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Saying Goodbye: How We Knew (part 2)

Our Three Legged Bone Cancer Hero Dog JerryMy Soul Is Set Free

(Continued from Part 1.)

The next day we headed north to Yellowstone. It was just like the old days, traveling and hanging my head out the truck window.

I even made it up to the Continental Divide, for about the eighth time in our journey. Only this time, walking a few yards to the sign was all I had in me.

We took lots of pictures. As we got to Yellowstone, I was feeling OK, but very subdued from the bad episode the day before.

When we first started traveling with Jerry, we knew that his time would eventually come. If it happened while we were on the road, our biggest nightmare was that we would have to cope with it in some place we didn’t want to be in, some busy city with an unsympathetic vet who didn’t know anything about Jerry.

Jerry and Calpurnia Lead the Odaroloc Sled DogsA few days before we got to Yellowstone, I called Calpurnia’s Mom, TC., whose sister lives just outside the park. She gave me the name of a vet there, in McAllister, Montana. I tucked it away in the “just in case” file.

That night, my breathing was a little raspy, and my heavy panting continued. My legs felt like jelly, and I was having a harder time getting up and turning around in bed.

Mom and Dad slept in the next morning. At 8:30 am when Mom woke up, she thought it was strange that I hadn’t made noises to go outside. I heard her get out of bed, and as she walked over to me saying “Morning Jerry!”, she looked down, and saw that I had wet my bed.

“Oh nooooooo! Jerry, baby!” Mom cried out. Our eyes met, and as I lay there, I looked up and told her; “Mom, I’m so sorry, I just couldn’t get up to tell you. Mom, I’m tired.”

Dad got up to see why Mom was crying. She hovered over me, tears running down her face. I was still laying there. I could not find it in me to get up out of my wet bed.

“It’s time,” Mom said to Dad. “This is it.”

Our Three Legged Bone Cancer Hero Dog JerryWe knew it. This was the sign that we needed to know that his dignity was slipping away.

We always knew that if Jerry’s health was going to decline because of this stupid cancer, we would measure his dignity by whether or not he could get up to go potty on his own.

We realize there are many dogs out there that need help in this area, but are still living otherwise healthy, happy lives. In Jerry’s case, we felt that if the cancer’s effects coincided with incontinence, he would not be living the kind of life he was born to live.

The events of the previous few weeks, along with the incontinence, was the sign that we needed to call the vet in McAllister.

Making that call to the vet was the hardest thing we ever had to do. Explaining our traveling situation to total strangers. Detailing Jerry’s health problems coherently, without going into hysterics. Asking them to help us say goodbye. Luckily, Dr. Cashman was incredibly sympathetic, and agreed to help us that day.

We cleaned up Jerry, put him in the truck, and drove away from Yellowstone. It took everything we had to stay calm and centered, for his sake.

We drove quietly for two hours through the beautiful mountains. The vet’s little office was located at the end of a rural country road, in a setting that felt like home. Puffy white clouds floated across the big blue sky. This was the classic picture of Big Sky Country, Montana.

We went inside to meet Dr. Cashman. Our fears were put aside as we met a wonderful group of women who run the Meadow Creek Vet Clinic. Showing a great deal of compassion, they understood our situation as traveling fulltime RVers, and took the time to explain the euthanasia procedure to us.

Dr. Cashman would use two injections: one to sedate Jerry, and then a second drug which would be responsible for saying goodbye. She gently suggested that we allow her to use a catheter for the injection (a nominal extra fee) as dogs who have been on steroids typically have collapsed veins that are hard to locate. A catheter would make the injection go a little smoother, and be less stressful for everyone involved. We are so grateful she told us about that, and followed her advice.

Mom and Dad went inside for a while, then came outside. I was surrounded by an adoring fan club, and Dr. Cashman was one of them. She was wonderful!

Jerry is set free of his broken body.Dad helped me get out of the truck, and got my Barney blanket and some of my favorite stuffed toys. I plopped down on the lawn next to the office, and everyone loved and cuddled me.

Some dogs were barking out back, in the boarding kennels. I hopped over to them, and said “See ya on the other side, guys.” I plopped down tired, then went back to lay down on my blanket with my Dad’s help.

We spoke to each other in dog, that language that only pawrents and their furry kids understand. Mom and Dad’s eyes were all watery, and they thanked me for all that I’d done for them. We made promises to meet up again some day.

Then, Dr. Cashman and her assistant held me close, and gave me lots of love. I felt a tickle on my leg, but I wasn’t scared at all. I was just so tired.

One needs to be totally prepared for the final vet visit when the time comes. There is no second guessing at this point. We decided to remain with Jerry during the procedure, keeping our promise to be with him until the bitter end. Not knowing what to expect, we did the best to prepare ourselves for the worst. And though the tech had a difficult time finding a good vein for the catheter, once it was in, his passing was quick and peaceful. 

“You’re going to be OK,” Mom told me. “Thank you Jerry,” said Dad. Tears began to flow, but they feigned strength as they stroked my fur and held me close.

Jerry runs to meet calpurnia Within a minute or two, I felt so much better. All of my pain was gone, and I was free again!

Up I went through the sky, my spirit soaring high above the big puffy clouds! I was running again! Chasing rabbits and chickens! Swimming! And then I saw Lalla . . .

Some harsh realities do exist that one must also be prepared for, if they choose to know. Being the first time for us, we found it therapeutic to know.

Once  I was released from my broken body, my pawrents laid with me quietly for nearly a half hour. My muscles didn’t move as the vet mentioned they might. But my eyes didn’t close either, as she said they wouldn’t.

In search of total closure, my dad requested that he carry me inside. The vet cautiously told him that I would be kept in a freezer until the funeral home could pick me up the next day. He acknowledged the fact, and also understood my limp body must be put in a bag. He helped the vet do this, then gently laid me to rest, knowing that at this point I was free and my body was but a shell. A broken shell at that.

Tired Jerry and the Grand TetonsMy pawrents made the smart decision to pay for the visit up front so they could just leave afterwords. And it was probably the least expensive vet visit I ever had! While they silently drove back to Yellowstone, my dad swears he sensed me running through the sky along side the truck, all the way.

As hard as it was, we were extremely fortunate for this to happen in such a beautiful place, with such wonderful people. Even the sweet folks from At Home on The Range pet cemetery helped make this more bearable than we ever thought it could be.

We said goodbye to Jerry on a Friday. When we inquired on Monday about his remains, they said he was ready and offered to meet us as we passed through town to deliver a beautiful tin in a velvet bag.

Jerry will keep traveling with us until we find that special piece of land with the large shady tree to call his forever home.

Canine Cancer Anticipatory Grief Coping Guide

274 Responses to “Saying Goodbye: How We Knew (part 2)”

  1. I know it’s been a few years since you posted this, but it has been helpful to me as I prepare to say goodbye to my dog who was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma in his intestines about 2 months ago. He’s currently taking prednisone and I was looking for advice on when to stop giving it to him, as I’m looking at him this morning and feeling based on his behavior that ‘his time’ is approaching, any day now. Thank you so very much for sharing your experience.

  2. thank you for allowing your story to be shown, jerry was a wonderful dog with amazing pawrents, it is so hard to loose your best friend, last year we lost our 18 yr old daughter in her sleep it was very sudden as she had not been ill, her best friend and our pet for 13 yrs bingo a border collie although a senior was doing well, but on the day aleisha left us bingo lay down and refused to get up, he just gave up and he joined her the next day at the rainbow bridge, to keep her company as he had done all his life and to love her until we get there. we were in a world of darkness and never thought we would see light in our lives again, until toby came, he was a three year old shepherd cross who had been terribly abused, we didnt rescue him he rescued us and brought the sun back into our lifes, he is our angel dog, he has now been joined by alfie a border collie who had been neglected and abandoned and simba a 17 week puppy who was also dumped, dogs make our lifes worth living, wishing you all the best from manchester in the uk

  3. I saw your story on PBS tonight and read the story here afterward. I had a cat named Smokey, he was 17 and last May I had to take him to the Vet to say good bye. He was the other half of my soul and love him so much I can’t even describe. I knew that day in May would come sometime and I always vowed not to let him suffer when he told me it was his time, I could have extended it some with medication for a few days but would not have been fair to him to keep him with me because I did not want him to go. I was with him when he passed and was so sad but I know I loved him and he loved me and that was the important part. He had a wonderful life full of love and I will never forget him.

    Your story made me cry not just for Jerry but for Smokey, I miss him and love him still and it is still hard everyday he is not here. I don’t think you were nuts to spend the time you did with him, you loved him that is what is most important. If you don’t have love and value the love that comes into your life, not much to live for otherwise. Love is the most important thing we can experience and are given and should be valued and cherished for the time we can have it.

    I’m sorry for Jerry’s loss, I know what that pain feels like and it is not fun but I have great memories of Smokey and still can feel the love I have for him and his for me and that is nothing to be sad about, I know you must feel the same for Jerry.


    • Jamie, thank you for your very, very sweet letter. Our heart goes out to you, we know how hard it is to say goodbye to those we love. You are so fortunate to have had Smokey for such a long time, and we’re glad you can smile when you think about the life you had together. You did right by him by putting his dignity first, and he will repay you a thousand times for that by always being by your side.

      We too feel the same way about Jerry. He is still with us in so many ways, and always will be. A bond like that just doesn’t go away, as you know, and it’s there for eternity. Today, the 3rd, is a very special day for us, since it was on the 3rd of October that we had to release Jerry from his broken body. We always acknowledge it by lighting a candle in his honor. Your thoughtful note is like a sign from Jerry, telling us that he is never far away. Thank you, you made our day.

      Many hugs going out to you and your Spirit Smokey. May those memories comfort you for a lifetime.

  4. Hi, Jerry, I just watched your story on pbs. You were so lucky your pawrents loved you so much! It must have been great to travel all over the country and see all those beautiful places. I have a tripawd kitty named Shadow. He’s 11 years old, and he hurt his right hind leg while wrestling with my other cats. I thought he had just sprained it, because he didn’t cry, and still tried to talk without touching his foot to the floor. But when I took him to the vet, she said he had a tumor which had eaten the bone away, and his leg was broken! His leg was amputated, and after some rest and loving care, he is running, jumping and playing just like before. I’m so glad the vet was able to save his life! I trust him to let me know when he is ready to be free. I so appreciate your pawrents sharing your story. It touched my heart. With love from Michele, Shadow, Boomer, Charlotte, Bristol and Mikey! And give some kisses to my departed Sash and Natasha, over the Rainbow Bridge!

    • Oh we love Tripawd kitties! Thank you for sharing Shadow’s story. Cats and dogs are so brave huh? We will do anything to lead our people around and make sure the pack is all A-OK. I’m sorry Shadow got cancer but it sounds like he’s doing better? Bless you for helping him feel better, he’s got lots of living to do!

      Thank you for the nice words about the PBS show. It’s so sweet of you to let us know how much it meant to you, we are very touched by just the fact that you took the time to write. Thank you so very much!

      From one bunch of animal lovers to another, “Woof!” Paws up to you Michele, you are wonderful!

  5. Dear Jerry,

    I just saw your amazing story. I know my sweet boy, Fletch, is romping with you now. We lost him to cancer in May. We went the chemo route and hope it was the right decision. Instead of 2 months we had 7, but they weren’t as perfect as we hoped. We miss him everyday.

    Thank you for sharing your journey. Your pawrents were so lucky to have you and you to have them.

    We have since adopted 2 new dogs from 2 different shelters. They are loving, funny, sweet, silly and beautiful, but they can’t replace Fletch. It is so amazing what you guys do to and for your humans.

    Now run off and grab your Barney. Play a game of chase with my boy.



    • Karen, we are truly sorry about Fletch, you obviously loved him so much! Rest assured, he is running free and watching over you and your beautiful new pack.

      What a generous and wonderful thing you did to help these two dogs. Rescue dogs are the best and so are their humans!

      No, they won’t ever take his place, but with the lessons that Fletch taught you, you and your new pups will make a pawsitive impact on the world as the years go by, just like Fletch did. We all need more of that!

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write, you made our day. xoxo

  6. I just wanted to say how touching your story was. I saw the Why we love cats and dogs special on PBS. I just finished reading your final blog entries and couldn’t stop myself from crying. My husband and I have four fur kids (Tosh 9, Mystic 4, Einstein 3 and Potato 2) and we travel with them as often as we can- before we got Potato we did a three week trip around the country- the Badlands, Yellowstone, the Oregon Dunes, SanFran, Las Vegas- and it was such a blast- harder than usual to plan looking for dog friendly hotels in the cities and dog parks in the desert but it was amazing to have them with us the entire time. We feel that we would like to do the same with our dogs when Tosh gets a little older. My husband adopted him from Animal Care and Control in Indianapolis when he was just a puppy and has been his constant companion ever since- We’ve been thinking to the future as we prepare for a move to Colorado next year and your story provides us with a sense of calm that we will know whenever the time comes for our oldest son… thank you so much for sharing 😀

  7. Dear Jim, René & Jerry,

    I just finished watching your story on PBS. And when the program was over, i hopped on the computer right away to read your entire story and blogs. You are truly one brave doggy! It sounds like you had a wonderful life…and also, you gave your pawrents a wonderful life as well. The story of you and your pawrents brought me to tears. I felt like i could really connect with all of you.

    I just lost my best friend and companion of 16 wonderful years due to cancer. His name was Willis, and he was the most loving, trusting, affectionate cat i will ever know. Like you Jerry, Willis was living in a cage for the first part of his life. It all started when i was 10 years old. My parents were getting a divorce and it was the first christmas without my dad in the house. I was taking it really hard. My mom knew this and didnt know how she was going to give me a good christmas due to the changes in our family. And then came Willis! Willis brought back the joy and happieness in our house. He licked my tears whenever i was sad. He never let fall asleep alone.

    Those were just a few things that Willis did to help me cope with my parents divorce. Time moved on and Willis and I grew up together. We were inseperable. He saw me go to my senior prom. He got to meet a few boyfriends here and there (and didnt really like most of them and wasnt afraid to make it known!) More time passed and at 22 years old i met the 2nd love of my life. His name is Jeff and i knew he was “the one” when Willis showed his approval by laying in Jeff’s lap and not showing jealousy whenever Jeff and I would get “close” (lol) One year later, I moved in with Jeff and Willis came with me. He adjusted very well to the new place and everything just seemed “right”. It felt great sharing my life with the two most important guys in my life. In August, When our wedding day arrived, we left for our honeymoon in Mexico the following day. I felt terrible leaving Willis for a week but I knew he was in good hands as my mother took care of him for the week (i still had to call everyday to check on him of course!)

    As the days passed by, i started to notice that Willis was throwing up quite frequently. He was eating and drinking alot but was quickly losing alot of weight. I remember looking in his eyes that night and telling him “Its ok if you need to let go. I’ll be fine. As much as i dont want to lose you, Just let me know when youre ready to let go”. I called the vet and made an appointment for a check up for the next day. I never thought in a million years that i would be making the toughest deciscion of my life. The doctor took a look at him and starting feeling around his belly. He said that he wanted to do some blood work and X-rays because his liver felt “large”. I looked at my husband and began to cry. I tried to think positive but couldnt stop myself from pacing back and forth in the waiting room. Then, we were hit with the bad news. “It’s cancer. And it’s in his liver”.

    Now Jerry, i know you’ve never felt this before but your mom and dad have and im sure they can relate to this feeling. It felt like i had been punched in the stomach. I didnt want Willis to spend the last part of his life in pain or in discomfort. I wanted him to leave this world with dignitiy. So, i made the deciscion to say goodbye to Willis. I stood by his side for the whole thing. The doctor asked if I was sure that i wanted to witness everything and i told him that I wanted to be the last person that Willis sees. I stroked him and kissed his head and thanked him for being my best friend. I truly believe that Willis waited for me to marry my husband before he let go. I belive that he wanted to make sure i was safe and taken care of.

    You see Jerry, as much as we gave you and Willis great lives and great friendships, you gave us much much more. And for that, your pawrents and I will be forever greatful. A human being will never truly know uncondtional love and loyalty unless they own a pet. I didnt rescue Willis…..HE RESCUED ME! Thank you very much Jerry for sharing your story with me and thank you for letting me do the same. Please say hi to my best friend up there for me and tell him that Mommy loves him and misses him everyday! Jerry and Willis : You left pawprints on our hearts.

    Sincerely, Jill Alves

    • Jill, thank you for sharing such a touching story with us, we are so glad you wrote to tell us about Willis. He was such a great cat, and what a beautiful thing that you both got to spend so many years together. We are so sorry that you had to say goodbye like that. Cancer is such a tough disease. When you get no warning like that, it’s even harder. You made a very brave decision and paid the greatest tribute to Willis by showing him that you had the strength to do right by him. It’s the hardest thing for a human to do, but it’s the kindest.

      Please remember that the love shared with humans and animals is unbreakable, it speaks to a higher power in the universe and never goes away. Our hearts go out to you, we are so sorry. May you always rejoice in the memories in the memories you shared and in knowing that Willis and I are having a ball and watching after our wonderful pawrents like you.

      -Spirit Jerry (& Jim & Rene)

  8. Hi Jerry,
    I saw some of your story on PBS then came to read it on the website. How courageous you were fighting this disease… and what wonderful parents you had. I didn’t have a dog, but I did have a cat that also died from cancer… her name was Trula and I had her for 22 years. I noticed that she wasn’t her self 4 years ago so I brought her in to be seen by her vet. There they ran an xray and found a mass near her spine. It was removed but she needed chemotherapy and radiation to make sure it didn’t travel. She did live another year but unfortulately it did return not only in her spine but also her brain and other organs. She was a trooper just like you, wanting to go out and do everything she like to do each day until her legs couldn’t let her get up one day. I was there with her and her favorite toy and blanket as well when we had to have the vet give her the medications to send her to heaven. I’ve been told that there is this Rainbow Bridge right before Heaven where all you animals wait for us. I believe that you will be there waiting for you parents as well as my Trula will be waiting for me. I’m so glad you had such wonderful parents who were there for you during your life here on earth, and will be there later on in your after life with you again. God Speed .

    • Pat, you are so sweet for writing to us and sharing Trula’s story, thank you. You were such a great pawrent to her, and what a long, incredible life you shared together. No animal could ask for more. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to say goodbye after so many years though, and our hearts go out to you.

      We are so sorry that Trula is no longer with you physically, but yes, take comfort in knowing that you will be reunited some day. Until then, listen closely and watch for signs, her spirit will always stay close to you and the bond you shared can never be broken. Much love coming you way…


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