guilt & grief

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Just felt like we needed a pop of colour on this cold and snowy Tuesday.

I have been planning a post titled Grief, Guilt & Hemangiosarcoma (bet you can't wait). It's about euthanasia and the terrible wracking guilt that often comes along with it and of finally feeling as if I know for sure what was ultimately wrong with my best friend Jake. The thing that was so terribly wrong that I chose, in my traumatized f&cked up state after enduring a month of his severe ups and way, way downs, to end his life 10 months ago today. I've never stopped, obsessively at times, researching on line - attempting to diagnose his illness, hunting for reassurance that yes I did do the right thing and at the right time. What if I could have had more time with him ? Maybe he might have rallied one more time. Those questions and doubts have haunted me, and combined with Sadness and Loneliness - and just plain Missing him, have made this year one of the hardest of my life. You see I've never loved anyone as much as I loved that dog - and I know that sounds strange, maybe even sad to some of you - while human love has eluded me - canine love has surrounded me. The absolute, no holds barred, love of my life (thus far) is, has been, a big red lug of a dog. Who loved me back with the same, constant, wide open, often goofy, exuberant intensity. For that I consider myself a very lucky girl and ... no wonder I miss him still, so much.

Sunday I found, in my ongoing googling around, a chat forum where others shared their stories and experiences of Hemangiosarcoma, an often sudden and extremely deadly form of cancer especially common in senior Golden Retrievers. Deadly in that by the time the dog shows symptoms the tumours are usually very large and have metastasized. The symptoms they described, the ups and downs, the weakness, collapses and loss of appetite and then suddenly out of the blue seeming totally fine again, were all too familiar to me. It talked also about how stoic dogs can be - they're still wagging their tails and smiling at you when they're actually very sick and often near death. Many of the dogs were much younger than Jake, some only 8 and a few even younger. He could have had exploratory surgery as a last resort, possible a splenectomy (removing his spleen and any tumours attached to it) ... I did consider it but putting him through all of that was never really an option, my biggest fear, for my just past 13 year old dog, was that I would end up saying goodbye to him on an operating table ... and I couldn't bear that.

Hemangiosarcoma is a disease which Jake was actually diagnosed with way back in April of '07 when he quite suddenly became very ill, had a battery of tests and xrays and after three consecutive days at the vet was given a best guess, Hemangiosarcoma, 2-weeks-to-live prognosis. Days past and we gratefully began to believe it was a mistake, a wrong diagnosis. He didn't die, he got better and had another fun and amazing retrieving filled summer. I believe now, through all my reading and researching, that he lived another healthy, full of beans, 10 months beyond that initial diagnosis - was a gift - he knew, I'm sure of it, that I needed more time to get myself ready for life without him in it.

Thank goodness I kept hunting and thank goodness that I found this site. I feel like a weight has been lifted. Ache, Sadness & Longing (to bury my face in his furry red neck) will be with me awhile, maybe even always ... but Guilt and Grief I think and hope, are finally riding off into the sunset.

Love ya Noodle ....


  1. Susan, that's wonderful news. I hope you can now look back on that summer with happiness unmarred by that awful guilt and grief.

  2. i'm pleased that you continued your search for answers and that you may have found some peace now. we have faced several months of ups and downs with our almost 16-year-old presley, the most precious love of MY life. so many family members and friends have stated many times it's time you let him go. they simply don't understand that we still have wonderful, energetic days with him. we will know when it is time, i'm sure. thanks for all you say and do to help prepare me for what is inevitable.

  3. Oh Susan, I am so glad you found this. I know it doesn't make you miss him any less, but at least the doubt is over. The internet can be a wonderful thing.

  4. I can only imagine how tormented you have been feeling if, on top of the severe grief of losing him, you were also blaming yourself. It must be a huge relief to have this new knowledge of his condition, and of the fact that you did your best for him. Bless you.

  5. I'm so glad you found some answers. Never doubt that you did the right thing at the right time, after all, you loved and knew him best.

  6. Hey, girl, be gentle with yourself. I know what it means to love an animal with such intensity. I will share something with you. As a little girl growing up in a very difficult home, my solace was my cat. Loved that animal more than a lot of humans. He lasted an amazing long time and when it came time to put him down, I couldn't. So he died at the vet's office without me. I felt so much guilt and heart ache. Sometimes we love selfishly. Who can blame us? However, the best gift to give to our companions is the gift that is often denied us, a peaceful and painless end. You loved your dog, deeply and he loved you back. In the end you did the most selfless thing, let him go.

    A big hug to you my friend.

  7. Jake's last month was dramatically different than my other senior animals (Ernst, Em & Lulu) who all deteriorated slowly, slowly, steadily, steadily day by day. Less and less themselves, more and more compromised and at the end there was no question in my mind that it was time. With Jake, and some of you lived through days along with us, he was so up and down. One minute I felt he was dying and then he'd be back to his normal silly self ... often for days. It was this up and down pattern that has haunted me ... I've kept wondering if maybe he would've gone back "up" one more time.

    Miss D and I often imagine if only he could walk back in the door for a visit. 30 minutes even -just to see him again. Oh how she and I would spin and twirl and smother him with kisses.

    Thank you once again my friends xo,S.

  8. What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this.

  9. Susan,
    Thanks for your update on what happened and how you've been and downs.
    ANd then the grief and the guilt.
    They are just hard to work through.
    Glad you've found the online group.
    Dogs just pull us in...when I went through what I did for that month, and then 3 wks ago his surgery,
    I vowed I'd never get another dog.
    Well he is still alive, and I am sure I couldn't be without a dog.
    The flowers were just the thing for me today too. Thanks

  10. Just adding my hug to the group....

    I know how much this has plagued you Susan...

    V ....


  11. Hi Susan,
    Thanks for your comment, and yes I've heard of the book and the course. Many friends who have read it, but I have not.
    So I think I will take you up on the idea!
    We aren't too old to reinvent ourselves and ways of thinking.. I hope.
    I'm the middle of the night worrier type..doom and gloom.
    And right now turning on the tv with the dismal news re: our economy doesn't help so I can't watch any of that.
    Woofs from Bailey to your crew.

  12. Thank you for sharing your story. I have buried several pets.

    You can feel confident that you made the right decisions with the information you had at the time (Maya Angelou's words!). I felt that when looking after failing parents. All you can do is your best.
    You know that your pet died with dignity!

  13. Good evening, sweet, sweet Susan. I'm happy that you were able to find some of the answers that you needed to place a new and refreshing calmness in your heart. Even though he is gone now, he is STILL always there with you in your heart and spirit. He loved you just as much as you love and still love him now.


  14. Susan, this was such a wonderful turn of events. You knew there was information out there...a place...people who could help you make sense of Jake's going, and looked till you found it. I am so glad that it helped you. And about dog love...I know that in no way is dog love inferior to human love. You were lucky to have such a great love in your life.

  15. I am so happy to know that ths awful guilt is finally at an end. I have been there myself (with our first cat, Hannah) and it is such
    a weight.
    I do hope that your thoughts of Jake can now be filled with happy tears and a lighter heart.
    Blessings to you...

  16. No gave that guy such a wonderful life! 'Til the very end. He was lucky to have you.

    A big hug,


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