Too Hard to Let Go

In Family on March 22, 2010 at 8:06 am

In the summer of 2008, we started to notice traces of blood on the carpet where our dog would lay.  We kept checking his paws for cuts, but couldn’t find any.  At some point, we noticed a small bump on his nose.  I’m not sure how or when we figured it out, but the blood was not coming from his paws at all.  It was coming from his nose.  We had no idea what it was, but we thought that the vet would be able to give him something to clear it up.  After taking an x-ray, they determined that it was a tumor, which is apparently not that uncommon for German Shepherds.  The only option we were given was surgery to remove the tumor.  Aside from the fact that it was very risky (with no guarantees of success), the overall treatment would have cost at least $5000, so we were left with no real options.

The tumor continued to grow, and the nosebleeds got worse.  In only a few months, the dog that would spend all day chasing birds and squirrels up and down the hill in our backyard, started to become lethargic.  He would give chase once in a while, but most of his days were spent lying in the sun on the grass, or on the covered cement patio.  On Thanksgiving Day, we feared the worst, as we couldn’t find him in any of his usual spots.  He had nestled himself into a corner covered by bushes, and didn’t come out when called.  Eventually he emerged from the bushes, but we knew that things had taken a turn for the worse.

By January of last year, the nosebleeds became so bad that we started contemplating what to do.  Our dog no longer had the run of the house.  We had to confine him to the rooms without carpet, and had to block the stairs because he no longer had the strength to get up and down them.  He would spend time outside, but no longer was able to do so for long periods of time when it was cold.  All the while, the tumor continued to grow so large that his vision was impaired.

March of 2009 was a very difficult time.  My grandmother had passed away in the beginning of the month (see post entitled “A Year Ago Today”), and we had decided that we would be relocating to Texas once the school year ended.  None of this was easy on us, but it was hardest on our son, who was six years old at the time.  First he had to deal with the loss of his great grandmother, and then he found out that he was going to be leaving his home and his friends to move to another part of the country.  He also knew that things were not good for our dog who was fading fast.

When he got home from school on a Friday, we had to sit him down and tell him that we were going to have to put our dog to sleep.  We explained that he wasn’t happy anymore because he couldn’t do the things that he loved to do.  He was very sad, but he seemed to understand that it was what needed to be done, and that we were only doing it for our dog’s sake.  The appointment that we dreaded was made for Monday.  We had held out hope that he would go on his own, but he was hanging on (albeit by a narrow margin).

My son spent time with our dog on Saturday, and then on Sunday, before going to a friend’s birthday party, he went outside and threw the ball to him.  Although he could only bring it back two times, at a very slow pace, he was still connecting with us.  I went inside and told my wife that we had to cancel the appointment.  I didn’t have the heart to put our dog to sleep, even though I knew that it was the right thing to do.  My wife reluctantly agreed to my decision, which was based purely on emotion and not at all on logic.

I took my son to his friend’s birthday party.  He was able to really enjoy himself knowing that we were not going to be putting our dog to sleep the next day.

When we got home, I looked out the kitchen window and saw my dog lying very still in the grass.  My wife said that he did that while my son and I were out, but he eventually lifted his head slowly and looked up.  I went outside and got down on my knees to check on him.  He was gone.  I went in and got the family so that we could say our goodbyes.  It was one of the saddest moments of my life.  The only solace that I got was that he died in the place that he loved best in the world.

He lived exactly 12.5 years to the day.  My wife and I got him when he was just a puppy (before we even got engaged).  He moved from place to place with us, but he was not destined to make the move to Texas.  Out of all of the places that we lived, our last place was his favorite.  He would spend nearly every waking hour running up and down that hill.  At times, we would bring him in to eat, drink and hang out, but it wouldn’t be long before he was scratching at the back door to go back outside.

Today is a painful reminder of his loss as it is the one-year anniversary of his passing.  My son has told us that he never wants another dog again because that was his dog and he can’t be replaced.  I agree, and so does my wife.  My little one can’t really grasp that he’s gone, and still asks about him from time to time as if he is still running around outside waiting to come in later on.  If only that were true.

So today, I pay tribute to our beloved dog.  Wherever you are pal, just know that you may be gone, but you are not forgotten by any of us.  And though you may not be with us anymore, you will always be our dog!

  1. Adam, this one really hit home. For the longest time, my Mom refused to let my Dad have a dog because she dreaded 13ish years down the road. Thanks to years of hearing her mindset, I sometimes feel that same dread…although Sadie is only 8 months old. Dogs are the best people there are!! I hope your family has a change of heart one day. Not to ‘replace’ your buddy, but to feel that love again.

  2. That was a very touching story Adam, I was at work when I read and it brought tears to my eyes. Thinking of the many pets I have loved and lost. I was the same way for years I couldn’t think of owning a pet, because I couldn’t help but think of the pain I suffered from the loss of those pets, but once again I have a dog and a cat. I love them dearly though they can never replace the ones that came before them. They have made new memories for us to enjoy.
    Take care, and let’s get onto April. February and March are the two hardest months of the year for me and you too it seems.
    Love to you guys,

  3. Dear Adam and Karen, These decisions in life are so difficult to make and I am glad that Noochie chose his own destiny on what to do for himself and ya’ll. Having to put two to sleep myself, and still sobbing over it, at different times, makes me empathize with you so much. And at some point, Zack will change his mind also. My younger daughter has a Shepherd (that is bigger than her) and they are all so attached too. He was the one that got lost during Hurricane Katrina – and fortunately – found him 2 1/2 weeks later! They are truly our 4 legged babies and bring so much joy to us…and I am truly sorry yours did not make it down here, as he would have loved Texas! Thinking of ya’ll with warm thoughts. And thank you, as always, for your blog – straight from the heart! Love, Marilyn

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