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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.

Continued…

Canine Cancer Anticipatory Grief Coping Guide


44 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…

    Beau

    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

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