I'm absolutely heartbroken and so afraid it won't get better.  I lost my Zoe yesterday.  She was a 14.5 year old dachshund and my soul mate.  We had been fighting what we thought was a respiratory infection for several months.  We tried various treatments and they seemed to be getting better but never completely disappearing.  Finally, last Wednesday, she wouldn't eat anything.  I wasn't initially concerned because she would do this occasionally.  We went to the doctor Friday morning and she was given another shot, medications and a nutritional supplement until her appetite came back.  She had no response and still wasn't eating.  Saturday night and Sunday she even seemed worse.  By 2:00 Monday morning, I was scared.  She was so lethargic and had been taking rapid shallow breaths for hours.  She did give me kisses and drink some water then.  I layed her back down with me and prayed she would be better in a few hours.  Monday she wagged her tail and seemed maybe a little more alert, but I called the vet and was told to bring her back in (not enough improvement and still wasn't eating).  It was a busy day and we sat in the waiting room for over an hour.  She was lethargic and her breathing still labored but I still never thought for a minute that I would come home without her.  We finally went to the back and they did a chest x-ray.  This confirmed a tumor in her lungs and she only had use of 25%.  I was told this would get worse and she would eventually suffocate.  He said he could try a steroid shot and I could take her home for a day or two, but she could get to a point of not being able to breathe.  I knew I didn't want her to suffer like that.  I made the decision to let her go.  The vet asked if I wanted to take her home first to discuss it with my family - she IS my family was my only thought.  I feel so bad that I spent the last few days forcing liquid food and meds down her that she wouldn't even give me kisses in the end.  I would try to give her kisses and it was like she couldn't see me (almost looked past me).  I also feel horrible that I scheduled to take "mom and Zoe" pictures this coming weekend, but I waited too long.  I wanted to do DNA jewelry, but didn't manage that either.  Why did I put these things off?  Does she know I loved her and didn't want her to suffer?  I feel like it's my fault she's gone and I won't ever get over this.  I have 3 other dachshund girls at home that need me, but I feel like a tiny piece of my soul is gone forever. 

Carrie A. Bryant
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I am so sorry for your loss and all that you've gone through.  I understand completely as I lost my Ally to lung cancer on August 7th.  She was 13 years old.  I went through almost the exact same scenario as you did with Zoe, except that we initially thought Ally's loss of appetite and other small behavior changes were due to the pancreatitis that she battled for the past year.  Ally's initial symptoms were not that alarming.  We tried medications, appetite stimulants and so many different types of food to try to get her to eat that I can't remember them all.  Other than the lack of appetite, she seemed okay until the last few days when the fluid began filling in her chest and putting pressure on her lungs and making it difficult for her to breathe.  We did an ultrasound the day before she passed and that's when we knew for certain that she had lung cancer.  The lobe with the tumor had completely collapsed around the tumor.  They removed some of the fluid from her chest, but even that didn't ease her breathing.  I did the same thing you did - her last days I was trying to feed her liquid food with a syringe just trying to get some nutrition in her and forcing pills down her.  Poor thing just didn't want food anymore.

We were told that she could live for a few more days on her own, but like Zoe, she would eventually not be able to breathe and would go into respiratory distress and we would have to be prepared to get her to the closest emergency facility if it happened in the middle of the night.  We just couldn't bear the thought of her suffering like that just so we could have more time with her and made the decision to let her pass.  I was devastated and still am.  The day before we had to let her go, I took her to a specialist and I honestly had no idea she was so critical.  Unfortunately, I've lost two other dogs to cancer and it was totally different with them.  Their symptoms were obvious and I knew they were dying.  Ally's death was shocking to me which I believe made her passing so much more difficult to come to terms with.

If you don't mind me asking, did Zoe have an occasional cough?  Ally did, but we thought that was due to her soft trachea, but it turns out that is a main symptom of lung cancer in dogs.

It's not your fault that she's gone.  You did absolutely everything you could for Zoe and she knows that you were trying to help her.  She knows you loved her and still do and she knows that you were there with her and did everything possible to make her feel better.  I truly believe they knew, even when we were force feeding them, that it was because we loved them and we were trying to help them.

Ally took a big piece of my heart with her when she died that will never be replaced and I can tell it's the same for you.  I promise in time it will get better, but it takes a lot of time when they are as special as Zoe and Ally.  Maybe they have found each other at the Rainbow Bridge and have become friends.

You and Zoe are in my thoughts and prayers.

Ally's Mom - Karen
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Hi Karen:

First of all, I'm so sorry about Ally.  It sounds like you had the same kind of connection with her that I did with Zoe.  Thank you so much for the replay.  It helps a lot.

Wow, I can't believe how similar your story is to mine!  Yes, she was coughing.  That was her main symptom.  We started out almost with a sinus type infection and then things seemed to move into her lungs.  We never could get completely over whatever was bothing her.  We had battled this for several months, but I really had no idea how critical she was until the middle of last week.  I mean, she was still running two weeks ago (well, as much a lady that age can)!  Just thought it was a cough/cold we couldn't quite shake.

One of the other things that convinced me to go ahead and put her to sleep was that I live in a rural area with no emergency vet.  Our main vet says you can call them after hours, but was really too afraid to risk a traumatic event for her.  Bringing her home for a day or two for my closure seemed to risky for her so I didn't want to take that chance.

I hope Zoe did find Ally at the bridge!  It sounds like they have a lot to talk about.

Thanks again,

Carrie A. Bryant
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I am so sorry for your loss. Almost 3 months ago I lost my cat of 16 years, she meant everything to me. That heart wrenching pain delivers a blow you never anticipated. Making that decision to send them to sleep is hard, being their with them in their final moments is even harder. Sometimes now when I close my eyes I still see her and it still hurts. We allow these precious creatures into our hearts, they are us and we are them. Unique in their own way and an instant member of our family. What feels like an eternity, years of joy and happiness is over before we know it and we are left with what's next? What does come next, maybe at the moment you're not too sure but don't be too hard on yourself. Someone told me grief is the price we pay for love and we can never have enough time with the ones we love. Someone one also told me that our loved ones deserve more than an easy mourning period. After all, without realising we gave our hearts to them. You know it's funny that a person can learn a lot from an animal, we learn the significance of simples things, the importance of enjoying life and living each day, stress free, at one with the world. Most importantly we learn about bravery and adversity in the face of pain. And how the gift of life is immensely precious. My cat saved our family, she really did. She taught us all something different and we shall always miss her. I'm sure you will, too.
I think most importantly they teach us about love, loyalty, life and everything inbetween. It's quite extraordinary actually. An animal has no care if you're rich or poor. Educated or illiterate, give it your heart and it shall give you theirs.
I used to hate it when people said to me 'it gets better, time heals all wounds'. You feel like telling them to shut up, like they could ever understand the enormity or your pain and the continuity of your grief. But it does get better. One day you will smile, then you'll probably cry, but you will smile when you think of them. When you look at a precious photograph or recall something goofy they did. When you imagine them sitting in a shaft of sunlight in their favourite spot in the garden.
And you'll thank them for coming into your life and making you feel so blessed.
I personally made a scrap book, and now I look it and I'm filled with love and joy. With pride and honour. Maybe you should do the same, or perhaps write a letter to them or even their life story, when you're ready of course. You may find once you start writing you will unlock a library of memories and yes the tears will flow but so will laughter. And you can finally tell your angels everything you always wanted to.
Whatever you do, be kind to yourself and know that it takes time.

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