This Sunday I lost my baby boy Winston. He was a Shetland Sheepdog that was with us for 12 years. In 2014 on the eve of New Year’s Eve my poor baby had a stroke and after 7 days in the ICU we found out he had Cushing’s disease and that it was caused by a tumor on the adrenal gland. We had an option of doing surgery to remove the tumor but the surgery is a very difficult one of which 40-50% of patients don’t survive. At the time we decided against the surgery because of the odds and we were told we could manage the disease with medication and if it became a point where it was life or death we would take the risk later instead of possibly letting my dog die prematurely. The vet said he would have 18- 24 months at least. About a month ago Winston started to have seizures and afterwards had difficulty eating. His jaw just wouldn’t function right and he couldn’t swallow. We did a number of tests and there was nothing physically wrong with his jaw or throat and a neurologist saw him and thought that it was a neurological problem and thought it might help if we put him on some seizure medications as well as some homeopathic drugs for pain. He was okay for about three weeks and then it went downhill fast. He started to refuse to eat and that’s when we took him in for an MRI and found out he had a brain tumor as well. The vet offered us radiation therapy, but we would have to do the surgery on the adrenal gland tumor to determine if it was malignant or not. So once again we were faced with the same surgery, but this time in a much worse state.
After consulting with a few vets we determined that even if he survived the surgery and the best case scenario was that the tumor was not malignant he would not get treatment fast enough to make a difference in his symptoms (not eating, not walking well, tired and incontinence) and that he would have to undergo at least 10 treatments. The treatments required anesthesia each time. His liver was already bad and seeing him after the anesthesia from the MRI I had no clue how he would survive that on top of recovering from major surgery and the average life span after treatment was only about a year. So after deliberation with all the vets and my family it was decided not to do the surgery or radiation treatment. I was so distraught- especially because I told Winston what was going on and told him that if he showed me that he would try to eat I would consider the surgery and radiation option, and that day after many days of not eating he did eat. He ate quite a bit considering, but the next day 12 hours after his last meal he vomited it all up undigested. His systems were shutting down.
At that point it was pretty clear and I had to tell him that we can’t do the surgery when he is in this state but that I will try and make his life comfortable and happy. He was so sad and angry because I was crying and he was so sure he was not going to die. I say that as if I can talk to dogs, but I can’t – I just knew my dog and if you knew him you would have felt the same. It sounds crazy I know, but I really do believe that he was in denial all the way until the end. He made it through my birthday and mother’s day with amazing vigor and I thought I would have at least a month more if I can get him to keep eating and keep treating him at home with daily fluids in an IV and steroids, but come Monday it went downhill. On mother’s day I had a party for him. It was a Tuesdays with Morrie type of Live Funeral celebration to honor him and show him that many people love him. At the time I thought it was a great idea so he knew what we all felt for him as he knew he was dying. But now I wonder if he thought we gave up on him because the next day in the evening he stopped eating again and throughout the week regardless of the treatments it just got progressively worse.
On Friday he started to urinate and defecate blood and I rushed home thinking that was it. I came home and he was on the bedroom floor unable to breathe well and so weak. I thought that was it. It was over. I cried and brought his leash to see if maybe he would try to get up. He gave me the most sorrowful answer – Mom I can’t – you know I can’t. So my husband and I carried him to the park for one last time of fresh air and to say goodbye to his beloved park and the dogs that roamed freely outside. For about 40 minutes we just sat there and he was sad, but then some dogs came by and he got up barked with fury, and ran as best as he could toward them, but he was weak and it was too hard. He ended up laying down. But I thought he might be okay if we give him the treatment at night. However by the time the vet came he kept deteriorating. His breathing was harder and we knew that he would not survive the weekend. My vet told me that it was not worth the treatment as my dog laid there behind my couch as she examined him. As she was leaving something sparked in him and he realized she was there. He hobbled to her the best he could and looked at her with sadness. She petted him and told him she loved him and started to walk away. He followed her and put his head between her legs and I swear he asked “please help me”, “please help me” “why are you not giving me my treatment” she realized it as well and again petted him with tears and said I love you. He followed her all the way to the elevator outside my condo and laid down from being too tired and just stayed there. I let him stay for 30 minutes and then carried him back inside. I cried and cried and cried.
Saturday came and he was hobbling around. I begged him to eat. I tried to feed him with a syringe. For two weeks we tried everything- cat food, wet dog food, homemade chicken and rice, noodles, beef, pork, fish you name it and he wouldn’t eat it. He went from 45lbs to probably 25lbs when he died. It was so difficult but he just wouldn’t do it. I cried and told him Winston I love you I need you to eat or you will die. He got mad and walked away. I really believe he was in denial. My vet wanted to know if it was time on Saturday, but since he was still walking and telling me “no its not my time yet” I told her no.
I woke up on Sunday with a feeling that somehow today was the day. I hoped and prayed that last night that God would just let him pass naturally in his sleep. When I woke up and found him breathing horribly I knew that he was still here. That day he declined incredibly fast. In the morning he was hobbling around still, but by afternoon he had a hard time getting up and by 3pm he lost total function of his back legs. At 11am I offered him his favorite cat food again and begged him to try and eat. This time he replied like he did with the leash but more profound – like “mom you know I’m leaving you, I can’t eat and I want to, I don’t want to leave but I don’t know what else to do”. I was so incredibly distraught I asked my husband to help me take him to the park again. We got ready and took out 7 month old girl with us. We carried him out to the park, but he just laid there. Dogs came by and he wouldn’t look at them. That is when I knew it was time. From 3pm when he lost the use of his legs we carried him from spot to try and make him comfortable. Our vet told us she couldn’t come to let him go on Sunday and that the earliest she would be there was 11am Monday. We mad the appointment for Monday, but by 6pm he was crying so much from pain. I think he was in pain or he was going unconscious from this world to the next. I begged my vet to try and come and she did. At 7pm he left us with her help, but he was on his way. I feel like somehow I waited too long, but then again I know he wasn’t ready and he didn’t want to leave us. I am so sorry he suffered so much and I feel guilty for that. But., I think I did the best I could do.
The last two days have been hell. I am awaiting for his ashes. His funeral was well done and I was so happy about it. I know I felt him and I know he is happy and free, but my pain is so great. My heart is shattered into a million pieces and I have no idea how I can go on. I have to go home now after I finish this post and I know I will hurt more. I miss him and don’t know how I will ever live without him. I have to be here for my little girl and Winston’s sister Lilly who is a Persian cat also 12 years old who has been with him always. She is sad and needs me, but I am not there completely for them as I am grieving very badly. I don’t know how to make it better.
This is my story – my entire story. Thank you for reading this.