As many of you may already know I am currently navigating terminal illness with my own beloved dog, Joey.
Joey was diagnosed with a cancer of the spleen called hemangiosarcoma.Once the spleen is removed surgically the life expectancy is anywhere from two months to six months. Outliers may make it one year but that is very rare.
It has been a shock to say the least. He was my vibrant, healthy running partner one day and diagnosed with terminal illness the next.
The First Step – Gather Information
Learn as much as you can about your dog’s diagnosis
I recommend starting with the diagnosing veterinarian. Ask many pertinent questions.
You may not be able to think clearly when you are first faced with the devastating news. That’s o.k. Take time to catch your breath and tell the veterinarian you would like to set up a time to discuss this in more detail.
This journey requires big decisions and the more knowledge you have about the situation the better decisions you will make for your dog.
Get a second opinion
Consider seeking a second opinion. A second opinion is never wrong and does not mean that you do not trust your current veterinarian. A different perspective from a veterinarian with a different specialty is worthwhile.
If your dog is diagnosed with cancer an oncology consultation is worth it, even if you are not considering chemotherapy.
Consider a consultation with a homeopathic veterinarian. Homeopathy can be integral in prolonging your dog’s life and keeping him as comfortable as possible for as long as possible.
Once you have made decisions for your dog based on the information you have received let go of any guilt. This period of time is hard enough, do not make it harder by questioning your decisions. You are doing your best and your dog appreciates it.
Find Gratitude For Every Moment Together
Be Present With Your Friend
Having had many dogs in my life this is not my first time dealing with this. But experience here doesn’t make it any easier.
Each dog is special, the timing when it occurs in our lives different…
But one thing I know for sure is these times woke me. They made each interaction with my dogs during these stolen moments palpable. And they have stuck in my memory.
I remember clearly the day when we were kayaking with our dog Gadden after we found out he only had a few months to live. I remember the touch of his fur, this swagger as he walked towards the boat and the wag of his beautiful, long tail.
When my dog Brody was failing and I knew his time was coming I sat with him on his soft bed every day soaking him in, kissing that soft spot underneath his nose that I adored and making sure he felt my heart.
As I face this final leg of Joey’s journey I take every sweet moment and I put in my memory, taking a mental picture of every one. I give him his favorite foods, I rub his favorite spots, and I talk to him constantly because he loves a good conversation. I’ll admit that often during these moments my eyes are filled with tears but i’m getting better at finding my gratitude instead of my fear.
This final time with our dogs is painful and traumatic but it can also be a time of enhanced love and deep connection. If possible, depending on your dog’s condition, do as many of the things that you love to do together and savor every moment.
It is often necessary to make the decision to ease our dog’s suffering at the end. This is a decision no one wants to have to make.
In many instances this is the final gift that you can give your friend, the end of suffering.
You know your dog better than anyone else. You will know by the look in his eyes, by the abating of his spirit and by the diminishing joy to signal when the time has come.
Some of the symptoms indicative of suffering include unrelenting pain, persistent lack of appetite, difficulty breathing, inability to ambulate, disorientation, or a constant state of distress.
Consider home euthanasia when making this decision. I have had a home euthanasia business for the past five years and the difference in experiences of having had to perform this in the hospital versus the home is profound. Dogs don’t feel fear or confusion when they are in the comfort of their own home. They are in their own dog bed surrounded by those who love them. Start your search early for a home euthanasia veterinarian so that have a plan when the time comes. If you live on Long Island please feel free to reach out to me and I will help you through this process. Website
We get our dogs knowing that someday they will break our hearts. Dogs just don’t live long enough.
I like to think that one reason dogs lives are shorter is because God wants us to help and experience many dogs in our lifetimes.
I also believe God wants us to have the opportunity to learn from many dogs in our lives. Each dog I have had the grace to love has had a purpose in my life.
Joey’s life in particular has changed the course of my path dramatically and I believe his death will do that again.
And by the way… I haven’t given up hope of a miracle for Joey. Even though I’ve read the statistics and I have 20 years of experience dealing with patients with this same type of cancer, I continue to pray for him.
Where there is hope there is God.
To see joey’s miraculous story as a puppy check this out Joey Video
To all the dog guardians out there who’s hearts are breaking.