To say I am shattered is an understatement. The death of my beloved canine hero is indescribable. Everyone knows when a pet comes into their lives it isn’t forever. The likelihood we will outlive them is quite high.
It is the worst pain on the planet when they die, even if they are older. When a 13-year-old spry male Cocker Spaniel who had a clean bill of health, pristine blood work, and a perfect echocardiogram from his cardiologist suddenly crashes, it’s earth-shattering and soul crashing.
Our Dexter went from playing, wagging, eating, having a snack, going for a walk, and then suddenly he stopped and became well, frozen in time. He breathed heavily. He had super pale gums. He laid down. He drank inordinate amounts of water as we caressed him on the couch.
We thought he hurt his back so decided to rest him. This was on Saturday, November 13, 2021.
A few hours went by with no improvement. Local emergency vets had 8 to 12 to 15-hour waits. The COVID shortage is all too real. We found an emergency vet an hour from home in the night hours. Dangerous roads, lots of deer, we made it.
After doing blood work and chest X-rays and an abdominal x-ray and aspirate, the vet called me in. He showed us how the abdomen was so filled you could not see organs. He said they were not equipped to handle this. They spent the next hour trying to find a hospital that would take a transfer and had blood if needed.
He found one about 120 miles away. We drove. I had no idea what was going on. Dar drove thank God. I begged Dexter not to die in my arms.
Do you know when you go to an emergency hospital and see the people whose pets aren’t going to make it? You wish never to be them. That was us.
On the way down to the hospital, I happened to glance at our GPS to see how far out we were. At that exact moment, we were crossing over Shades of Death Road. Yes, you read that right.
The next 18 hours were a zoo, a madhouse, a frenzy. The doctor finally saw us at 4 am and explained what she knew. The next day a more formal abdominal ultrasound would be needed. He also had blood draws and a few other things. I will post some records below.
Finally at 2:30 pm on Sunday after sleeping on the benches in the lobby off and on (thank Dog they let us in with masks), we begged to see a doctor. A young doctor explained everything. Dexter was brought to us with a cone and two shaved paws. He ripped an IV out. He hardly knew us. They even tried Chinese medicine on him. The one and only Dr. Harvey called me and asked me to tell them about Yunnan Baiyo to stop bleeding. They already tried that and it worked.
Trying to Save Our Dog’s Life
They gave him IV fluid, his heart meds. He had no spread of anything in his lungs or heart or chest cavity. To put him under ultrasound was fine. To get more information would have meant an abdominal CT scan under anesthesia. That’s a risk. To operate was a risk because they weren’t sure how far spread the liver tumor was. I will post what the results said.
We made the gut-wrenching hell-on-earth decision to end his suffering. He was so peaceful. We let him lay on the floor. Darlene, my wife, held him and in the moments before the final needles were placed in his IV port, he took his last breath in Dar’s arms.
He went on his own.
This all happened so fast. I am in a state of shock and disbelief. I am learning that these types of cancers often have no warning. Whether liver or hemangiosarcoma. My dog, like millions of others, are fine and then the tumor is there, they bleed, and they are dead.
I’ve been a pet blogger, journalist, and copywriter for over 12 years and never knew this. I asked a vet friend about this and to quote her, here is our DM conversation:
Vet: “That’s a really bad location and large mass. Doubtful it would have been operable.”
Me” I will pay you for your time I promise I just want to understand how this happens. Should I have had some sort of screening on a regular basis? Everything I did for this dog and every dog I’ve ever had I’ve talk to dozens of people now who all say the same thing and it happens to their dogs. This seems like a pandemic and very cruel. What can be done to screen for this to catch it in time? Please can you just help me with that like I said anything you need let me know I’m trying to understand”
Vet: “By the time you find it on a radiograph or ultrasound it is already too late. It is a rapidly growing cancer, and can go from undetectable to a significant size in a matter of weeks.”
Me “I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of people whose dogs had this. I can’t imagine how many you have dealt with. What can pet parents do to screen for this before it’s too late?”
Vet: Truthfully nothing is great. Tests like NuQ might give you a hint, but they are not specific and you still may not be able to find the small cancer or even what organ it is affecting. In other words, not a viable option.”
Me: “So in all of veterinary medicine there is nothing that can be done to screen for these and catch them early? Have you written about it? Is it an older dog cancer? I’m trying to understand and I don’t mind paying for your time
Vet: “No effective screening yet. I have not written about it. For the demographic stats you’d need to talk to an oncologist.”
Was this hemangiosarcoma? I don’t know. They could not visualize the liver. Other than his red blood cells that started to fall, his blood levels were fine.
Taking him home would have been a catastrophe. We had no choice. I will never allow any dog I have to suffer. My wife and I suffer so they don’t have to.
I am still in shock. I don’t know what happened. I look forward to talking to my veterinarian on her return.
Dexter, My Love, My Guide, My Hero
Dexter is and will remain my hero, my spiritual guide, my guardian angel. To the idiots of the world who say a pet is just a pet and we are humanizing them too much, fuck you. This isn’t the blog for you. Move on. I hate that saying and there is this whacked-out notion that pets are the new babies. Last I checked, my birth certificate had my name on it. If you want to treat your pet like a pet, be my guest. Not in my house. Not in my life.
Do I think my dog is human? No. Do I think my dog has human-like qualities? Yes and that is one of the greatest gifts on the planet.
I will ache and grieve and never get over him. I thought I’d have him several more years. We did everything right.
I have a call in to his regular vet to ask some questions. She’s away this week.
My heart beats dog(r), I own that trademark. And it shatters dog, too.
I will have another Cocker. No one will be our Brandy and no one will be our Dexter. Nor should they be.
Any dog who enters our lives hits the dog lottery. Plain and simple. Mega millionaire for life.
If anyone knows of resources on how to catch these cancers early, who I can talk to, where to channel my energies to save lives, please direct me. You can write in the comments or email me to carol at fidoseofreality dot com.
Dexter is at the crematorium. I asked them to text me a photo of him so I know they had the right body. They did. In a few weeks, we will drive to New Jersey to pick him up.
And Now The Cold Reality
I wax between sleeping, wailing, screaming, in shock, clutching all his things, and canceling our holidays. I just can’t this year. My wife agrees. We love Christmas. We can’t just do this and move on right now. It’s not who we are.
I do plan to run a Christmas photo contest in his honor on this blog starting 11/22/21. I do plan to continue my Club Cocker card exchange using the cards I had made in his honor.
His love will never die. I will carry what he taught me forever. The same goes for my wife. I am broken. He is my pieces. Someday maybe I can be reassembled.
To the person I reached out to about my next Cocker, God bless you. You’ve saved me. You know who you are.
Hug your dogs. Get your health screenings. Don’t wait. Cherish the gifts they are.
If you donated, called, sent things, or simply thought of us, bless you. I am not a religious person but I am spiritual. It feels good to see the love I give to come back ten-fold and then some. I will reach out individually down the road. I am just a broken ball of a shattered mess now.
Dexter, I don’t understand and I am so sorry. I am broken, gut-wrenching sorry. So sorry my love. I feel like I failed you, my wigglebutt. Your mom and I did everything and then some. Thirteen is way too young. Just way too young. Your mommies would have stopped this. We love you. Forever and a day…bark.