I had to put my corgi to sleep the other night

I have to admit, I had never really thought to check my dogs lymph nodes with any degree of frequency.  A few months ago a family member noticed that Cheez-it had lumps under his neck, and I just assumed he had an infection or something.  I took him to the vet the very next day (Oct 18 2012) and they suggested the possibility of lymphoma.  But I knew what they were going to suggest from spending the night reading what enlarged lymph nodes indicate.  They were enlarged beyond the possibility of a simple infection, and not just those, all of them.

At the vet, they did a needle aspiration of the glands, and I spent the next week silently praying that nothing would come of it.  Meanwhile, he was on Doxycycline just in case.  I think that deep down, I just knew it was going to turn out positive for lyphoma, I don't know why, but I just had a horrible feeling, and I was right.

The options for lymphoma are slim, there really isn't any positive outlook in terms of prognosis.  It's either, treat the symptoms with prednisone to help with swelling and that sort of thing, or undergo chemotherapy which I read could extend the dogs life about a year in a good case.

If chemotherapy was an option for me, I would have taken it.  I quit a great job 2 years ago to go back to grad school, and now I have an income that makes a MacDonalds employee look like Donald Trump.  I asked my parents what I should do, and they said they would help me cover the costs and all that.  I asked what to do on mycorgi, and someone suggested I speak to Sam, as he had unfortunately gone through the same thing.  It was a nice feeling to know that someone else has gone through the same thing, and I greatly appreciate the conversation we had.  But no matter who I asked, or how much advice I was given, the decision never became easy to make.  I guess I was hoping for someone to make it for me, but I knew that wasn't a possibility.  I gave it more thought than I have given anything else in my life.  I don't know what the "right" decision was, but I opted to treat him with prednisone and just give him the best "rest of his life" that I possibly could.

I started Cheez-it on prednisone Oct 29, about a week and a half after I first noticed anything was wrong.  He was given  10mg twice a day for about a month along with 250mg of Flagyl Metronidazole for some diarrhea he was having which lasted for a week.  The diarrhea stopped for about a week and then returned.  It was atypical to what you would expect from a dog though, more like roofing tar than anything else (sorry for being so descriptive).

Prednisone makes your dog pant.  Cheez-it did some serious panting and heavy breathing the whole time he was on the drug, but otherwise he was mostly his normal self.  Often I would get up in the middle of the night in a panic because he stopped breathing so hard just to check on him.  He also had to go out about every 2 hours during the day, and at least twice during the night to pee.

One month later (Nov 29) he went back to the vet and his dosage was changed to 10mg in the morning and 5mg at night of the prednisone.  She wanted to decrease the dosage, and this way he would perhaps sleep a little better at night with the smaller dosage then.  His diarrhea at this time was pretty bad.  He consistently had the worse diarrhea I have ever seen in a dog.  If you have ever seen a dog who drank salt water, it was like that, every morning.  He was started on Tylan Solution Powder (100Gr) at this time, and he basically got a pinch (about 1/16th of a tsp) twice a day on his food.  I forgot to mention, about a week before this vet visit he basically gave up on eating the Blue Buffalo dog food.  He never really cared for it anyway, but I think this was mostly because I was feeding him basically anything he wanted, and if he didn't eat the kibble, he would get chicken or something.  For his last few months, he lived off of store-bought rotisserie chicken from Publix for the most part.  He probably ate about one whole chicken every 2 days.

Aside from the chicken, he ate just about everything he could possibly eat.  If he wanted something, I would let him have it.  I got him peanut butter cookies, something he's always wanted but I never let him have.  He got to eat Ice cream, and not that crap for dogs either!  Burgers, Meatloaf, Tacos, some animal crackers.  If he wanted it, he got it.  I took him with me as often as I possibly could, since he maintained his love for car-rides.  For the first time in his life, he not only got to sniff the food-air coming out of the drive through window, but he got to get something too.  He ESPECIALLY looked forward to going for rides from that point on.

Even though he ate more food than he has ever eaten, he was slowly losing weight.  He was a rather small Corgi (about 20-21 lbs normally), but he slowly lost about 1/4 lb a week or so until he was eventually about 17.5 lbs.  His waist was very tiny, and his stomache began to distend into a very visible, tight, bulge.  His back was very bony, and I could tell that he was losing muscle in his little legs too.  It's pretty horrible to watch your best friend suffer like this, but overall he was doing pretty good.  He still ran as fast as ever while playing frisbee, he was peppy, he did everything he loved.  It wasn't until a week or so before he died that he slowed down at all.

He was pretty normal acting right up until the day before he passed.  Occasionally he would want outside, and he would just go out and lay on the cool concrete.  He vomited on occasion, possibly in part to all the crap I fed him, or because of the cancer.  So, one night when he threw up a little I wasn't too concerned.  The next morning he refused his breakfast of chicken, so I offered him some ground beef and a fried egg, which he gladly scarfed down.  It wasn't too long before he threw up a good portion of his breakfast.  For the rest of the day he was throwing up the food a little bit at a time.  He also refused to eat anything else, even Puperoni.  He has NEVER refused to eat that.

Eventually he threw up a little blood, and then a bit more.  He didn't seem to want me to even be around.  If I tried to pet him or anything, he would get up and leave the room.  That night he continued to throw up blood, and I was beginning to think that I might have to take him to the vet the next day to be put to sleep.  He seemed like he was in a great deal of pain.  He didn't move around a whole lot, and his breathing was pretty slow.  That night around 2am he was throwing up so much that I feared he might not make it through the night due to blood loss, and I took him to the emergency room.

The entire way there, he laid in the seat.  He didn't look out the window, he didn't sniff the air conditioning vent.  When I opened the door he wasn't patiently waiting for me to let him out.  He just layed there.  I carried him in and the vet did an exam and went over his records.  He wouldn't make eye contact with me, when I was left in the room with him, he slowly crawled away from me when I tried to pet him.  Before I even had time to give it much thought I was signing away his life.  Then, in my most non-shining moment ever, I opted not to be present when "it" took place.  I sort of thought he wouldn't want me around or something, I really don't know what I was thinking.  As they took him away, he looked up from the assistants arms and gave me this really sad look, and that's the last time I saw him.  I will remember  that look forever.  I immediately regretted what I had just done.  What if he would have got better the next day, I will never know.  But I do know that I should have been there.

It was selfish of me to not want to be there.  I really don't know what came over me.  Before that night I had already decided that I would be there if/when he needed to be put down.  I served in the Iraqi war, I've unfortunately had to see death first hand, but I just couldn't do it when it came to my best friend.  Every time I think of that look he gave me, all I can think is that he is wondering why I'm not coming with him, and I feel disguisted, like a horrible person.  I don't even remember the drive home.  Suddenly I was just home, and I've felt like a zombie ever since.

Cheez-it was my best friend.  He might not have always "listened to me", and he was the only dog I have ever known to not come when you call to pet him, he had an interesting personality, but he was a very important, constant part of my life.  He was only 4 years and 9 months when he died.  He lasted about 10 days or so shy of 2 months from the time we noticed any symptoms.  I wished that there was some sort of timeline, listing what to expect from lymphoma when I was going through this.  I wrote this in hopes that it might help someone else know what to expect, and prevent them from making a decision that they will regret too.  It hurts to see someone you love die, but it hurts even more to feel like you betrayed them.

This is the last picture I ever took of him.

Cheez-it

Feb 25, 2008 - Dec 17, 2012

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Comment by Geri & Sidney on December 26, 2012 at 2:37am

James, I am so sorry. I remember your blog posts back when Cheez was a mischievous puppy. It made me so sad to hear that he got sick, and I am so sorry for what you had to go through. Please do not be hard on yourself, you did the right thing for Cheez. He know forever and always how much you love him.

Comment by Jane Christensen on December 23, 2012 at 8:01am

I am so sorry for your loss. I have had several family members go through cancer treatment this year and it was very rough...people can at least know what's going on but for a dog...I don't think I would opt for extensive treatment because it can be brutal and you can't explain to them what is happening. Cheez-it was lucky to have you in his life and you knew "when it was his time" you did what you had to and he's not suffering anymore. You were very unselfish by letting him go.Take care...it's never easy BUT then again watching them suffer would be worse.

Comment by Basil on December 23, 2012 at 3:49am

I am so very sorry for your loss.

 

Comment by Linda Masters on December 22, 2012 at 12:33am

I am so sorry for your loss.  It sounds like you worked so hard to help him.  Don't beat yourself up about not being with him in the end.  My mother had a Golden that had a nasal tumor, she spent almost 20,000 between surgeries and radiation and private nursing care only to have the cancer return and lose her a year later.  I lost my little corgi Annie to cancer this past July.  Our little friends just don't live long enough. 

Comment by Bogart the Cardigan on December 20, 2012 at 10:35pm

We are very sorry to hear about Cheez-it.  Our first Corgi - a Pembroke, was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2003.  We did opt for the chemo, but wish we hadn't put him through all that - it came right back after 3-4 months, and then we knew what we had to do.  Same as Cheez-it, Niblick got to eat anything he wanted while he was sick, chicken liver, etc. Afterwards, we couldn't stand to be home at night, we went to the movies every single night for a week. I sat with him as he got the injections, but my husband could not bear to be there, he was too upset (don't feel bad, most likely he was "out of it" and it was just one small moment in his long and happy life with you as his best friend). Now we finally have another dog, a terrific Cardigan. Hopefully, he will live a long and healthy life.  However, we are both in agreement that if he gets cancer, we are not going to put him though the chemo. It ended up costing us about $5-6,000 and in reality, we were just buying time to say goodbye, selfishly. I hope you will get another dog some day, there are so many who need good homes.

Comment by Jeanne & Baylee May on December 20, 2012 at 8:41pm

I read your whole post which was quite difficult thru the tears flowing from my eyes, I'm so sorry for your loss of your buddy Cheez-it. He truly was too young to go but it sounds like you did everything possible to make it comfortable for him. Try not to be so hard on yourself, dogs are very in tune with their people and I'm sure he knew how much you loved him and how hard it was to let him go. Take care......jeanne & baylee may

Comment by Andrea De Leo on December 20, 2012 at 1:09am

I too opted not to be there when my Ricco left this earth. I am in tears reading this because I totally understand your pain. My sister and Mom were with him, but I regret not being there for him just like you. However, I was in no condition to be there and I did not want the last thing he saw to be me balling my eyes out! Just as I wanted to remember him in better times I wanted him to recall his mama in a happier way. So, I guess what I am saying is no matter if you were there or not I believe Cheez-it knew how much you loved him! My thoughts and prayers are with you at this very difficult time....

Comment by Judith Andre on December 19, 2012 at 10:59pm

I am so sorry.  What a beautiful little dog he was.  I thought my heart would break when I lost Zac prematurely, but now I have Murray and he is the light of my life.  It does get better....slowly.

Comment by Lois B. Allen on December 19, 2012 at 8:04pm

James, I am so sorry for your loss of Cheez-it.  He sounds like a special fellow and died way too young.  I don't think that anyone every think thought to do enough.  He will always be with you and I am one of those who thinks we will be rejoined with our pets at some time.  Try not to feel bad about what you did or did not do.  I chose not to be with a precious pem that I had when she was put down because I just couldn't handle it.  I'm sure she thought to was going to get some new treat.  When you are ready, let another animal come into your life as a different but new pal.  Time does help the grief.  My sympathy, Lois

Comment by Susan Stanton on December 19, 2012 at 5:51pm

We're so so sorry about Cheez-it. But please don't beat yourself up over not being there with him.  You were best buddies and he knew it, believe me.  You gave each other a wonderful life together, and when the sharp pain of loss dulls a little, you'll remember those good times.  As some others have posted here, it's also been my experience, both professionally and personally, that those who are making the journey often wait until their loved ones have stepped away or aren't paying attention, and that's when they slip over that great divide.  Your description of Cheez-it makes it sound like he was ready to go, and his trip was soft and swift.  You were with him in spirit even if you weren't there in person.  All our sympathies for your loss.

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