4
    • Donna Suters  June 8, 2021 at 5:07 pm Reply

      This article I could have written as well. I cried as I read it because I too am going through the very same thing right now. I felt the need to reach out to you after reading your comment. I lost my husband to stage 4 cancer 3 mos. after being diagnosed. I was sinking in grief when I lost our dog we had from a puppy 15 1/2 yrs. of the almost 20 yrs. we had been together. I lost her also to late stage cancer 1 yr. to the month of losing my husband. She was my only link left to my husband, he loved her so. . . I held her in my arms in the e.r. in a quiet room for hours until I couldn’t take seeing her suffer any longer and gave the consent for them to put her to sleep. I held her for about another hour as she laid peacefully passed away in my arms not wanting to give her lifeless body up because I knew I would never be able to touch or hold her again.
      The house had never felt so lonely so I rescued another dog, my husband would have wanted me too, he worried so much about me when he was dying. He had a small tumor on his neck that after several tests proved to be inoperable do to where it is located but by the time the tests had come back me and this dog had become so bonded with one another, there was no way I was giving him up, we would just deal with it, that was 3 yrs. ago and now it has grown very large. It is starting to cause some problems where he has had some serious issues, but has many more good days than bad. I always say he rescued me as much as I have rescued him and the thought of losing yet another very large part of my heart and life is just unbearable. My heart hurt so much when I read your comment, because I truly feel your pain and have lived it and am still living it as your are. I do not know you but feel a connection to you and will absolutely keep you in my prayers.

      1

Leave a Comment

YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED. Required fields are marked *