I’ve read so many of these posts trying to find some common feeling about the loss of a dog. I’ve found a lot but I’m still deeply struggling with my biggest consuming feeling.
My baby boy Bobby, a tri coloured collie cross, had to be put to sleep 3 days ago. He was 14-16 years old and in the last couple of years he started to get multiple little lumps around his body, the first was on his tail and we were so happy to find it was benign and he had the operation to have it removed and recovered perfectly. Then in the last year or two he started getting more, smaller ones, and we were told they were fatty lumps luckily. But a year ago he started having a lump protruding out of the side of his front leg; it grew a lot until the diameter looked bigger than the leg’s width. I’m someone who goes to the doctors and vets to get anything checked out with a ‘better to be safe than sorry’ attitude so with everything my dog had, we always checked it out and thankfully, it could always be fixed. We would spare no expense on him, despite not having much money, whatever he needed. We tried to test this new lump but twice the cells they extracted through a needle were inconclusive, and we were told the only next thing we could do is biopsy or just take it off, but it would obviously require surgery and him going under anaesthesia. The word cancer started being tossed around. He was 13 at this point and we knew there were much higher risks for an old dog having surgery, but was assured by the vet that if his pre-surgery blood tests to test liver function etc were fine there was no reason he wouldn’t come out fine. So one morning I dropped him off, having taken the day off work so I could dash to the vets and bring him home as soon as he was done, but only an hour later got the call that his bloods suggested his liver was failing and surgery would be very dangerous. So we lived with the lump, being told it’s hopefully benign and as long as he’s not bothered by it or has any symptoms he should just carry on as normal. But the lump kept growing and eventually his skin was stretched so much that it started to split and weep a little. We were told when it got to this point the only option we’d have is to try and keep clean for a short while before he would require the surgery no matter what, knowing he could well die on the operating table. I kept it clean and plastered it up 24/7 and somehow it paused growing and with the help of hardening the skin with silver nitrate it held steady and was fine. I’d call him ‘my little miracle’ and he was a fighter!
Then, within the last year we also noticed his legs were getting a little weaker, not too bad, but that he was getting arthritis. It was mainly his back legs, we could see it took a little more effort for him to stand up, but it didn’t seem to bother him. Then his other front leg, the one without the lump, started growing around the ankle. It felt rock hard so the vet and us put it down to calcification and arthritis. But it grew and grew and then his paw started growing too. The ankle didn’t seem to bother him, we could move it about and he didn’t care but now it was the paw that started hurting him, if we stretched it back and forth he’d wince. Once again the vet said it was arthritis. We’d put him on glucosamine and special food to help all it could. We thought that it would be this lump that would burst and be what would take him from us, but it turned out to be his other front leg.
One day on a routine check-up, the vet felt the paw and suddenly surprised us and said it was most probably a tumour. This brought back all the fears of cancer. He was limping by this point, but he was still very happy in himself, still wanting to run and chase balls and as long as we didn’t stretch his paw he would carry on as normal. Once again we were reminded that he was an old dog and probably didn’t have much time left despite whatever all of these things were going on with him, but were told again, as long as he’s happy to just keep going. Throughout the last year with the multiple other things going on with him it just became routine that I would feed him differently and work harder to get him to eat. His appetite hadn’t gone but he was being an extremely picky little thing, so first we changed him to more appetising wet food, then when he went off that, he ate ham, chicken, sardines, baby food, and still some wet dog food half the time. It was just my usual routine to have him lye on his blanket while I fed him by hand anything that he fancied until he’d had enough grams to serve him. Sometimes he wanted more and still would rarely turn down his treats. He was truly a spoilt little boy, and we were glad to do it! He was plodding along and I was doing every single thing I could for him, and he was still my happy little pup. Then 4 days ago, we took him in the car to a park. He had to jump in the car and jump out, and then he ran for sticks. At some point we noticed he wouldn’t put the paw down and put weight on it and was hopping along three legged, still trying to chase sticks though, so we hoped he had just sprained it a little while running, like many times before, and just needed to rest it, by tomorrow it would be fine. When we got home I took his little support bandage off that he’d been wearing while going out for a few months, and his leg looked bent. I felt it and it was clicking and he was in a lot of pain when I tried to move it. I knew it was broken. My dad came home and he is always very optimistic for me, so he was assuring me is wasn’t. But we got an emergency appointment at the vets within an hour and he was put in for an x-ray. It was confirmed it was broken, and all my fears were that he’d need an operation which he probably wouldn’t survive, but my optimistic dad was saying they would just put it in a cast and tell us to keep him resting it. We went to look at the x-ray and the vet seemed to take forever to get her sentences out like she didn’t want to tell us bad news. And there it was. He had bone cancer and the x-ray showed the tumour had eaten his bone inside out in his ankle and there was basically nothing there. The full brake happened just above the tumour and there was nothing they could do, no other bone for the bone to mend to. The only other option was said to be amputation but we were told his quality of life would be terrible as his other three legs weren’t the best anyway and he’d suffer a lot. The vet said then and there we have to put him to sleep and, in all his vet appointments which I always took him to where I feared the worst, I had learned to keep it together and be fairly clinical about whatever needed to be done, but in the moment when I realised what the vet was trying to tell us I completely lost it. I suffer from severe chronic anxiety anyway and so went into a panic attack through my tears. Even though I think I subconsciously knew deep down for the last year he was living on borrowed time and one of these days we would have to say goodbye, I couldn’t seem to comprehend it and just kept shaking my head through my tears to say ‘no, I will not put him to sleep’. They vet was very patient with my awkwardness and probably some degree of anger I was throwing her, but she said that he had to go and if we didn’t agree they would have to get higher up people involved because it was for his welfare. Well that hit me how serious it was. I begged to take him home and she agreed that we could have him for the night on painkillers but I would have to promise to bring him in first thing the next morning. I couldn’t make myself promise that, I was saying crazy things like I’d run away with him and he’d be fine. I’m 24 but still living at home largely because of Bob, so I’m an adult but was not handling myself very well. Luckily my mum and dad were there and promised he would be brought back tomorrow. I felt a strong sense that the emergency had been diverted, I got them to let me take him home and all was going to be well. I slept maybe 20mins that night, having him on my single bed with me, elevating his paw, and cuddling and smoothing him exactly how I knew he loved it. He was awake a lot but also slept and snored as usual and ate some food. I took photos and videos, but when it came to morning and the last hour, I was still saying no, and when reminded that the welfare would get involved I just kept saying ‘it’s not their choice, its ours, they can’t make us’, but deep down I must have known it was for him, to put him at peace, no longer suffering. So the last 20mins came before his appointment and I got up and ready, took him out to the car and got him all excited that he was going for a drive, which he loved, just ignoring the facts of where he was going.
I walked him into the vets and got him laid down on the blankets they had ready for him. I couldn’t leave. I told him he was my best friend and the best boy in the whole world, kissed his paws, ears, head a million times. Tried to get him to wag his tail one last time or give me a high five but he wouldn’t. I knew he was in a lot of pain and not happy. The vet was once again patient and let me just lye there and talk to him through my tears for a while, but when my dad, who was also losing it, tried to get me to go, the vet chimed in and said ‘it’s time’. I had to leave him. My dad had to literally drag me out the door and out of the vets. I kept pulling back to go see him again. I must have been so loud, crying and saying ‘no, I want to go back’ a million times, I had lost all control. My dad had told me, having had other dogs, that I wouldn’t want to see him go and the injection being given, that we should leave and say goodbye, and the vet does it when we’re gone. That I should remember him how he was. I had done my internet research and learned that they may urinate as their muscles relax while being put to sleep and may twitch etc and I wouldn’t want to see that. But in these days that pass now I feel I will forever regret not being there for him. Not holding him and talking to him in the final moments. I read that’s it’s my last duty as a loyal owner. I know that’s not always true, and if I was upset in the room it would make him upset and maybe suffer, so considering how distraught I was I know it was a good thing, but I just hope he wasn’t wanting us there and that it happened fast and peacefully. His little face watching us go out the door and looking at us like ‘where are you going?’ is imprinted in my mind. As he got older he didn’t mind the vets, he must have learnt that we took him there when he didn’t feel good, they’d fix him and we’d always come and get him and bring him back home after, all better. I hope he was thinking that at the time, with the pain he was feeling, we brought him there to be fixed so he wasn’t scared, and he wouldn’t have known anything after that.
The rest of that day went in waves; I would go from losing it, to cuddling in bed watching TV to keep my mind off of it, to losing it again. I had a few more panic attacks, and going up to bed without letting him out in the garden for his business and bringing him up to bed with me killed me. The next day I slept most of the day and was wondering why I wasn’t feeling much. I don’t know whether its numbness, that I’m all cried out (because boy did I cry probably to dehydration that day!) or whether it was because I stayed in my room most of the day and for all I knew he was just downstairs sleeping. I wasn’t walking around the empty, silent house bathing in him not being there. But day three I felt more than ever that I couldn’t remember his face anymore and wasn’t feeling as much as I should, and now day four, I can’t understand it. I’m being told that I have just accepted it and know that he needed to be set free from suffering, that’s why I seem more ok than I should be. It seems ridiculously too soon. No one should ever get me wrong, that boy was my heart, my soul, the love of my life and as we both got older I just loved him more and more and couldn’t have felt more love for him. I find at some times I look at photos already and am finding it hard to connect and remember the touch of him, or looking in his live eyes. I don’t understand this. My dad is still having bursts of tears and getting choked up, maybe because he’s out at work all day (my health doesn’t permit much work for me at the moment) and distracted from it, and only feels it when he comes home, whereas I’m at home most of the time, soaking it all in much sooner. I don’t know, but I feel so guilty at how I’m feeling. I miss him so much and want more than anything to see him in his spots around the house and cuddle him and play with him, but it also doesn’t necessarily get me too upset everytime, BUT IT’S BEEN FOUR DAYS! It makes no sense! I’m also on antidepressants anyway, and I’m wondering if they are blocking it for me, that’s why.
Has anyone else felt this? I feel abnormal and so guilty!
Thanks for letting me share Bob’s story, it feels therapeutic to write about him.