Losing a pet

June 29, 2010 · 11 comments

For the last several months, we have been taking care of Roswell, cleaning her foot every night and managing her pain. We were told in February that her cancer returned to her lungs and in April we found a sore of some sort on her toe. It had moved from her lungs to her toe which meant it was late stage. It’s called lung digit tumor syndrome. The vet told us in early April that she had about 6-12 weeks left. It’s really hard to hear those words and you kind of go into a shock. It had also been completely stressful at time with Charley being a little sick from his EPI and later finding out that Clone was peeing on furniture.

Little Miss Roswell

It has been nagging at us that we only have weeks left with her. It is a sobering situation and something that I can’t really quite wrap my brain around. Our pets are our family. Our pets have been with us for a long time and have been with us through thick and thin. For me and my husband, Curtis, Roswell has been a constant in our relationship. Ever since I have known him, he has always had her. He adopted her in college. I said the same thing when we had to say good bye to our dog, Cinder…ever since I have known him, he had always had her. He also got her while he was in college.

Cinder at 10 years old with Charley. This was taken the night we brought him home. She was so excited to meet him!

We went through something similar to this when Cinder got sick in August 2008. It was quick though, the specialist our vet sent us to told us about her tumor and her blockage on a Wednesday and we made the agonizing decision to let her go that same Friday. I have to say it was the hardest, most absolute hardest decision we have ever had to make. I remember discussing this with my boss and he said no amount of mental preparation will prepare you for what you’ll go through. He was right. The moment the vet told us she was gone, the floodgates opened and the pain and emptiness was all that we could handle. We both couldn’t eat and could barely get out of bed. We had to force ourselves to get it together and take care of Charley. Just a couple of weeks prior, Charley was diagnosed with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), his pancreas don’t make the enzymes necessary to digest his food. It was a rocky road before we finally got a diagnosis and we were fearful we were going to lose him, his ribs and spine had begun to show. He was finally getting better and Cinder getting ill threw us for a loop and knocked the wind out of our sail.

Cinder Smiling :)

Cinder was an awesome dog. She always, always listened to you. She minded you. She really cared about what you thought and wanted you wanted her to do. I remember when Charley grabbed an opossum off of the top of our fence and Cinder grabbed it, my husband yelled at her to drop it. She dropped it immediately. Charley, on the other hand, we had to chase him all over the yard to get him to drop it. Cinder had no formal obedience training and it was an eye opening experience when we adopted Charley. Cinder was the kind of dog that didn’t have to be leashed, she wouldn’t run away (we always did leash her though) where Charley is the kind of dog who would run down the street every chance he got.

It’s hard to define what the loss of a pet does to you. You really aren’t the same and at the same time I realized that the things I said to people at their time of loss of a pet or a family member were empty words that really didn’t mean much. I would say, you should take comfort in the fact that you gave him or her (your pet) a good life. Or your grandfather lived a long life, blah blah. It’s not that I didn’t feel sad for them or feel bad for them. I had now just figured out that none of those words helped. I know no one expects words of condolences to heal your wounds but I had never really known what the other person was feeling until I went through it. I don’t know if I’m making any sense. But I don’t say those words any more – about living a good, long life because it doesn’t matter. It still hurts and your words aren’t going to help them feel any better. I just say, I know what you’re going through. It’s not going to be easy and it’s going to be a long time before you’re not going to cry as much. I’m here to listen, if you need it because that’s all that matters. I was lucky to have a really good friend in Debbie, she helped me so much by listening to me, I don’t know if she knows how grateful I am to her.

All of these emotions – sadness and grief returned when we were told the news about Roswell. The last thing I want for her is to be in a tremendous amount of pain and also the last thing I would want to do is to put her to sleep for our convenience. But also the last thing I want is to lose her. I’m not going to lie, trying to get her to take her medications and cleaning her foot every night is a lot of work for us and it has been stressful (she isn’t the only pet in our house who gets medication every day). The last thing you want to think about is relief (for yourself) when it comes to a death of a pet or a death of a loved one.

It’s hard, is all I can say. One of my former co-workers would talk about his dog, Buster, and tell me what a great dog he was. I wish I got to meet him. He had cancer and I think died at a young age (less than 10 years old) before I even met this co-worker. I could almost hear him choke up when he would talk about losing him. He said he could never go through that again and would never get another dog. I never understood why he felt that way. After losing Cinder, I understood but I still don’t agree with him. I can’t imagine my life without pets. It’s so gut-wrenching and people who don’t have pets just don’t understand nor do petowners who have never experienced a pet’s death. Because I didn’t understand or know the depths of grief and sadness you feel until I experienced it myself. Curtis said it just right the other night, this is what we signed up for when we adopted them. The good and the bad. The love they give us is so great and that is why the pain we feel when they are gone is so great.


Drawing of Cinder by Larry Merrill. I love this drawing, I commissioned Larry to draw it as a gift to Curtis for our wedding anniversary in 2008.

I read this touching post by Shawn about his dog Tigger and a post by one of my favorite authors about losing his dog, Sula (whom I read about in his books). Both of which inspired me to write this post.

Hug your pets for me in Cinder’s memory and Roswell’s honor.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

robyn June 29, 2010 at 11:06 am

Oh Julie, unfortunately I know your pain all too well. It is difficult to articulate exactly the feelings of losing a pet. You have done a great job. While we all understand animals are not humans, they still can be a very important member of our families. We have loved and lost many pets through the years and yes, even now, tear up when talking of losing them to death or disease.

I wish you peace and comfort during this trying time. And as sappy as the poem is, I do believe there is a “rainbow bridge” for all of us.

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Andrea (@shutterbitch) July 1, 2010 at 9:37 am

You have summed up pet-parenthood here perfectly. It hurts so much because we love them so much. In light of this, your donation to help me save my dog yesterday means so so so much to me. Thank you. Well and truly, thank you.

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Gisele aka LA2LAChef July 4, 2010 at 11:36 am

I, too, am nursing Riley, my arthritic dog. Her hip dysplasia has caused her to lose all use of her hind legs, and believe me, keeping her going is a lot of work. She has to be lifted up and I have to put a sling under her back end to get her out the door to hopefully poop and pee outside. I consider it a good day if I can get her out before…many times she hasn’t made it, so cleaning up after her is a constant. Yet, I think she is still enjoying her life. She loves to sit on the front porch, watch the action, and bark at every one who goes by.

Before I adopted he I had my little Angel, the most athletic little dog I had ever seen. I started calling her Super Dog, after I heard a man in the dog park call her that one day after watching her run up a high hill in nothing flat. Angel suddenly got sick one day, and before the test came back from the vet, she was gone. I was devastated. I cried. I felt guilty. I said I’d never get another dog, and yet, 2 months later I took in Riley because she had such beautiful eyes, and had such a sad story. She was completely neurotic when she first came home with me. It took her months to settle in because she had been abused, but when she did, she became such a lovely and loving dog. She really needed a good home. And I needed her, too.

Now I’m thinking when it’s Riley’s time to leave, I don’t know if I can take in another dog. We surely do sign a pact with grief every time we take a pet into our homes, and our hearts.

Bless you, Julie.

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kate August 10, 2010 at 6:53 pm

I am so sorry for your loss :(

i know the pain all too well! When i lost my alpha male orion (like men in black because he was an apricot tabby- orange on the outside but pull the fur back and he was white so pretty) My hubby and i adopted him when we moved in together. I so did not want him either because i wanted a prissy tonkinese baby kitten but when i saw him at petsmart and i put my hand up to the glass he kept trying to love me and then put his paw in my hand on the glass darn orange tabby had me hooked. he was my baby he was the cat who knew when i was sad and needed a friend, he was the daddy kitty who cleaned my son like he was his baby kitten even though my son aidan screamed he still cleaned him and he was the cat that nested on my pregnant tummy when my twins were baking and he never got to meet them because a month before i gave birth he passed away from a urinary blockage. He never sprayed around the house and he never moaned when going to the bathroom. he was tempermental and if he did not get his way he would pee on my laundry even now and then but nothing like the vet told me he would have done. It was july of 2008 and if we did not have an earthquake that day, i would have noticed something was wrong with my BOG(big orange guy) after the quake he went to hide in the closet and if you are a Californian you know do not bother the cat after a quake and I even called a vet to ask about it and they told me do not touch him especially being pregnant because he would have bitten me or something from the stress of the quake. So the next day I started noticing things wrong with him like his fur did not look right and he then started to moan when trying to pee so i took him to our family vet, he told me to make him comfortable and let him go because his kidneys were done, me give up? heck no second opinion time! I run into this vet huge and pregnant 32 weeks along with twins and my cat in a towel saying save my baby! they told me i needed to calm myself down because they do not deliver babies they knew about my orion coming in because i called earlier so the doc got the block out and put him on an iv and told me to leave him there! noooooooooooooo I do not want to leave him what if he dies before the morning I cant let him go alone. he told me we would know if his kidneys were ok if he made it through the night. So we left him there and all night I could not sleep so 6 am came along and i called the vet my Orion passed 5 min before i called and he was not alone and he was held by the technician who came in early. To this very day we are not the same. My son who I found out has mild autism still will say that orion is up with Jesus but for weeks and months he kept saying orion was coming back even though he saw us bury him and we had a funeral for him he was only 5 years old. When people would tell me its ok this and that i was mad because they had no pets. my dream was the twin girls would dress my cat up and put him in their stroller like i did to my moms cat and that he would be with the kids forever! My cat my mom had died at 27 yrs old so I was thinking he would live at least til 20 but not 5!

I have learned that no matter what our pets hold a special place in our hearts and they are one of a kind. I sitll have his picture hanging in the living room. I have now thought man if losing a cat took a toll on our lives this bad what would happen if someone close to us passed away ? we were very hurt.

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JulieD August 10, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Kate,

I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what a devastating time that was to suffer that loss and the joy of the birth of your twins. They are a part of our families and like I said in this post, people who don’t have pets just don’t understand. That’s why we have to find other petlovers who understand and whom we can talk to about these things. At the end of the month, it will be two years since we lost Cinder and it still hurts but I think it does hurt less. But we still miss her. Take care.

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debrah March 4, 2011 at 1:10 am

thank you for this post. i just found out that my 5 year old dog, picasso has cancer yesterday. i have been crying and in shock since then. he will have surgery monday.

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JulieD March 4, 2011 at 7:51 am

Debrah,

I’m so sorry. I hope the surgery goes well and you get good news afterwards. I don’t really have wise words or anything except that just cherish Picasso while you have him. Roswell’s initial cancer diagnosis and surgery was about 4 years before her cancer returned and when it did, we did have 4 months with her. I’ll be thinking of you and Picasso on Monday. Take care.

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Jenn May 29, 2011 at 8:49 pm

My heart ached for you as I read this. Losing pets are so hard. When one of my cats ran away last year, it simply broke my heart.

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JulieD May 31, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Jenn, thank you so much! It’s still hard, let me tell you. I’m so sorry about your cat. :(

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