I thought something was wrong when he stopped eating his dog food. I knew something was wrong when I saw how thin he became days later. And when he whimpered in the middle of the night, I just knew.
I took him in the next day to the vet who recommended blood work, but not a chest x-ray because she didn’t think it necessary and didn’t want to rack up my bill. I thought that was nice of her. She sent me home with some antibiotics, some wet food, and told me to come back in a week. When I returned she thought it was best to do the x-ray, so we did.
After 10 minutes she called me in the back to show me that his lungs were being squashed from the tumors. Surgery was an option but not recommended for an 11 ½ year old Golden Retriever. 2-4 weeks was the estimation. I was to love him and feed him whatever I wanted (no problem there). I knew I should be asking questions but the tears that filled my eyes prevented me from speaking. I grabbed some more wet food on the way out and 30 days’ worth of the Prednisone, which was supposed to make his last few weeks easier.
Life went back to normal for a while. He ate everything I put in front of him and quickly started putting the pounds back on. I was happy to see him vibrant. He started having accidents in the house, but I just chalked that up to side effects from his medicine. After all, he still got excited every time we opened the pool gate to the let the kids swim. He loved sitting on the first step, drinking the pool water. For a little while I convinced myself everything was going to be ok, but I always knew we were close to the end.
Every day I would stare at the remaining pills. The vet had given me 60 and I was to give Buddy 2 a day. Every day the number of remaining pills would shrink, and I kept remembering what the vet told me. 2-4 weeks.
It was a Friday and I had 5 pills left. I looked down at my friend, wheezing, unable to pick his head up. Should I call the vet and ask for a refill? I looked down at him again. I knew it was time to say goodbye.
I called my wife to let her know. It was my dog and my decision. I was prepared to go alone but she insisted. He drove her crazy, but she loved him as well and wanted to be there. When we arrived, he didn’t want to get out, which wasn’t unusual. I had to reach into the back of my car to gently pull him out, and after weeks of gorging on delicious, wet dog food (he had been given dry his whole life), along with hot dogs, leftover steak, popcorn, etc., he was back to the triple digit weight I had known for most of his life.
First came the sleepy medicine, which the vet told me would take about 10 minutes. I laid with him while he panted. I grabbed his big furry neck and kissed more times than I can remember. I told him how his ears still had the same puppy fur from 11 years ago.
When she came back she seemed surprised he wasn’t knocked out yet. I had to smile at that. Buddy was a tough dog. She gave him another round and when that didn’t work fast enough, she administered the Propofol, and shortly after, the ‘goodbye’ medicine. He let out one big sigh. I cried the whole time. I hadn’t cried in almost 20 years.
When we left I decided to go back to work for the remaining hours. After that I had to rush home and help get the kids in their Halloween costume for the party we were going to be late for. Having something to do, somewhere to go, made it easier to take my mind off Buddy, but with his passing just hours earlier, it was still so fresh.
Each day got a little easier but it wasn’t easy. The questions kept coming. Did I do it too soon? Did I do it too late? Did I make the most of his last few weeks? Could I have done more? For the first week the habits I knew for 11 years remained. I’d walk to the laundry room to fill up his food and water only to realized he wasn’t there. I’d see the brown fuzzy blanket on the floor out of the corner of my eye and walk over to it for a second, only to realize it wasn’t him.
Ultimately, I felt comfortable with my decisions and knew that I did the best I could, and so did he. Like a lot of Goldens, Buddy had torn his ACL in both hind legs, and the last two years of his life saw significantly reduced mobility. Looking back, I realized the poor guy didn’t have the same quality of life during that time, but it was still a life worth living, and I was fortunate to be a part of it.
At some point we’ll get another dog and it will probably be sooner than later. My high school teacher used to say, ‘Nothing We Lose Can Be Replaced’, and I can’t argue with that.