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 Teresa Gilpin on December 19, 2012 at 5:35pm

I am so sorry for your loss.  It sounds like you did all you could do, and then some.  I think you helped Cheez-it through a terribly difficult time.  (He was way too young to be this sick).  You will find peace with this loss.......eventually.   Hugs and corgi baroos are being sent your way. 

Comment by rae on December 19, 2012 at 5:18pm

So sorry for your loss :(

Comment by John Wolff on December 19, 2012 at 4:40pm
Comment by John Wolff on December 19, 2012 at 4:32pm

Comment by Alison Prasavath on December 19, 2012 at 3:30pm

I'm so sorry for your loss, James. My brother and sister-in-law just had to put their dog to sleep 2 weeks ago and currently they are both dealing with if they did enough for her (her name was Bella). You did all you could do for Cheez-It (love the name) and he knew it. You are in my thoughts...

Comment by Christine on December 19, 2012 at 2:38pm

James, I am so sorry for your loss. What you and Cheez-It went through was so tough, but like everyone said, you gave him the best possible life in the last few months. And you know, sometimes it doesn't matter what you do or decide, there’s always a degree of “regret”… but I think it’s important to remember that you have tried your best and your puppy knew it.

I had to put my corgi, Bandit, to sleep about a month ago, due to lymphoma too. He was also just a little over 4 years old but we were lucky that we could spend a year with him after the diagnosis with only homeopathic treatments and a wholesome diet. Just like your baby, ours ate a lot, but continued to lose weight and the tumor in his belly started growing in the last few months. He was very much himself most of the time – playful, energetic, loving, until the very end. Then one day, he had 2 seizures within 2 hours and our vet feared that the cancer had spread to his brain. We had to either put him on anti-seizure meds, which would sedate him for a majority of the time, or just we could wait and watch. We just couldn't let him suffer anymore, so we decided to let him go. Even now I still feel guilty – should I have done it earlier because the tumor had gotten so big? Should I not have given up so early because he was still eating treats when we were waiting for the vet? Did anything I do cause his cancer? At one point, I just had to stop thinking because I will never know the answer to these questions. But what I do know is that he’s not in pain anymore. I hope that you will eventually find peace and think of all the happy times that you spent together instead of sad times. Again, I am so sorry for your loss.

Comment by Zigward & Kimberly on December 19, 2012 at 1:45pm

I'm so sorry about Cheez-It. :'( I was hoping along with you that it would have been nothing. This is the hardest thing to ever have to go through. I've lost people close to me that haven't come close to hurting as bad as losing my little furry best friend. They're special.

If it makes you feel better.. I stayed with my best friend, Skittles the kitty, when he was put down.. I started to pet him as they started the process.. He began to convulse and shake and instinctively, I yanked away from him, sobbing, because I couldn't stand to see that.. And now I constantly worry that that was the last thing he saw of me. Pulling away from him, very upset. Skittles had been my emotional everything, so I feel like I probably upset him more being around, as he too had been trying to stay away from me for the most part the night before he went... And it was the toughest thing I'd ever had to watch, and I have nightmares about it. Maybe it is selfish, but I wish I hadn't had to see Skittles like that.

Another bit of insight... I recently started working at an elderly assisted living place.. My boyfriend's mom works there too.. When family stay to be close to their loved ones.. 9/10 the patients will wait to pass away until their loved ones are no longer in the room and the nurses go in to do care and tell them it's alright to pass on, to let go, because they feel guilty dying in front of those that they care about, about putting them through that.

I know animals don't think the same as people all the time.. But remember, a lot of animals that die naturally.. They take the chance to wander off a lot of the time and be alone. Don't feel like a bad person, you are definitely not.

Comment by Cathie on December 19, 2012 at 1:40pm

Yes, it is so hard. I went through it in August. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, the deepest grief I've ever felt. I know that feeling of betrayal...that somehow, you should have done something differently. We went in the room with Prana and were there when she died, and still for weeks (months!) afterward I was plagued with guilt and remorse.

Forgive yourself, as hard as that may seem. Keep remembering the good times you had. It may seem like this hurt will never stop, but it will, it will.

Comment by Ludi on December 19, 2012 at 1:38pm

I am tearing up so badly. :-( You have my deepest condolences.

Comment by Shanna Lien on December 19, 2012 at 12:41pm

Your post made me cry, the love for a pet is a love like no other. I'm so sorry for your loss. :(

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