Two weeks ago, a dog showed up at my husband's work.  They immediately took a liking to each other.  My husband took the dog to the nearby vet, from where he thought it had escaped.  The vet claimed it was a stray and would not let them catch him.  The vet said they would keep him for 72 hours, then euthanize him.  My husband called me, clearly sad about the situation.  I told him to bring the dog home.  We haven't had a dog, since we felt like we weren't home enough for the responsibility, but we have a fenced backyard and love animals.  Maybe it was time.

The dog, Bullitt, was perfect.  Everyone remarked on how pretty he was.  He was extremely loyal to my husband, following him everywhere.  He did not care about other dogs or people, we could take him into stores and through parks without issue.  It was like he was wearing blinders and could only see my husband.

Suddenly, my husband was different.  For years my husband has been struggling with PTSD from his lengthy military career, which has manifested itself in alcoholism, lying, anger, and detachment from any meaningful relationship.  But Bullitt gave my husband purpose and hope.  He was present and active at home.  He didn't drink out of boredom, because he had things to do with his dog.  He took long bike rides with Bullitt following behind - no leash needed, because Bullitt would never let my husband out of his sight.  He took Bullitt to an overpriced vet to get the "best" service, because he cared so much about his new friend.  We treated Bullitt's worms, staph infection, and scheduled his neutering.  We took him to the groomer and got him all cleaned up.  We were so excited about him.

One problem though, was that Bullitt could easily jump our fence.  Our neighborhood street is fairly busy, because there are two large schools immediately nearby.  People speed through the neighborhood with their phones in their face.  We were afraid of Bullitt being hit by a car.  Our solution was to put Bullitt on a leash in the backyard while we were gone.  The leash worked fine while I was at work from 7:00 AM - 4:00 PM, and at nights.  We never had any serious issues, although once Bullitt did get a little tangled up in the nearby bushes.

One weekend, while my husband was out of town working, I needed to go overnight to see my family, who lived 2 hours away.  I considered what I should do with Bullitt.  I was planning to be gone for about 24 hours.  I could leave Bullitt on his leash in the backyard - we usually leash Bullitt overnight and while I am at work, so really it wouldn't be so different from a week night and work day.  Or I could board Bullitt at a vet.  But he would have to spend two nights at boarding, because their Sunday pickup time was earlier than I could make.  I could take Bullitt with me, but it is a two hour ride on bad roads, and he has a tendency to get car sick.  I could leave him off of his leash, but those speeding cars were a concern, as well as whatever havoc an intact dog would cause in a suburban neighborhood.  I took Bullitt on a long walk that morning to try and wear him out, and then put him on his backyard leash at about 4:00 PM on Saturday, before I left.  I loosened his collar, so he could slip out if he was caught in a precarious position.  I almost went nextdoor to my elderly neighbor to ask her to check on him, but thought I was overreacting.  He would be fine, he's a dog.  The weather is great.  I will be gone for 24 hours.

My trip to see family lasted longer than I expected.  I arrived home at 10:00 PM on Sunday.  I knew, all day Sunday and the entire ride home, that something was wrong.  I tore up my finger nails and was shaking on the ride home, worried sick.

I found Bullitt wrapped up in the bushes.  His leash had gotten caught on a branch.  He tried to escape by twisting around, which tightened his collar and blocked his airway.  He passed out like that, with the tightened collar, and died.  

By leaving Bullitt on his leash that day, I set him up to die.  I knew the hazards of dogs choking on non-breakway collars.  I knew he could get tangled in the bushes.  I knew I should board him.  I knew the neighbor could check on him.  But I took no precautions, and now our amazing, savior pet is gone.  

Bullit was doing so much to save my husband from the darkest reaches of PTSD, and now he is gone.  My husband can't even express his sadness.  He wants to drink beer and watch football and disassociate himself from the pain.  Recently, he has seen so many men from his old army unit take their lives to stop the pain.  The dog had stopped the pain, but now the dog is gone.  

I can't stand the guilt of what I did.  I am so sorry.  I want Bullitt back.  I want Bullitt to save my husband.

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I am deeply sorry for your loss. Bullitt is a beautiful dog. My little dog Twinky recently passed away as well. She died due to cancer and initially I doubted and blamed myself, thinking that there were things I could've done to save her or prevent it. I feel those feelings are necessary and they need to be said out loud or written out. Any guilt, doubt, or regret in your heart needs to be let out and let go. Bullitt was an amazing dog that did an amazing thing for your family. You won't forget him because he was so special. Eventually your sadness will fade into happiness because you'll realize that Bullitt had a great life he wouldn't have had if it weren't for you and your husband saving him. It's been 6 days since Twinky's passing, and though I didn't think I'd feel better any time soon, I am starting to heal and I'm feeling much better every day. I let out my guilt and now it is gone. I'm smiling at her pictures and crying tears of joy and reminiscence instead of just grieving. You were lucky to have him, just as he was lucky to have you. Focus on that and thank him everyday while you are healing. I hope doing this will help you as it has helped me. I pray for your family to heal.
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Thank you for your reply.  It feels good to say everything and be heard.  The guilt I feel is crushing, but I do feel some release in telling others.  I'm sorry that you lost your Twinky.  I hope you know that cancer can't possibly be your fault.
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