dog moms

The Death of My Beloved Canine Hero

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.

Next Steps

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.

dog mom and dog

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.

IMHA was ruled out.

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.

dog mom

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.

Now What

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.

A Cure

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.

my beloved dog died


  1. Carol, have you reached out to Dr. Karen Becker and Rodney Habib? They may have some insight for you about pre-sceening.
    Hugs, Cathy and Toby

  2. Cancer is a bitch. I dream of the time a friend doesn’t have to tell me they have cancer, their family member is dying of cancer or they lost a beloved furry family member to the dreaded “C”. My heart breaks for you and Darlene. Sending love.

  3. As usual beautifully written my friend. I know you know how I feel. I feel your loss. Dexter meant the world to me too. I felt so close to his strong spirit. No words ease this pain. I’m so deeply sorry.

  4. Beautifully written and gut wrenching. Dex will come to you when you least expect him. You’ll feel him, even perhaps think you see him – peeking at you around the corner, over by the cows, at the window, by the door.
    Hang in there my friends. You are loved. Anne

  5. I am so very sorry for the great loss of Dexter. It just rips your gut out. I went through this a few yrs ago with my oldest, who had a rare form of cancer. she lived another 10 mos with chemo, she should have died within 2 wks, but she fought. the vets even though she had another 6 mos or more, but she died in my arms while i was feeding her, i gave her mouth to mouth, rushed her to the cancer vet, had her put on life support til he came in, he said she was brain dead. i held her for hours before he put the needle in, even today i tell her i am so sorry i could not save you.
    it is a mess right now trying to see vets, er, etc. i have spent over 15k since july on my girls with er, tests, etc. my oldest almost died twice. i asked my vet about your dog and the cancer, she said she had a dog that had the same thing recently and had a hard time finding a vet to do the surgery, Even the NC vet school would not take the dog. luckily she found someone close by and right away. i think if you could have found someone sooner, things might have been different you just never know. corvid 19 has been terrible in trying to see drs. vets, etc. i was in a very bad car accident, in feb, someone ran a light and hit me head on, totaled my car, concussions, etc, still dealing with the issues and trying to find drs to help. will need some surgeries. i dont know what world we are in today, you have a wonderful support system and lots of friends and fans.
    Again, i am so very sorry for your loss, please accept my sincerest sympathies at this time of mourning.

  6. Carol I am so sorry to hear about Dexter. It is the hardest thing to go through, especially when it happens without warning. I hope you find peace in all the wonderful memories you have of him.

  7. I can’t express how sorry I am! Damned cancer-and that is what it is. My Molly Muffin got a lump on her back leg. It felt too hard to be a lipoma, so I took her to the vet. We could NOT find it! My vet looked and felt, I looked and felt, since it was a large practice, 3 other vets and a vet tech came in. We all searched and searched. Could NOT find it! This was December-I thought well, maybe I imagined this. I took Molly back to the vet in January because now she had like a stone on top of her hip; same side. Yes, it was a cancer. The vet couldn’t get clean edges, no matter how much she removed. It invaded Molly’s lungs and she was dead in August. Evidently, it can be like that. That was 2020. Clementine was a healthy, playful cocker that helped raise the new puppy Oscar-until August of 2021. Liver cancer killed her within 1 week. They were 13 and 14; had been the picture of health. Cancer is a vicious disease and they seem to go so quickly. Maybe cancer can’t be cured, but I would be happy if we could just find it and control it. Kind of like diabetes. But these damned cancers just appear and most of the time they are rampant in the dogs’ body. I know how heart broken you and Darlene are. Like people, dogs leave an empty spot that they own for eternity.

  8. Dar and Carol, I am so very sorry to read this. May Dexter rest in gentle peace. He will run happily into the arms of God before he crosses the Rainbow Bridge, where he will be met by Brandy, Little Bit, Pepper, and a host of others.

  9. I read your words with tears in my eyes and pain in my heart for you. We have one of our own who is now living day to day with the dreaded Hemangiosarcoma. It’s so astonishing that more isn’t known about this disease; we never knew about it until it suddenly appeared.
    God blessed you with a cherished friend. Hold the memories dear. There is never enough time. Each day was a gift and the memories are too.

  10. I sit here with tears in my eyes and pain in my heart. My wife and I are shocked and devastated by the sudden loss of our 10 and 1/2 year old Golden Retriever “Annabell” just two days ago. Annie was our entire life. She was a goofy, lovable, active puppy until the day she died…….December 26,2021 at 6;26 AM.
    She was her nutty self in the morning, eating ,playing, jumping on the beds. She walked into the living room and just stood there. My wife felt her torso and she yelped in pain.
    We called our vet and took her there immediately. She was tested for bloat, pancreatitis and was given complete bloodwork and X-rays. All came back perfect. A urine analysis was done and it was determined that she had a UTI. Medication was given. Further tests on the urine were taken.
    At home she would just stand there so we went back to the vet to get some pain meds.
    Of course she ate as usual but later that evening she was panting and would not lie down.
    I planned to take her to the vet early next morning ( I now regret not doing so).
    She woke up Christmas Eve morning and was herself. She was jumping up for her food, running around, playing with all her toys. She was as crazy as ever all day and at night
    Christmas morning she was goofball again. I thought all was OK. We went to a friends house for Dinner and of course Annabell was invited.( That’s a big problem because Annie was everbody’s dog. She was part of our social circle. I cry just looking at Christmas Cards and invites because they are always addressed to my wife and me and Annie.
    Well after dinner she seemed to act strange again. She did have the pain in her belly again.
    We took her home and gave her a pain pill. She went into our bedroom and just sat there breathing very heavily and drinking water. I could not move. I carried her outside to urinate. She did so but just laid in the grass. I carried her back inside and let her be. We tried to go to an emergency vet but to no avail. I laid next to her for hours until she passed.
    She had a great life, but her last struggling hours have given us horror, sadness and guilt.
    Our hearts have been torn out

    1. First, I know exactly what you are feeling, and I can completely empathize with you. Did your sweet baby pass from hemangiosarcoma? I’ve learned the hard way it comes on so sudden and Golden Retrievers are an overrepresented breed for HSA.

      My heart is with you, and I feel the path of pain on which you walk. Sending you and your wife all my condolences.

  11. I just lost my cocker to the dreadful same cancer, in nearly the same way except that at least I finally found an urgent care vet at midnight only 15 minutes away to take him and he spent the night with oxygen; their xrays showed a splenic mass but I didn’t understand yet how bad this would be. I had gone home thinking it was just his heart murmur getting worse but not thinking it was life threatening. He got better, the bleeding miraculously stopped maybe due to getting the emergency pill of Yunnan Baio, so they decided not to operate that night, but then two days later a CT scan showed the splenic mass had spread to his liver and due to his age being around 12 (he was a rescue so never knew exact age) and heart murmur the vet surgeon said it was not a good idea to operate. He seemed happy again, was walking around wagging at everyone, being his usual super sweet self. I gave him the Yunnan Baio every day and took very small short walks and prayed and thought that he might live more months like this, maybe even two years? if I was ‘careful’. A week or so later was my birthday and he was a happy boy all that day. The next day morning he was ok but then after lunch he got weak again and the whole nightmare started over and this time it was the end, after a few more hours at the vet. I had tears in my eyes reading your story of wailing and sobbing, it was the same for me, hours of crying and “what should I have done to know??” I had done all that you did too, regular checkups, heart echio, xrays, bloodwork all just about two months before. So thank you for your detailed blog, as you relieved my horrible feelings of guilt at ‘why didn’t I get a ct scan earlier, no one mentioned I should’. I thought the xrays would have shown it in time to do something if needed. I was ignorant of this type of cancer but now I know so much more. I miss him every day just like you do, I reach out to pet the air and imagine he is there with his soft ears and lovable self, there can never be another dog who suited me as well as my beloved gentle Little Red but I have started looking at rescues and breeders but I dread going through that kind of pain ever again, but also living without another cocker spaniel seems dreadful too. I love your photos of Dexter, also the new puppy.

    1. That is so devastating, Connie. I am sad to know you are on this journey of devastating grief. HSA is evil and I am still stunned. I am certain I will carry my grief and my love to my own grave. I also know Dexter would want me to be happy and bring another dog into my life. I couldn’t be in this world without one. It is scary, too, but I have to fill my soul with the love only a dog (Cocker) can bring. I wish you peace and please know I am thinking of you. Hugs.

  12. On Sunday my beautiful 10 year old German shepherd died. Fine in the morning, started being restless in the afternoon, and by early evening was dyspneic and distressed with a very pale tongue. A call to the on call vet was truly unproductive and I was told to give her an anti inflammatory as she was probably arthritic due to her age. The dyspnea worsened, her distress increased and she weakened so much she could barely get on the couch. I made a second call to the on call vet who said, give her paracetamol (Advil) at a dose I could not reconcile with her weight ( I am a nurse) along with, oh you can bring her in but all I will do is give her morphine and put her in a crate until tomorrow. Within 5 minutes she was dead. Struggling to understand what had happened to a dog who was playing with the cat and barking at the pool guy just hours before, I read and read and read. And I have come to the conclusion a haemangiosarcoma caused a massive internal bleed and death. She died on the couch , with me petting her. She was my soulmate. I never ever want to see that vet again. When I rang to say she had died, she said oh, I didn’t think she would die, and then proceeded to tell me about a German Shepherd that she did deign to see early in the day, who had haemorrhaged and died in the consult.
    I know there can never be a good outcome in circumstances like this, but there shouldn’t have been out and out neglect.

    1. I don’t even know what to say. I can feel the pain in your words, Joan. I am incredibly sorry for your loss and everything you went through. May your sweet German Shepherd rest in peace.

  13. My beautiful Bella,
    So at the end of November I was petting My Beautiful Girl and right around Her left rib cage I noticed a dime sized lump. I immediately googled it to see what it could possibly be. It said more than likely it’s a lipoma and more often than not benign. And in that article I read not necessary to take your dog to your vet right away but it’s a good idea on your next visit to mention it unless it starts to get bigger as in starts to be in the way and uncomfortable for the dog. So I was relieved by that news and a couple weeks go by and I was at work 120 miles aways. My Husband called Our Vet and asked to have Her seen. She wasn’t having any problems, just wanted that lump looked at. He brought Her in and the last words He said to Her were. “ I’ll pick You up when You’re all done, be a good Girl”.
    Couple hours later They called My Husband and said We are going to put Her under and open Her up and scoop out the lump. He replied “Ok yes do whatever is necessary to make Her ok”.
    They called back a half hour later and said well Me didn’t do the surgery because upon shaving Her We noticed there was bruising from Her clavicle to her pelvic bone. They said They are going to send Her home on meds (they thought maybe She got into rat poison). We don’t have rat poison in Our home. She said “Bella’s doing fine and coming out of the anesthesia just fine. That He could come pick Her up in a half hour and They would get Her and Her medication ready. They called five Minutes later and said “don’t come here yet, Bella Is having Cardiac problems”and hung up. She called back and told Us that She was gone and it was that fast. They were right there next to Her and watched as She collapsed in the large kennel They had Her in. They performed CPR but She didn’t come back.
    We are extremely devastated and shocked and in disbelief. She was My Husbands world and She was His. Their Bond was unbreakable and He’s taking it super hard because He wasn’t there with Her. Bella was exactly 9 years and two months old to the day. We thought We had so much time left with Her. We are broken.
    I had to leave work. I work at a Hospital and I drove home bawling. The next Day I went to My Vets office to see if I could make any sense out of the situation. She said She was surprised as well. I asked to see the x-rays and She showed Me and You couldn’t even see Her whole heart because of all the blood pooling. She said that She was bleeding all over internally. She said more than likely it made Her have a Brain aneurysm from all the bleeding internally.
    So does that sound like Hemangiosarcoma? Because it sounds like that’s what it was. What do You think? Like You I just need some answers.
    Thank You,
    Diana V.Campbell
    P.S. so very sorry for Your loss 🙁

    1. Hi Diana – First, I am incredibly sorry you went through this. The pain is so unbearable when our precious babies pass away, especially suddenly. My heart is with you and I understand completely.
      I am not a vet, but I can tell you that internal bleeding can be caused by many things. So many things could have caused this. If it was sudden it could have been hemangiosarcoma or any number of things. The fact that you talked to your vet is a good thing. I will never understand why these things happen.

      1. Me either. It still is hard to believe and I honestly can’t stop thinking that maybe My Vet did something wrong, it’s been My gut feeling since this happened.
        That Day that I talked with Her about what happened I also talked to the other Vet that works there and was the one that found the bruising on Bella. Every time I asked Her a question She would look at My Vet (Maryanne) and then answer as though They were covering something up. I don’t know, maybe I’m reading Them wrong, but My gut tells Me otherwise. It’s terrible without My Babies greeting Me at the door when I get home from being 120 miles away for My work week. I just lost My Baby Boy Rat-A-Tat on August 3rd and that was the second hardest thing I’ve had to go through. He was bonded to Me two years before I ever got Him. I believe dogs pick Their Owners because He in fact picked Me the first time I met Him. The first hardest thing was losing My Mom to Covid Pneumonia at the same Hospital I work at. At least I was fortunate enough to get to be there with Her and hold Her hand as She left it happened on 4/17/2021 at that time People had to pass away alone or on FaceTime but fortunately My Mom didn’t have to. Also not only was I there but so was My oldest Sister and My Daughter.
        I’m sorry I don’t know why I felt compelled to tell You all that as it doesn’t pertain to the subject at hand.
        Thank You for listening and Your feedback, it’s much appreciated.
        Diana Campbell

        1. I appreciate you writing, Diana. Sometimes it helps to get the words and feelings out. Death is so hard, especially unexpected death. My deepest condolences to you.

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