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Saying Goodbye: How We Knew (part 1)

Bone Cancer Dog Jerry Outlives Vet PrognosisMany in the Tripawds community were surprised when, on October 3rd, my pawrents announced that I earned my wings. The day before, by the looks of my popcorn video, it seemed that I was doing OK. And although October 2nd and October 3rd were only one day apart, within those 24 hours, things changed dramatically.

I’ve always tried to be upfront about my cancer, so in the next two blog posts, my pawrents and I feel strong enough to share the details of our last hours together. My pawrents words are in italics.


One Last Try

The days leading up to my birthday were filled with lots of love and affection. While I was able to do some cool things, like go sightseeing and play “get the stick,” I was obviously slowing down and taking longer and longer to recover from movement. It wasn’t for lack of trying–believe me, I tried. But every time I attempted to play like I used to, I would poop out, plop down, and hang out panting until my strength returned.

Three legged dog Jerry at the Continental Divide, ColoradoThe wait times were becoming longer, and my walking distances shorter.

Working with only one lung thanks to my lung metastasis, my breathing became harder, as did my panting, especially at the end of the day. On a few different nights, I hardly slept a wink. I just felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I would pant and wheeze with a disturbing little whistle sound, often letting out a deep cough then attempting to hack something up. But by morning, I would feel better. By evening, it would happen again.

When my pawrents called Dr. Mullins for help, she told them about albuterol, a bronchodilator pill that would help open my lung airways.

We debated about trying one more drug. When Jerry first got sick, we promised him that his life wouldn’t be filled with doctor appointments and drugs. While we believe in the “NGU” philosophy – Never Give Up! – our own personal belief was that there would come a time when no amount of medical intervention was going to stop this horrible cancer from robbing him of his spirit. At some point, it would be time to just live hour to hour, and enjoy our time together without medicine getting in the way.

Jim and I thought we did a good job of keeping our word to Jerry, but as we realized that the cancer was taking over, it became harder to listen to our hearts, and know just when to say when.

As Jerry’s health started deteriorating, we asked ourselves: At what point would the number of drugs we were giving him, be the equivalent of keeping him alive for us? Was all this pill popping fair to him? Was it improving his quality of life, or just helping him stick around a few more weeks or even days? Was his time really at hand, or could science give him some more quality time with us?

These were the hard questions we found ourselves asking, as we started measuring Jerry’s quality of life, day by day. We asked: was he having more good days, than bad days? If not, we would know the time had come to say goodbye.

Our Time Draws Near

Three legged dog without Ruffwear HarnessUp until my birthday on October 1st, my days were good, filled with fun and sunshine as we explored one of the most beautiful places on earth. But on my birthday, while we were still camped at the Grand Tetons National Park, I was having a hard time breathing, so Mom and Dad gave me some albuterol for the first time, and that’s when things started to unravel.

The albuterol worked fast. In about two hours, I was breathing with ease again, but I had a reaction to it. The albuterol made me wired, like a crazy person on speed. My raspy lung sounds went away, but my breathing had sped up. I was jittery, and all I wanted to do was run, far and fast. But my body would have none of it. So instead of working out that energy, I just sat there, panting faster than I ever have, and wishing that I could just sprint for miles on the beach to work off that anxiousness. At that point,  Mom and Dad decided that this drug was not something they wanted to give to me again.

That night, as we were all sitting down to eat my birthday dinner together, I had to pee, bad (a side effect of the Prednisone I was on). As Mom and Dad sat at the table eating dinner, I got up and tried to run to the door, but couldn’t make it fast enough to tell Dad to take me outside. For the first time since I was a puppy, I peed on the floor.

Dad threw open the door and I started to run outside. But without my harness on, I slipped out of his hands as he tried to grab me, and tumbled down the RV steps. I did a face plant, right in the dirt. Mom screamed out of panic, Dad ran out to help me. Mom started crying. Dad tried to comfort us, but things were just a mess. I felt so, so terrible. After a long, long pee, I walked a few feet and sat down for a while.

It took hours for us to calm down. We eventually sat down to have cake, but things just felt sad. Especially when I wouldn’t eat the yummy carrot cake they got me. It was becoming all too clear that my quality of life was slipping away.


Canine Cancer Anticipatory Grief Coping Guide

45 Responses to “Saying Goodbye: How We Knew (part 1)”

  1. The same thing happened to us a couple weeks ago. Our Shelli Belle had Lymph Node sarcoma that was spread to the liver and we only had 1 month prognosis. with Prednisone we had 7 glorious weeks with her, but she wasted away and the last 2 days…well…your article just summed it up. It was a quick decision, and all the wondering about ‘is it time’ became very apparent. you just KNOW. She just looked so tired and ready to give up; she was a very brave girl and hung in there like a trooper. Miss ya Shelli Belle…one love.

    • We are deeply sorry for your loss. Shelli Belle taught you well though, about loving every moment of life you’ve got, and knowing when to love enough to let go. We have no doubt her spirit remains strong, and she is very, very proud of you.

      We can completely relate. Hugs coming your way.

  2. I cannot thank you enough for making me realize I’m not the only one who would have stopped the world to make my dog happy. My pitbull Sasha died almost 2 years ago and it is still the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. I am a young single woman living in NYC and she was my best friend. She saw me through 9/11 when after walking home that afternoon and coming in the door knowing my life would never be the same she didn’t leave my side for 3 straight days. Everytime I cried, had my heart broken or just plain old felt sorry for myself she would sit on my left side and put her head on my heart. She was so spry and had it out for the squirrels in Central Park, so much so that she would climb about 3/4 up the tree and then realize she didn’t have a way back down other than to fall. When I saw your video of Jerry’s last days it made me think of Sashas last days which unfortunately weren’t as lovely. She was 9 and had begun to slow down which I didn’t think was unusual, just some middle aged grumpiness but suddenly she began having seizures after her walks to the bathroom. It seemed as if she didn’t want to embarass herself so she would hold them off until she made it to the stairs to the apartment or once she got in the door but once she was there I had to prepare myself to catch her everytime. After bringing her into her regular vet they tested her and said it was a glandular problem and put her on meds. She seemed better but thats when I saw a lump on her right side, it was quite large and in my heart I knew it was cancer. I took her back into the vet, pointed out the lump and the veteranarian ( a new one) looked at it and that looked me in the eye and said it’s not a lump she’s just fat, she said she thought she had a thryoid problem and gave her a new prescription. I, being scared and hoping I was being paranoid, believed her.
    Sasha’s greatest joy was riding in cars and going upstate to the mountains so I thought since she’s getting older lets do this as often as we can. We were able to do it four more times before the world crashed down after her thyroid diagnosis. Then I realized I was wrong to believe the vet and saw that my little girl was extremely sick. Her seizures had gotten worse and she was now agitated whenever she tried to go to the bathroom. I took her back to the vet demanded an ultrasound and when it came back I saw that she had a tumor that filled almost the whole lower right quadrant. She was dying, so I thought ok let me make her last days the best ever, let me get the car for the following morning and take her to the hills let her lie in the grass and roll wherever she wants and in whatever she wants but thats not what Sasha wanted. She knew I knew and the next day we woke up very early and went outside and she showed me that today was the day she got “her wings”. She died a day after the ultrasound, in my lap. I’m sorry this is so long but I had to tell you that watching your video made me cry but also made me realize that what matters most is our animals happiness, I will kick myself forever for not demanding an ultrasound sooner but I thank God for everyday I had her in my life. Your love for Jerry makes me realize that I’m not the only one who looks at these animals as our children and best friends so thank you for this.

  3. Hey,
    I hope I am not writing to much here but it is so nice to find people like us. This is for everyone and Jerry too. Its a poem by Jimmy Stewart. You can also find it on “You Tube” he read it to Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. Take care all…


    He never came to me when I would call
    Unless I had a tennis ball,
    Or he felt like it,
    But mostly he didn’t come at all.

    When he was young
    He never learned to heel
    Or sit or stay,
    He did things his way.

    Discipline was not his bag
    But when you were with him things sure didn’t drag.
    He’d dig up a rosebush just to spite me,
    And when I’d grab him, he’d turn and bite me.

    He bit lots of folks from day to day,
    The delivery boy was his favorite prey.
    The gas man wouldn’t read our meter,
    He said we owned a real man-eater.

    He set the house on fire
    But the story’s long to tell.
    Suffice it to say that he survived
    And the house survived as well.

    On the evening walks, and Gloria took him,
    He was always first out the door.
    The Old One and I brought up the rear
    Because our bones were sore.

    He would charge up the street with Mom hanging on,
    What a beautiful pair they were!
    And if it was still light and the tourists were out,
    They created a bit of a stir.

    But every once in a while, he would stop in his tracks
    And with a frown on his face look around.
    It was just to make sure that the Old One was there
    And would follow him where he was bound.

    We are early-to-bedders at our house–
    I guess I’m the first to retire.
    And as I’d leave the room he’d look at me
    And get up from his place by the fire.

    He knew where the tennis balls were upstairs,
    And I’d give him one for a while.
    He would push it under the bed with his nose
    And I’d fish it out with a smile.

    And before very long
    He’d tire of the ball
    And be asleep in his corner
    In no time at all.

    And there were nights when I’d feel him
    Climb upon our bed
    And lie between us, And I’d pat his head.

    And there were nights when I’d feel this stare
    And I’d wake up and he’d be sitting there
    And I reach out my hand and stroke his hair.
    And sometimes I’d feel him sigh
    and I think I know the reason why.

    He would wake up at night
    And he would have this fear
    Of the dark, of life, of lots of things,
    And he’d be glad to have me near.

    And now he’s dead.
    And there are nights when I think I feel him
    Climb upon our bed and lie between us,
    And I pat his head.

    And there are nights when I think
    I feel that stare
    And I reach out my hand to stroke his hair,
    But he’s not there.

    Oh, how I wish that wasn’t so,
    I’ll always love a dog named Beau.

    ~ Jimmy Stewart

  4. I was so moved by your story I slept last night on the floor with my dog Bailey.
    Bailey is ten and has had many complications since we got her as a puppy. We replaced both her ACL’s in her back legs at age 1 year and 2 year. People thought we were crazy spending that kind of money on a dog. She recovered and 8 years later is still here.

    She went blind once and we had to take her to an eye specialist, her retinas reattached and see can now see again.

    One she she had big lumps on her neck that doctors thought were cancer , but they went away. We knew it was an alergic reation, doctors thought the worst.

    Bailey also needs medicine for seizures, she has them at least twice a month and some months even more.

    The medicene for the siezures has made her put on weight and her back legs make the walks short, but this dogs courage is unreal. We would never let her suffer. She still climbs stairs plays and is by no means lacking quility of life. Thank god she found us..

    Mark and Kim
    Buffalo NY.

    • Mark and Kim, thank you for watching and taking the time to come here and share Bailey’s story.

      We don’t think you’re crazy at all, and we understand completely why you have given this girl a fighting chance. In fact, everyone here will understand it too. This is a circle of compassionate, caring people who will always do right by their pups. They ask for so little, how can we not? Sad for those who don’t get it.

      We’re cheering over here because of your devotion and dedication to here, when so many others would have given up. How wonderful to hear that she’s happy and making the best of life. Her courage is real, her spirit is unbreakable and she was clearly put on this earth to show all those doubters that animals can teach us so much about overcoming adversity and hardship. You obviously understand this, thank you for being there to spread the word for our animal family.

      Many hugs,
      Spirit Jerry, Rene, Jim & Wyatt Ray

      • I tried to post a picture but the sight would not let me. Jerry was awesome same spirit as Bailey.
        Thanks so much for you reply “all happiness to you and yours”

        Mark and Kim.

  5. My beloved standard poodle, Bob, died at age 10 on August 10, 2009. My father died a year before whose name was Jerry. Both were devastating losses. My next standard poodle will be named Jerry in memory and honor of both my father and your beautiful, smart German Shepherd. Thank you for sharing your remarkable story.

    • Our hearts go out to you SG, we are so sorry. That kind of profound grief takes so long to recover from, but we know that your next pup will help bring the sunshine back into your life. They do that, they lighten the load and show you that things can be good. And poodles are so darn smart, we really love them. What an honor to know that you’re bestowing the name “Jerry,” on your future family member, we are so touched. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for writing, you made our day.

  6. i cry everytime i watch this n show, my friends who r animal lovers as well n i think we r parents to them but they r teachers to us n we live healthier by knowing n learning from what they offer..amazing how they r to show us how life should be without anger violence n complete undertanding without proper words just the power of knowing. its a different kind of communication but if we as humans had it the way animals do there would be less violence..cheers to gerry and all the animals we all love n cherish like our own children i wish i could save them all

    • Many cheers back atchya! 🙂 It’s great to know Jerry’s story is touching so many people out there who “get it” … thanks for taking the time to comment.

  7. What a beautiful story of love and devotion. I didn’t walk your path exactly, but something similar. Our Bella, a nearly 5 year old Shepherd, was diagnosed in June 08 with an enlarged heart, aortal valve lesions, and it was inoperable. It was devastating news. They gave her less than six months to live, definitely less than a year. We took her to the best veterinary cardiologist we could find. He put her on some lasix, a blood pressure reducer, and a heavy dose of antibiotics. Told us no swimming, limited exercise, restrictive diet. Bella was a lot like your Jerry – full of life and joy, active, intuitive smart, relational, playful. We have a large yard in Florida, and lots of trees and squirrels and birds; two cats. Bella played out there as often as it was not too hot. I took her on daily walks which got increasingly longer over the months. I asked a group of special friends to pray for her, for a miracle of healing. She seemed to be responding; a followup showed the lesions healed and the valve problem was still there, but seemed to be a little better. Maybe that was what I wanted to hear, but watching Bella live day to day, she seemed to be well as ever. We sometimes took walks along the bayshore and she’d go into the shallow water to jump around. Her joy was so great when we did this. But around the last week in January things began to change. She had a mild cardiac episode one night while playing in the yard; a strange cat had ventured into the yard and Bella charged to chase it – and she fell. I wasn’t totally sure if she hadn’t slipped on a wet spot; she seemed surprised and sheepish, but after a couple of seconds got up and we went inside. About five days later in the middle of the night she fell again beside my bed. This time she didn’t shake it off so quickly, but by mid-morning she was more like her old self – energetic, playful. But I called her cardiologist, whose assistant suggested we visit our regular vet and get an EKG. It showed some pretty serious irregular heartbeats. Long story short, it was starting to look like Bella’s heart condition was advancing. I took her home and she seemed fine, so we went to bed hopeful that this was just another scare. But in the middle of the night, she started coughing and coughing, like you described Jerry’s cough. This was Super Bowl Sunday. We hoped and prayed she’d come around, but Bella couldn’t lie down or even sit without coughing. So for much of the day she stood in the yard, walking around to all her favorite places. She wouldn’t eat or drink. I knew this was bad. We finally took her to an ER in Tampa, and they attempted to give her oxygen and reduce the ominously growing signs of congestive heart failure (rattling, rasping sounds). But Bella’s valiant heart just couldn’t hold out any more. We were there, my wife, our daughter, and I, when the vet told us they were losing her – that we might want to come see her. It was awful to see our Bella lying on that blanket on the floor of the ER. She knew we were there, but she had nothing left to give and was fading. Went into respiratory arrest, heart still beating but no breathing. Vet asked if she could humanely assist Bella at this point in her dying. We said yes amidst the tears. And in seconds, our Bella died. The grief we are feeling over her death has been huge; it’s affected me especially, but also our daughter. Even my wife, who is mostly a cat person has been hurting. Bella was such a wonderful friend, companion, and member of the family. Her place in our home is shockingly empty now; but we carry her love and memory in our hearts and will forever.


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