My Dog is Dying . . .

Coping with Grief / Coping with Grief : Litsa

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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.

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

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  1. Robyn K  May 27, 2024 at 5:34 am Reply

    my 17.5 year old Maltese, who is my reason for getting ip every day, is my joy, my meaning in life… just growing older. he has nothing wrong with him except sarcopenia, frailty and “old age”. The anticipatory grief is cruel. i watched my darling Mum die 6 years ago, and this brings all that back plus more. This is MY BOY, my 24/7. i really don’t know how I can go on without him, but I know he cant be here forever. Like you, I have searched for thoughts and experiences from others and this helped me so much. My beautiful boy is still here, and has the life of a king just as he deserves, and I really don’t know if I can go on without him when the time comes. it is just heartbreaking.

  2. Lisa  April 26, 2024 at 5:18 am Reply

    My goodness, how perfectly you put it and all so sadly relatable, I am in your shoes right now, 14 year old cocker who I was told was dying of kidney failure 6 weeks ago and was also told ‘he’ll let you know when it’s time’.
    He does the same, one day can’t get off his bed to say hello, won’t eat food, next day bouncing about like a baby and is chasing the last crumb around his bowl.
    Is that normal? Is he really dying? Did the vet get it wrong?
    I have also cancelled all travel plans as the immediate future is so uncertain.
    The good days/bad days is my only measure and to believe he is not in pain.
    All we can do is make the most of the precious times we have left

    • Litsa  April 26, 2024 at 6:58 am Reply

      Ah I am so sorry – it is such a hard and uncertain time– ❤️ I am sending so many good thought to you and your put.

  3. Norene  July 31, 2023 at 4:53 am Reply

    Oh my goodness I could never find anything on the internet exactly what you were looking for. I tried and tried and just gave up then I found your article. I am in the same place as you were. I think my dog Ivory’s mammary cancer is further along than maybe your pup was when you wrote this, and it has spread throughout that part of her body. Ivory is a smaller beautiful, loving, white/beige Lab and will be 7 yrs at the end of next month. Her mammary area is bright red, raw and bleeds. I watch her constantly as she lays on my bed. I give her small meals throughout the day as well as her regular dinner. I can see now her legs are swollen in the back and she has blisters too, tonight I notice one is black. She does not walk much mostly lays around but still uses the dog door. She is always panting because the cancer makes her body hot. I have decided to have a vet come to my home in a few days to help her pass over. I don’t know how much she is suffering, they say mammary cancer is not painful I don’t know. I give her meds around the clock. I hope my decision is right one day I think it is and the next day I think it is too early. I have not slept well for months and now I am getting panic attacks the other day was the worse one. I am trying to be strong for my baby girl but sometimes she see me cry. Thank you for writing this article and letting me write a book! Take care by now you may have another pup. I am a senior with Fibromyalgia so I don’t know if I could handle a puppy. I know it will be a long time if I do decide to get another dog.

  4. kara  October 21, 2022 at 7:17 pm Reply

    I’ve always believed I’d rather do it a day to soon rather than a day to late and that is being put to the test now. There is no one thing I can point to my dog and say “It’s time” He’s not terminally ill but his hips are struggling. We can and do manage it but it seems miserable and he’s needing more and more help. He’s eating but not anything like he used to. He drinks water and seems relatively hydrated. He’s generally happy until bedtime when he’s an anxious mess (The most solvable of the 3) .

    And I know things aren’t gonna ever improve from here. He loved training but he’s lost most of his hearing and honestly his body wouldn’t physically allow it. He still likes treats but not as much as he did. He’s never cared for toys.

    I can’t point to any one thing but something in me tells me to talk to my vet. I’m working on accepting he may not come home.

  5. Jennifer Baranowsky  October 16, 2022 at 1:26 am Reply

    A lot of this article describes my situation with Bruno. Bruno is my bff (best fur friend). He’s a white pitbull/heeler. With black eye patch. Bruno is 16 now, almost 16.5 years.
    He is not dying of cancer though he does have some slow growing skin cancer, and hymangio sarcoma that’s growing on his eye and bleeds, but does not cause pain. He’s an old old man whose only reason for living is me. You see, when he was about 10 I begged him to live forever. I guess he is trying to please me.
    However, I didn’t realize what having a geriatric dog would mean for my life. He has nerve damage in his spine from valley fever years ago. Yet now it affects his ability to poop by squatting, so he prefers to walk and poop…often times in the house. So, now he’s wearing diapers. Sometimes. Not all the time. Also, I went out of town for a week, and he all but gave up doing anything. My family texted me daily saying it was his time to go. Yet, when I arrive home, he “runs” to greet me, he still wants to walk even though his back paws drag their knuckles (i bought dog boots for him), he still likes treats.
    He is losing his hearing, and his eye sight is dimming, his body has little skin tags, lipomas, and sebaceous lumps, his breath is awful (he’s too old to get his teeth cleaned again), and his eye tumor bleeds. He’s a crusty old man, it’s true. But I don’t think he’s in pain. He takes rimadyl for inflammation, apparel for his allergies, enalapril for something else, fish oil for heart heath, Cosequin for joint health, and a liver supplement. A typical geriatric person…meds and vitamins in the am and pm. I attribute his long life to his very high quality dog food and supplements and great vet care. So, now I’m struggling with killing him. I don’t want to kill my dog. I just want him to go to sleep and not wake up, and I’ve told him that so many times….but still he lives on. And my family keeps nagging me about “putting him down”. Oh, killing my dog. How does one kill their bff when they aren’t dying or in much pain? He’s just old, crusty, and his legs are failing. Otherwise, he acts so happy…as long as I’m home with him.

    • Robyn K  May 27, 2024 at 9:29 am Reply

      growing old and frail is not a disease and its no reason to be killed. Good on you for standing firm. A Chiro/osteopath may help with his hips. i have one for my 17.5 y.o. Maltese and its like magic. A heat blanket oh his hip may help at night also. I bought [product marketing removed by admin] (tryptophan supplement) Its awesome for nightime anxiety. Treasure every minute you have left together. Its heartbreaking, I know.

  6. Rose  October 8, 2022 at 9:29 am Reply

    Thank you for this. I found this looking for advice on how to cope with anticipatory grief. My dog has gotten small abnormal growths all over his body & head since he was about 8 yo, & some are now blocking off air flow through his nose. He has to mouth breath, which dogs don’t do well while they sleep, so he doesn’t sleep much anymore. He also gets nose bleeds and congestion from it.

    The treatments are too invasive and expensive, risk of recurrence too high, and my dog is already too old (11) for it to make sense to treat. So I too am trying to figure out when his discomfort outweighs the joy he still has, and it’s wrecking me. When he’s active & panting, you’d never know he is sick. He is alert, has a gorgeous coat, is muscular, and moves like young guy. But, he can only be active in short bursts and once he tries to relax like all old dogs want to, he struggles so bad and it’s heartbreaking to witness.

    I too have been told by almost everyone who has had to put a dog down that “I’ll just know”, but then have also heard the stories of people realizing later that they waited too long. His highs and lows are drastic, occurring multiple times in the same day, so it all blends together and feels like grey area. I too am afraid I’m going to miss “the sign”. I too wish he could just talk to me. I wish I could stop being so sad when I’m around him. I know I should be happy, but every interaction is tainted with the knowledge that they are coming to an end soon.

  7. Kristine  August 29, 2022 at 2:50 pm Reply

    I found this article because I googled “my dog is dying of cancer and I can’t function today.” We got Chloe as a puppy from a local shelter two weeks after losing our beloved 13-year-old black lab, Zak, to heart failure in 2010. She has been my loyal companion and protector for 12 years. After having a fantastic yearly exam in February, my husband discovered a tumor in her mouth last week. The vet scheduled surgery to remove it, did blood work, and took X-rays. The X-rays showed some darker areas in her lungs, but the blood work was excellent and the vet was very hopeful it was localized. Today I got the news that it is an aggressive form of melanoma that spreads quickly and is likely responsible for the spots in her lungs. She has only a few months left, if we are lucky. My dog has gone from perfectly healthy to dying in what seems like a heartbeat, and I am devastated. She is blissfully unaware and I am determined to keep her happy and comfortable as long as I can, but my whole family is just devasted by this news. It helps to read the comments of those who have been where we are now. Thank you to all who have shared their stories. It honestly makes me feel better knowing that there are others out there who share this difficult part of my dog’s and my family’s journey.

  8. Jessica  July 2, 2022 at 3:07 pm Reply

    Litsa, I have just come across this article, which is now over a year old. I am so sorry for what I have learned about your story. My heart goes out to you. Thank you for sharing your story.

    I discovered a little lump in my lovely dog, Lilli’s mouth at the end of January and took her to the vet, who said that three of her back teeth needed extraction and that she had cancer (though by the end of the examination, she admitted she wasn’t sure).

    Given that her teeth had been pretty much exceptional due to things I had been doing, this came as a shock. I had also noticed that her scent was changing (which, it turned out, was due to the start of an infection, which the vet missed completely). The only thing that seem important to the vet was the $1800+ that the operation would cost, with an assurance that her life would not be lengthened as a result.

    So, I immediately began a new regimen, which included adding new supplements to her diet. Sure enough, though, the infection became full-blown within a very few days and I set about treating it – the smell was just awful!)

    When I had brought the infection under control, I found a new vet and took Lilli in to see her. The whole clinic was wonderful. She was given antibiotics to help complete the infection-healing process, as well as a painkiller. The vet confirmed that she did, indeed, have a rapidly-metastasizing cancer, which I pretty much knew by then.

    I was so shocked by the first diagnosis and the way in which I was rushed out of the clinic with no chance to discuss anything. I was so shocked that my lively, bright, intelligent, active companion, who had been walking with me daily from one to two hours at a time, was actually so ill!

    I had been quite meticulous and dedicated in caring for her throughout her life; I made her food because of all her sensitivities, found her good supplements, and made sure she had her treats (which were actually further dietary supplements) and I was so sure she would have a long life with us. I couldn’t help but wonder what I had done wrong!

    We finally decided on euthanasia, when her mouth tumor started bleeding all the time. That was less than a week from our last vet visit (in March). She was at home with us, in our bed – one of her very favorite spots – when her end came. She had been feasting on the dried liver treats the vet had brought and she went easily, a month before her 13th birthday. We continued to feel and hear her presence for at least two weeks after she was gone, especially her “oomph,” her way of telling us she loved us too.

    Lilli was the centre of my life and so much of what I did included her: learning to play the lyre and harp, she was my audience, walking in the wooded areas taking photos, she was my companion, and on and on. For a dog who hated being wet, she had no qualms about getting drenched at the beach…

    I am grateful that hers was not a lingering death, I suppose, but it is no easier even when it is so quick. I miss her every day and my heart is still filled with grief.

  9. Joyce Russum  June 22, 2022 at 2:35 pm Reply

    I just learned my Llahsapoo of 14 years I’d dying of Kidney failure
    Today my grief begins

    • Kim C  July 20, 2022 at 5:42 pm Reply

      Found the same this week for my 16 year old Chi, Chico. The deviation is intense.

  10. Tina  April 2, 2022 at 11:48 pm Reply

    My dog was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer six days ago. He is a 12 1/2-year-old lab mix. He has arthritis and three months ago for the first time again a few weeks ago he had what appeared to be pancreatitis, but we now know that it is cancer. He wants to be close to us, and surprisingly he wants to play, but then he’ll suddenly stop because it hurts. Mostly he’s ok for now, but I know that it won’t last too long. The vet has given us nausea and vomiting meds for when he has another attack, but eventually, they will become more frequent, or he’ll stop wanting to eat, move, or do any number of things. So I just watch him every day and so far he just wags his tail happy to see me like always, but I think part of him knows that something is wrong, and I know he is dying. I know that in a few weeks or months, however fast and aggressive the cancer is, I will have to say goodbye to the best friend I have ever had. I am a survivor of multiple incidents of trauma, stemming from childhood into my adulthood. My dog was my protector and helped me heal. I also really figured out adult life with him. I got him at age 24. It was just me and him against the world. I now have a younger dog and a great boyfriend and my life is in a much better place but the way I feel about my dog, I can’t even explain. He is the most important thing in the world to me. On one hand, I knew logically that roughly around this time of my life he would likely reach the end of his. But now that it is here I just don’t know what to do. I’ve had many terrible things happen to me in my life, but this is the most devastating thing I’ve ever experienced. I know that I will be ok too in the end and it is probably because he allowed me to be better than I was. My younger dog has had a better life than the older dog because the older dog brought me to where I am now. I just want to make his remaining days the best they can be.

  11. leaf  March 22, 2022 at 7:09 pm Reply

    thank you. i wanted to get some sort of comfort or knowledge by googling, and all i found were guides on how to know when they are. it’s more than evident my partner is dying. thank you. may all of your companions rest well.

  12. Krysta SD  March 18, 2022 at 3:14 am Reply

    Reading through the comments and I just wanted to say that regardless of when we chose to let them go there will always be regret… It was too soon, it was too late. “Did I do the right thing?” is always on our minds when we literally decide the death of our furry friends. That’s a sign we loved them very, very much.

    My 13 yer old dog has cancer, I’ve decided not to treat it, but to keep him comfortable as soon as he shows signs of discomfort. I found out one month ago, and since then I’ve found 2 more lumps that have grown (I’m talking like 2 inches). I’m going on a trip in 3 days for 3 weeks. I’m absolutely terrified he’s going to take a sudden, sharp decline while I’m gone and I won’t be able to hold him in the days before or god forbid the day of. If I get the call, I’ll return, but what if I’m too late? Regardless I’ll regret not spending time with him while I could. On the other hand, He may be perfectly fine, and live for another 6+ months. I haven’t seen my boyfriend of 2 years in 4 months, and if I don’t go now it’ll be another 3 before I can go, and if my pup is still with me I’ll be even more afraid to go at that time. Ugh. Sorry, Just been down the rabbit hole obsessing over this.

  13. Lily  March 13, 2022 at 12:49 pm Reply

    Thank you for writing this. Today I find myself where you were just a few short months ago.
    3 weeks ago, my beautiful 4-year-old Alaskan Malamute climbed up into bed with me. Her breath was astonishingly terrible, I had never smelled anything so rancid. The next morning I scheduled a dental cleaning to get that bad breath rectified. I took her in to get her teeth cleaned. But when I went in to pick her up after the dental cleaning, my whole world was turned Topsy turvy with the news that I wasn’t prepared to receive. She has massive tumors through her mouth, jaw, tongue and throat. My mind remembers that moment in a fog, just random words, cancer aggressive terminal.
    We went back in last week for a follow-up. Vixen has squamous cell carcinoma, it is very advanced and very aggressive. There is no treatment available that would even have a chance at saving her life. Her doctor believes that she will be with me for less than 2 months.
    I sit here now struggling with HOW? WHY? Why didn’t I see any symptoms of such an aggressive cancer? She’s only 4 years old.
    I’m trying to process the shock and the grief, but then she will perk up and her eyes shine and I go straight back into denial.
    I don’t know how we will ever get through this.

  14. Shreya Jolly  March 12, 2022 at 12:59 pm Reply

    So sorry to hear about this! My dog’s name is Pepper. He is a 12 year old daschund. He had swallowed these needles (2-3 small ones) from the trash can and from tearing the sopha and furniture at our home. He is currently on antibiotics fighting the infection. We are hoping to get some response from him. As of now he is barely moving. But we are still hopeful because his heart rate is normal. I am really hoping he makes it 🙁

  15. Sona Nongmeikapam  February 26, 2022 at 1:11 pm Reply

    Reading this is making me cry so much as I am going through something similar. My 12 year old pug has been diagnosed with cancer too. We have passed so many hurdles that life kept throwing towards us. He was diagnosed with hip dysplasia in 2014, and as the condition worsened, we have been expressing his bladder since 2018. Now life is putting us through another test and I hope we can get through it again, though it is like asking for the impossible.

    Reading the comments of other pet parents makes me feel a little stronger. I pray for each and everyone of us that we can all make the right decisions for our babies.

  16. Denise Foster  January 25, 2022 at 1:14 pm Reply

    I am heartbroken. My 14 year old lab/Shepard was put to sleep last night. On my way home from a 12 Hr shift, my husband told me Lucky wasn’t doing good. I could hear her moans of pain in the background. My husband said she vomited earlier in the day and was now panting and shaking, We carried her out the door using her doggie bed as a gueney.

    A trip to the emergency vet last night revealed perforated colon, free fluid in the abdominal cavity, nodules in her lungs and elevated temp. It was time. But doesn’t make my heartache any better.

    You see, she was my best friend. I rescued her when she was about a year old. She had been run over in the parking lot where I worked. Carried to the vet and diagnosed with a fractured pelvis. Despite efforts trying to find the owners, I rescued her from euthanasia then, named her lucky, paid the bill, took her home and rehabbed her back to health.

    Last year in oct, she had a large soft tissue carcinoma removed from her right hind leg. Just a month later, I was also diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer that had spread to my lungs. For this reason, I could not afford it chemo and radiation for her. Just remove her tumor and hope for the best. It hadn’t spread in her body. She did well after her surgery after a minor hiccup in the beginning. She was running and playing again

    Fast forward to nov 2021. Her tumor returned In same location. Now I have come to terms with my own terminal cancer, I opted to have the tumor removed again. But, this time like me start her on chemo pills. My buddy in the cancer journey went downhill quickly after being in the new med regiment for less that a month, losing her balance, her hair, her weight. I expected fatigue and hair loss, like myself.

    Her lab work in October rivaled any dog half her age and now she was dying and I had to let her go. I stayed by her side comforting her and rubbing her face as she liked while lying in her bed. The lethal administration was injected and she was gone. It was time. But I still wasn’t ready. I dreaded this day, this decision. My heart is shattered and my 4 year old blue heeler rescue dog that we have had for 3 years is also grieving. Before we took Lucky away last night, he laid beside her and whined when we went out the door.

    Last night at midnight, we returned with Luckys bed, but sadly without my best fur friend. He sniffs her bed and lays down at the front door looking out and cries. He is lost without her too. I just want to lay with her, rub her face and pet her pretty brindle coat and look into her soft brown eyes and get her sweet gentle kisses in return. I miss my sweet pretty girl

    • Kristy Heathcoat  December 7, 2022 at 5:54 pm Reply

      My family and I are so heart broken. Our 16 year old dog is dying of kidney failure. He can’t walk, drink or eat on his own. His name is Benny. White, Curley hair Maltese poodle mix. Just a month ago he would walk and eat on his own. He’s blind but he would still bark for food from time to time. Wag his tail while greeting you.

      Lately, he would throw up every time he ate. Shaking 24/7. So my dad and I keep him wrapped up in a blanket on his bed in my room. We have to help him eat and drink but sometimes he don’t want it. Finally my dad took him in and was told about the kidney failure and he’s at the end of his life now and can go any minute.

      All the while we’re supposed to be moving in a month! And I have to work??? I feel like I can’t concentrate on my job right now when my dog is in his last few days and we have to be out of the house sooner than later. I’m gonna have to talk to someone about having time off work for a while.

      Everyone has been saying goodbye. My dad and I can’t stop holding him and crying.. this is just so heartbreaking. He was our best friend. And he’s leaving and crossing over to the rainbow bridge soon. Our hearts hurt. We have other pets as well and one is always close to him now. Like he knows he’s going soon. 🙁

  17. Ryan  January 2, 2022 at 11:55 pm Reply

    I had put my 10 year old Doberman down at the vet today he hadn’t touched his food in 3 days and had labored breathing. The vet told me he possibly had lymphoma and he was most likely suffering, but as I watched him take his last breath and even now as I read this I’m not sure if I had made the right decision. Maybe he was just sick and in a few days he would’ve gotten better I feel so awful crying for the past 12 hours and contemplating on if I had made the right decision, I just want to lay with and spend time with my best friend again.

    • Litsa  January 4, 2022 at 12:38 pm Reply

      Oh Ryan, I am so sorry. It is so hard to know what and when the right thing to do is. I do think that vets see animals day in and day out, which gives them a very good sense of the difference between something that is serious vs something that isn’t. In my experience if a vet thinks there is hope for an animal without suffering they will encourage treatment and if they don’t they are then honest about that. It is so hard when we can never know for sure, but it sounds like you make the decision to was following the expert’s advice and that had the comfort and love for you dog at the center. I think there will always be doubts and questioning in a situation where there are unknowns, but I hope there is some comfort knowing that you make the compassionate decision based on the information you knew. I am so incredibly sorry – pets are family and losing them is devasting.

      • Conner Green  January 14, 2022 at 11:33 pm

        My dog is named Chipper. She’s a Jack Russell Terrier. My family had her since I was little. I grew up with Chipper. She should be about 18 years old. She’s old, she’s stubborn, she’s a fighter and she’s the best and only dog I ever had.
        In a few days, she’s going to be put to sleep. My family and I saw the signs. We knew it was going to happen. I knew it was going happen. But it doesn’t make it better. At the end of it all, I am going to lose a family member. I’ve been devastated and crying nonstop at the moment and I don’t how I’ll act when time comes.

    • Dawn David  January 4, 2022 at 12:57 pm Reply

      Ryan, I am so sorry for your loss. It’s a terrible decision to make, but i know you were thinking of what was right for your best friend. That’s all we can do. We had the vet to your house to euthanize our gsd on new years. It was awful, but I try to remember this was for my boy and was best for him. He had thyroid cancer, and could not eat or breath very well.

      Take care and try not too be hard on yourself.

  18. Dawn David  December 23, 2021 at 10:50 am Reply

    We adopted Dutch on 2014 from the local pound. He was severely underweight for a GSD. He became my dog, always with me, always checking on me. We noticed he slowed down since Sept-Oct. He went in for his check up in Oct. We thought he was just getting older. We took him Monday and he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. They prognosis is grim. The vet sent home steroids, meds for nausea, and something to increase his appetite. We grieve knowing he won’t be here next year, but we try to spend time with him doing the things he loves. He’s been my constant companion,and I can’t imagine life without him. My husband is devastated and we try to comfort each others. Last night he told me he wished we didn’t know. I dont know how I feel about that. I hate this limbo,but it least we still have him for now.

  19. Connor Ryan  December 6, 2021 at 3:45 am Reply

    Thank you for this thank you so much

  20. Claire Willis  September 15, 2021 at 8:34 am Reply

    Karen – What a difficult moment this must have been and then to now question your decision. as hard as it is to be without your cat, it certainly sounds like you did the very kindest thing given all the assessments of your vets. I hope you can find some solace in knowing that.

  21. Karen Rice  September 14, 2021 at 9:47 pm Reply

    Recently had to put my 16 year old Sphynx cat down. I regret my decision. I had been to the cat vet on Friday. He did have epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease but had made it pretty well for many years. But on his spine, he developed a strange tumor. The vet watched it,even took a sample and felt it was a fatty tumor. Fast forward three months. Vet saw the tumor and didn’t like the aggressive way it had grown. Also took an X-ray and found his front leg at the joint had bone was disentrigrating. She felt long term it might be osteosarcoma but hadn’t diagnosed by pathology. On Sunday I felt my cat was not using the cat box so into the emergency vet we went. My poor boy was put down by my choice based on what my regular vet suspected. The emergency vet was great and felt he was very uncomfortable from the tumor digging into the spine. I made the choice to put him down. I miss him so much and can’t bring him back. I try to look at the side that it was probably inevitable but just find it hard to accept his death. He fought them putting the cannula into his leg to euthanize. I now feel he wasn’t ready to die. I can’t go back and regret my timing.

    • Alecia R  September 22, 2021 at 12:38 pm Reply

      So crazy how this story resonates with what I just went through with my 13 year old chihuahua who had congestive heart failure and lung failure. I had her from 8 years old to 21 years old, my childhood to adulthood best friend who I got to experience every milestone and heartache with. She was (still is) my ENTIRE world. She crossed the rainbow bridge a few days ago and I’m doing everything I can to survive this experience. She never showed “signs” she just had the good and bad days but the good days always overruled the bad but now I’m just happy to know that she will never have a bad day again….

  22. Claire Willis  July 28, 2021 at 1:46 pm Reply

    Anne – I have struggled with this decision in a very similar situation a couple of years ago. Its always too early until its too late. After my dog died, I let the other one sniff the dead body and she managed with out his sister but she clung to me for a very long time. If you have the vet come to the house which can be such a sweet unstressful way for your little one to go, I would just urge you to try to stay ahead of the suffering which can be such a difficult but sometimes the kindest thing to do.

    I wish you blessings on this journey. I found that the time before when I was facing into it was the most difficult. I hope you find peace in your grief after it is over knowing you made the right decision at the right time.

  23. Ann Wilson  July 27, 2021 at 8:37 pm Reply

    My best boy Button developed diabetes suddenly in February. By May cataracts had taken his sight despite weekly visits to the vet and a change of surgery for a second opinion on treatment as his blood sugars have not been stabilised. The vet has changed his insulin regime several times but nothing is working to bring his sugar levels down. He now has a heart problem and apparently his kidneys, liver and spleen are enlarged. He’s ‘only’ 10. I thought he’d be with me for another 5 or 6 years. He’s like my shadow and is never far from my side and has been my saving grace through so many difficult times. The vet now says he’s on palliative care. For how long I don’t know but his condition seems to be deteriorating so fast and he’s lost so much weight and condition. I know I have to do what’s right for him but my heart is breaking. He has a ‘sister’ who has never been separated from him. She’s going to be so lonely without him but we’ll get through it together somehow…we’ll just have to when the time comes. I need to speak with the vet about his coming to the house when we need him to but I’ve done this before with my other dogs and I don’t know how I’ll face it again…so I’m for now trying to pretend he still has time left with us.

  24. 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. 🐾❤️

  25. 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.


  26. 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.

  27. 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.
    Mike Donoghue.

  28. 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.

    • Cat Parke  October 8, 2021 at 7:22 pm Reply

      Just reading this a day after we had to put our little cat Natasha down. She was nearly 17 and had kidney disease. What you said about “the light in their eyes goes out” really resonated. We could see Natasha’s spark was gone and knew it was time to say goodbye.

  29. 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

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

    • Cat Parke  October 8, 2021 at 7:24 pm Reply

      Beautiful quote. Thank you.

  32. 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.

  33. 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😥

  34. 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, Thinking of you ~ Marty T ♥

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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

  39. 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.

  40. 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 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):

    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:

    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:

    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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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.

    • 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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.

    • 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.


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