30 October 2008

A Tough Day for our Family


We have -- or had -- two Bernese Mountain Dogs. Shadow, on the left, is not yet seven. Finn, on the right. was almost eleven, which is quite old for the breed. About three months ago, we noticed him snuffling a lot, and the vet did a nasal scope and saw a hemangioma. A knowledgeable doggie-oncologist told us that it was almost certainly an angiosarcoma. Treatment options at this age and with this disease were minimal, and we reluctantly decided to let nature take its course.

Finn had a great last couple of months. He got lots of treats, as many walks as he could stand, and lots of love and attention. But his appetite waned and he started losing weight. He developed generalized lymphadenopathy. His breathing progressively became more labored. He had trouble getting up. I went away to the ACEP scientific assembly worrying whether the crisis woud come while I was gone, and it did. My wife called me and told me that Finn had fallen and was not able to get up. It wasn't clear whether it was a spinal cord thing or just overall weakness. We got the vet to get him some steroids, and he rallied enough for me to finish up some business and come home early from ACEP.

He was a sad sight today. Practically skeletal, and barely able to walk. But he wasn't in apparent pain, and he was glad to see me. He happily snarfed up some doggie treats and we coaxed him outside for one last walk (to the end of the driveway and back). The boys came home from school and we told them that the vet would be coming by after dinner, and what was going to happen. The three-year-old was fairly oblivious, but the six-year old was devastated. We had been preparing him for a while, but he wasn't ready for it to be today.

Neither was I. Who ever is?

Our wonderful vet came over and gently administered a whopping dose of propofol and something pink (I didn't ask what), while I sat with Finn's head on my lap, and first-born-son clinging to his neck, weeping. It was shockingly quick, and peaceful.

Now, the kids are in bed, and we're numb. My wife is broken-hearted. He was her first baby, and she doted on him. I just can't get used to sitting here typing without him stretching out on the floor next to my desk. There's a huge vacancy in our house; a member of our pack has gone missing.

It's too hard to explain how much I'll miss him, so I won't even try. Good-bye, buddy.

40 comments:

me_lewis said...

So sorry. I am been there with two beloved family member dogs...one a Border Collie and the other, more recently our 15 year old deaf, blind, severely arthritic old Pug. Our weeping for our departed loves was very painful.

Rest well and peacefully, dear Finn and family-Shadofax.

pelican said...

Finn sounds like an incredible dog. I had to make the same call with my 13 year old big guy six weeks ago. He too left a huge hole. I am so very sorry.

Mary said...

I'm so sorry.

We are not looking forward to that situation, but our lab just turned 11.

I hope the next few days are peaceful, and you guys remember the good times of your beautiful Finn.

Meghan said...

So sorry to hear that shadowfax (long time reader, rarely a commenter). A blog rarely makes me cry, but somehow the loss of an animal always does it. My mom had to put down my childhood dog last year- I got that dog for my 10th birthday!! She lived a happy 15 years. We put her down when she started acting confused and scared all the time. I wish we could do that for people sometimes. Goodbye Finn

Gingerale said...

I am sorry. Finn seems like a really good doggie.

stuboo said...

No need to explain. May the space left by Finn's absence be slowly filled to the brim with joyful memories of your time with him.

dr. nic said...

My condolences for your loss. I still mourn the loss of my 14 year old cocker spaniel and he died nearly 10 years ago.

RugbyGirlMD said...

I'm so sorry.

I recently went there with my 8 year old Kerry Blue who got dreadfully autoimmune on us.

No words can describe it.

I'm so sorry.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.... our first baby is getting old as well, and I'm mourning in advance of any major problems just from knowing her time is running low. Finn is just beautiful... so very sorry for you all.

ER's Mom said...

So sorry.

ehoffman said...

Sad day indeed... I have a 6-year-old son too, and I cannot even imagine how your hearts are breaking not just for yourselves, but for him and for your other two children. Very sorry for your loss...

rlbates said...

I understand all too well. So sorry for your loss.

lcsw mom said...

We just lost our wonderful Maine Coon cat. It was so lovely of the vet to come and take care of him at your house where he could pass among those that loved him. Take care of yourselves.

Dana said...

I'm so sorry, SF.

I lost my last woofer to cancer - I was a freshman in college 2000 miles away and didn't get to say goodbye. I'm glad that you got to come home early to be with your family and wish Finn a final farewell.

Can'tSpell, DVM said...

I'm so sorry. I'm a vet and things like this still make me cry even though I'm usually the one doing them. Sounds like he had a great last few months though and a good life before that, and that's what counts. If your curiosity ever overcomes your grief, drop me a comment and I'll tell you what the pink stuff was.

Shmoo said...

My condolences on your loss. Its never easy and they leave us too soon.

marcia said...

So sorry for the loss of your beloved family member, and for your family's heartbreak. You don't need to explain how you feel; a lot of us have been there and understand. Peace.

Christine-Megan said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. It's devastating to lose a pet.

Nancy said...

I'm sorry for your loss. It sounds like Finn has a wonderful loving family and he would probably want you to find comfort.

Anonymous said...

I am very sorry for your family's loss and I hope Shadow is OK.

GuitarGirlRN said...

My old guy is 12 or 13 now...I'm not looking forward to that day.

So sorry to hear your pal is gone.

Ali said...

I'm sorry to hear that. He sounded like a very lovely and lucky dog.

Matlatzinca said...

What a sad, hard day. So hard for your 6 year old. I remember losing my first dog, at 10, and the ache in my heart at learning he was gone. I will miss Finn as well. Hugs to everyone.

Ruth said...

So sorry to hear of this. We lost our 17 year old beloved mutt nearly two years ago and I can still feel my arms around her beautiful white ruff as she left us. I can't quite put into words what it is to loose our dealy loved dogs--something about how pure they are in our devotions to us, I think.

We know have cute 8 month old pup in our family, but the ache for the 'dog of our hearts' never quite leaves.

Cling to one another in this tough time.

Anonymous said...

I'm dreading the day when my turn comes. Is it any easier when you have two?

randompawses AT gmail dot com said...

I'm so very sorry you've been parted from your beloved Finn. I've felt that pain more times than I care to recall. Sometimes I wish I would never have to go through it again, but my life wouldn't be complete without four-legged companions, so pain upon parting is a price I willingly pay for the joy of having them with me.

There's a poem called "The Rainbow Bridge" that helps me. May it bring you some comfort in your sorrow....



Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....


(Author unknown)

NurseExec said...

I'm so sorry that you've lost your beloved friend--it always has struck me as a cruel joke that dogs have such short lives. We lost our best friend, Atu, an Alaskan Malamute to cancer at 10. My heart goes out to you and your family.

Teresa said...

I'm so sorry, Dr. Shadowfax. There's no need for you to explain your feelings. Those who've been there already understand, and those who haven't had this kind of loss will just have to use their empathy skills, like you do every day in the ED. It's just one of those emotions that's hard to put into words.

Theresa said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Finn. Sometimes I believe our non-human animal friends are sent to teach us about impermanence and to be grateful for every second of life.

Ted said...

I'm sorry for your loss.

Good dogs should all live forever, because it hurts too much to lose them.

Ladyk73 said...

ohh....I am so sorry.

NikkiK said...

I'm sorry to hear that. I never had a dog until I married my husband, and I didn't realize how much he (the dog) meant to me until he passed away in March. I'm glad you had such a nice buddy.

The Clerk said...

I am so sorry for your loss. It's never easy to lose a member of the family.

isles said...

It's clear how much you loved Finn. He had a wonderful life with you, Mrs. Shadow, and the little Faxes.

Kath said...

So very sorry for you and your family. Losing a pet is one of the hardest things that can happen to you.

When I had my Maxi put to sleep after close to 19 years her vet told me the pink stuff stood for peaceful juice...that Maxi would slip off to sleep quietly and peacefully. And she did as she heard me tell her that I loved her and she was the best doggie ever.

It's hard to let go of unconditional love.

timbrown said...

So sorry to hear about your family's loss. Finn was a great big friendly dog.

E said...

sorry to hear the news.

tyro said...

We talk about the void we will feel when our eleven-year old retriever goes; she too was my wife's first baby, and precedes me. She has overseen the growth of her 'pack'--and it is hers--from two to six.

I'll tell her to look up Finn when she goes to the great doggie beyond. Sorry for your loss.

7 years said...

I am sorry to hear this...
dogs are such a important part of so many lives.

Condolences
7

Altissima said...

It's never easy to lose a loved family member, no matter how much warning you have. Condolences from a reader on the other side of the world.