SC
Hi all, I found this forum last night and reading some of your stories seemed to not make me feel so alone. I'm not quite sure what I'm looking to get out of this, maybe it'll be therapeutic to have all of my feelings in one place and to receive supportive words.

I am currently a senior in college, and since I am young I have never had to experience the death of a loved one before, which isn't making it easier. The idea of a life you care about there one day, and gone the next is something I am struggling with - how do you get over the emptiness?

I have a 14 year old mixed breed named Spot - he's unique looking as he has some black lab, pomeranian, and some chow mixed in him. He kind of a looks like a black lab with a fluffy neck that's low to the ground. He is my best friend, and has such a fun personality and has been the light of my life since I got him when I was young. He is my first dog, and I don't think any pet will ever fill the place in my heart for him.

Ever since Spot started to reach the senior years of his life, I have tried to prepare myself for his passing. However, for years he didn't slow down, and there were no bumps or things for us to worry about, so I kind of convinced myself he still had forever with me. However, since I am away at school I only get to see him once or so a month, so I didn't catch this as soon as I would have hoped. 

One weekend in 10/16 when I was home visiting, I noticed a bump on the back of his front leg. Something instantly in me told me it was cancerous. It made sense, he was old and weaker now, and I was devastated. He went to the vet that following week once I had returned to school and the vet said it was just arthritis swelling, that it wasn't an issue, and to have him take these meds and come back if it doesn't go down. Well, the "swelling" didn't go down, so back to the vet Spot went. This time, the vet drew fluid from the bump and confirmed what my gut told me originally - that it was cancer. He couldn't tell us what cancer it was or how progressed it was, he couldn't tell us how long my pup had. He just said, "come back when there are more bad days than good". This is news I had to cope with hours away at school, and I cried everyday for weeks. Treatment is not an option in this situation. Spot will be 15 next May, and putting him through surgery or chemo just to get a few more months doesn't seem right. We also are not in the situation financially where we could afford any surgeries. The location and size of his tumor would require his entire leg to be amputated. Spot wouldn't want a life where he doesn't have the energy or ability to get around and play.

I am home for the holidays now, and Spot's tumor seems to be getting bigger everyday. However, he doesn't act like it bothers him at all. He has had not a single "bad" day. His demeanor hasn't changed - he still gets into things he isn't supposed to, he plays, he eats, wags his tail, everything. Yet the tumor grows. I don't want him to experience a minute of discomfort, pain, fear, or anything. So how do I know when it's time? I don't want to steal time away from him if he's okay, he could have months left. But I also don't want to be selfish, so I try and be as objective as I can, and he honestly has shown me no signs that he is ready.

This is the hardest thing I have ever gone through, and the pain of knowing that his days with me are numbered is an unbearable. I have people in my life that love me and are supporting me, but I still feel so alone. I don't know how I'm going to live knowing that my puppy is gone, not hearing his collar jingle when he prances down the hallway, not hearing his snoring when he sleeps, or his barking. Not having him to greet me when I get home with his tail wagging excitedly. I feel empty just thinking about my best friend being gone, and I don't know how I'm going to get through it.

Thank you for reading this lengthy post, and if you have any supportive words, they would be appreciated. This is the hardest thing I have had to go through. I am lucky that he is still here with me, but it's difficult to enjoy my good days with him when I know they are running out.
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Butterfly_Kiss
Hi SC,

I'm sorry for your tough news. Sounds like the vet said "come back when there are more bad days than good" because he, like you and your family, know that it wouldn't be a good option to put him through treatment, especially given his age. It really doesn't have anything to do with money. Most of the time chemo and radiation for pets is not a good option because that alone diminishes their quality of life. I'm sorry you've been away at school while trying to cope with this. I bet that has been really hard for you. But you have to continue living your life and pursuing your responsibilities, as you are. Your sweet dog would never want to disrupt that. I have a friend who's cat was diagnosed with cancer and the vet prepared her for a few months left, but it's been past that and the cat seems to be doing well and doesn't even act sick. So it's possible they don't really feel it much up to a certain point? I can't say for sure. I also know animals hide their pain better than humans so you're right to be monitoring his behavior closely. That's great to hear he seems to be doing well. Maybe you still have a while left with him :) All you can do is love him with all your heart and be there when you can, which is exactly what you're doing.

To answering your question, from my personal experience and the experience from most of the other people on here, when they start losing their appetite (especially for treats), vomiting regularly, having a lot of 'accidents' on the floor, and/or a lot of diarrhea, it's a pretty clear indicator they're getting close to the end and their bodies are starting to let go. There may be other indicators I don't know about and every animal is unique, but those are some of the common ones to look out for. 

Again, I'm so, so sorry.
<3
KG

~Our Love is eternal & 'death' cannot sever the bond we created. The spirit never dies. The Love, bond, & spirit are ours to cherish always. That is a gift that will never be taken away~
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whiskeysmom
Hi there,

So sorry you're in this situation..I can relate. I was in college when my mom had to put my lifelong companion, my dog Sandy, to sleep. She was really old..she lived to be about 16, which seemed pretty old in dog years. Still, it tore me up inside for a long time. We had her since I was 4.

As for you not having gone through a loved one dying before..let me tell you. I'm now 49, and it doesn't get any easier. I've lost my mom, my dad, a nephew, a cousin, my stepmom..the latter 4 all within the last year. It's been really rough. And 2 weeks ago I had to put my baby cat to sleep because he got nasal cancer.

It is a tough tough decision to make..to have to put your companion to sleep. You feel so awful, ending the life of the one you love the most. It is really a difficult thing to do, but the thing is..you do it out of love. You just get to the point where you don't want them to suffer anymore.

Everyone says "You know when it's time." And sure enough, that's what happened to me. My cat slid downhill fast, 2 weekends ago. He was having so much trouble breathing..it was like his tumor was choking him out. He even had a fearful look in his eyes..I'm not sure how to explain it. It's almost as if, the cancer really wasn't bothering him too much..even when he had nosebleeds, he would still take it in stride. But that night..you could see he looked frightened and confused.

I think also, when your pet starts to isolate himself from you..not take joy in being around you..not able to eat or play..those are all signs. Personality changes..hiding a lot..a lot of animals will hide their pain, but you can tell from the way they stop interacting with their loved ones...and I know it's hard because you're not around Spot all the time, but maybe your other family members can keep extra vigilant watch on him.

He may have many months, even years left, with this tumor..it sounds like it's not near any vital organs, and it might just be slow growing. Without a biopsy, it's hard to say.


Anyway please keep us posted!!
SW
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jeffreyburcham
I too had discovered a couple of tumors in August of 2015 on my Lab girl Satin Marie. Surgery took care of them but I was told they could come back. Mast Cell Tumors do that. Around the same time your Spot had his lump, my Satin had a very large one appear in her left inguinal region (inside of her left thigh) Surgery was not an option this time, bad location to remove so much tissue. We opted for radiation and chemo but had to take care of the infection first since the thing grew so large it outgrew its blood supply and had become necrotic. By February 2017 we started her 16 radiation treatments which she completed in early march. Also, she was getting the chemo about once every two weeks until they were done in May 2017.

Towards the end, she had dark tarry stools (I knew there was blood and that was not a good sign) She was on prednisone, antibiotics, probiotics, pain meds, pills that had to be dissolved in water and given to her orally via a syringe to help coat her Upper GI to heal any ulcerations her Oncologist figured were causing the bleeding. She endured it all like the trooper she was but in the end, her fragile body just could not take it any longer and I had to end her suffering on June 1, 2017. I know I was being selfish, trying to hold onto her, hoping for a miracle or that it was just a set back. She had gotten sick in early May 2017 and got better. That's what happens. When she started to not eat and drink, I knew it was time and had already called her regular vet for an appointment on June 2nd. She couldn't take it anymore and neither could my wife and I. I took her for her last car ride the evening of May 31, 2017 to the local Animal ER.

I've had to say good bye and bury three other fur babies but this time has been especially difficult. Being here at this site has helped me tremendously, and I have even joined a local pet loss grief support group and am seeing the therapist tomorrow (July 8, 2017) for a one on one session. I can't handle her being gone, not like the others, and because I "got over it" with the other three so much sooner, I now have that guilt, as if I didn't love them as much. That's not true of course but I have all this guilt over Satin Marie-the would've, could've, should've thoughts and now the added guilt of not grieving enough for the other three isn't helping.

I pray and hope that since you first made this post, everything is going well for you or as well as can be expected. As whiskeysmom stated, you know when it's time to have to say goodbye. It isn't easy. It can't be because of the love we receive from them and the love we have for them. That's the unfortunate price we all pay for receiving unconditional love. I pray that peace is with you. Please, please be sure to share your stories, your memories here. vent, cry, get angry here. We are ALL here for one another.

Jeffrey
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