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 Beth on December 19, 2012 at 12:13pm
I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. It is always hard to lose them, harder still when they are so young. Poor little guy. You did the right thing to let him go, and please don't beat yourself up for not going back with him. I know some people say you should always be there with your pet, but I don't think that is true. Some dogs are very sensitive to their humans' emotions, and if you would have been distraught or frantic it would have made it worse for him. If you can keep it together and be a calm presence, that is one thing but if you can't, then you will just upset the dog more. HE doesn't know what's coming, all he knows is what he picks up from you. The vet and techs can keep calm and soothe him so there is no panic or fear at the end.

Again I am so sorry you lost your friend. Give yourself time to heal and don't beat yourself up. We all feel guilty when we let them go. When I lost my cat, I simultaneously felt like I let her suffer too long AND didn't try enough things to make her better. It's a heavy responsibility and we never felt we did the right thing, but be assured that you did everything you could to make his last weeks as happy as possible.
Comment by Laura and Tommy Jefferson on December 19, 2012 at 10:44am
James, I am tearing up at work having just read your post and everyone's comments. I am so sorry for your loss. You made Cheez-it's last days as perfect as they could possibly have been. Rest in peace, little Cheez-it :(
Comment by Diane on December 19, 2012 at 10:22am

Oh, I am so so sorry for your loss... Please don't be so hard on yourself.   It's not difficult to imagine that watching Cheez-it in so much pain would affect decisions that you might make differently in other circumstances.   You've already lost your best friend and that's enough to deal with... You already made his last days the best you could have. 

Comment by Miranda~ Moses | Maya | Maverick on December 19, 2012 at 10:16am
My heart aches for you. Losing a pet is one of the hardest things you can go through. And even though you weren't in the room with him, you actually were.. in his heart.. because he knew you loved him and because you gave him a great life. And he is still with you even now, in spirit and in your memories. I wasn't there when my Murphy passed at 4 years old (different situation, but still) and what got me through his passing and the fact he was so young was remembering all the things he got to do and all the things he LOVED to do. After time, when you think of Cheez-it, you will first think of something funny he used to do, or a happy memory you two shared. We are blessed to have dogs in our lives... They are loyal, ready for adventure in any minuscule aspect of life, and they love unconditionally. True angels.
Comment by Jennifer Markley on December 19, 2012 at 9:47am
Oh James...I am so, so sorry. I'm going to start by saying that you did the right thing. When a dog no longer eats or wants to be around you, it is time. You gave him an incredible life those last months-- every dog's dream. I have made the choice to be with every one of my animals when they are put down, but that is a personal choice. I have many friends and family that just can't. I don't think the look he gave you was because you weren't coming with him, I think it was because he felt miserable and knew how hard life was going to be for you with him gone. I have regrets too...I think we all do. My best dog ever I let go too long before I put him down, simply for selfish reasons...I couldn't stand to let him go. Another dog I had to put down even though his mind was perfect and he was eating...his body simply wore out. I don't know what your beliefs are on an afterlife, but I know in my heart that the minute he left this life, he entered into another one, where it doesn't matter that you weren't with him at the end. He is free of all pain and suffering, and knows how much you adored him. He is waiting for you, and will be one of the first to greet you when you too move on to the next world. Please take care of yourself...we all know how much this part of life hurts. I've cried more in life over losing animals than I ever have with losing people.
Comment by Michelle C. on December 19, 2012 at 9:09am

I'm so sorry. It's never easy to lose a loved one. I will keep you and Cheez-it in my thoughts and prayers. 

Comment by Cindi & Twinkie on December 19, 2012 at 8:47am

I am sorry sorry to hear about losing poor Cheez-it.  If God didn't make animals with souls then dogs surely earned theirs.  God Bless. 

Comment by Bev Levy on December 19, 2012 at 8:01am

Well you really struck a cord with me. I couldn't bear to be with my Standard Poodle age 18 at the end and I have always regretted it. I know he had caring people with him and that he forgave me my weakness as I am sure  Cheez-it did too. However when it was my Sparty's turn this past August I was with him and I have no regrets. Thankyou for sharing and I bet Cheez-it and my Sparty are happy now, free from pain. So sorry for your loss....

Comment by Julia on December 19, 2012 at 3:55am

James, I, too, lost my soul mate to lymphoma. We only had a few weeks together, not even enough time to decide how to treat his illness, except that I knew chemo was not right for him. When it was his time I stayed with him. He was like your Cheeze-it, not wanting petting, not seeming to know me or want me. The first drug injected made him very sleepy, so he would not be awake or aware when the final moments came.

If you had stayed with Cheeze-it, his experience would not have been much different than what it was. There comes a time when a dog is ready to move on. In my boy's case, I knew he had already moved on before he even entered that peaceful sleepy state. I doubt that Cheez-it felt any betrayal or even fear because you weren't there for those few minutes. The time I spent with my boy was almost all after he was gone, crying over him. That part was all for me.

Don't let these feelings of guilt overwhelm you. You know he was ready. He had already said his goodbyes to you, in his way, by withdrawing. What happened to him in that vet's room wasn't scary, it was soothing, and took away his pain. He wasn't suffering or blaming you for anything.

I'm so sorry for your loss of your soul mate. There will never be another dog like him, and soon you will start remembering all the great things about him more than the sadness in your heart.

Julia

Comment by Natalie, Lance &Tucker on December 19, 2012 at 1:53am

James, I am sooooo sorry to hear about Cheez it! :(  I remember when you first joined this site and the stories you wrote, it makes me so sad to read this about Cheez it!!  Please don't feel like you betrayed Cheez it, he knows you loved him with all your heart.  I hope as time passes you will remember all the awesome memories you have together. 

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