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swain

How To Cope With The Not Knowing

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swain   

I've been keeping it together trying to enjoy whatever time we have with Buddy but I'm finding it difficult not knowing when the end will come. I'm hyper vigilant..was up a lot of the night cos Buddy seemed restless and panting a lot. Called vet this morning and they said as long as he's eating he'll be fine (a bit more detailed than that but that was the basic conclusion). Does it get easier? I feel so down and depressed and can't breath (ironic cos of what Buddy's condition is). And now i feel selfish because I'm making it all about me. Didn't think it would be this hard ????

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Tassie   

Not sure I can help at all, except to say that you're not on your own .. a lot of us have been in similar places - though not quite as heartbreaking as yours. There's heaps of non-judgmental cyber support here for you to vent/cry whenever you need to. Maybe some sort of little diary like westiemum was talking about ..good things - like eating, wanting to cuddle etc., able to toilet .. will give you indications of quality of life. And whether Buddy still wants to be around. Hugs and support to you.

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JulesP   

No it doesn't really get easier. If Amber isn't with Poppy or they are really quiet in the morning I panic a bit that she has died. You get a bit more resigned to it I guess.

Dealing with a palliative care pet really does take a toll on you. It is a fair bit of work to get the meds and diet right, not to mention expensive. I don't feel like I can go away on holidays and leave her.

Then you also have to let go of all the plans you made for dog. I was going to do dog sports and maybe breed with Amber.

It is a really sucky situation to be in. :kissbetter:

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CHA   

Oh you poor thing, its so hard what you are going through. There is no easy answer you just go one day at a time and be there for him, attend to his needs and know that you are giving him the best care you can. It is also about you, you love him and are going to miss him so much. Take extra care of you xxx

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You're not selfish. Not one bit. Loved ones of people with terminal illnesses go through the same thing: if it helps to put a name to it, you're grieving or having anticipatory grief. It might be nice if we could hold it all in and fall apart afterwards, but the heart doesn't work like that. It just means we love our special person or pet.

Do you have a support system you can lean on outside of DOL? Do keep chatting here — those of us who have gone through loss / terminal illness with a beloved pet get it as much as we can — but be sure to let people in about how you're feeling, including your GP if you aren't coping and these feeling persist. Also try to make time to do some self-care and things you usually enjoy, to look after yourself. Listen to music, take a relaxing bath, go for a walk, etc. Even if you might not feel like it. Especially if you don't feel like it.

Take care. xx

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It's such a tough time. I really relate to that Jules said about worrying first thing in the morning - we used to just stand there and watch one of our old dogs - trying to see if he was breathing. As he got older and more frail I admit I occasionally went down the yard to wake him up - just to make sure he would xxx.

We each deal with this kind of thing in our own way. Have a read through the palliative care forum if you can bare to, and have not done so already. I think for me - knowing I was on limited time with my last girl helped me prepare. When she was first diagnosed with multiple illnesses and put on medication "for the rest of her life" I was a wreck - I took a day or two off work and stayed in bed (with her) and bawled. After that we settled into a "new normal" and tried to see each day with her as a bonus and when it was time for her to go it was the hardest but easiest thing I've ever done. I've always thought getting the chance to mentally prepare is a nicer option than not and I'm grateful I got that "bonus time" with her.

Take care of yourself :heart: It's the hardest bloody thing we go through, yet we keep signing up for it. xxx

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swain   

Thanks everyone! Your support means a lot. I had a mini panick attack.....went and had a rest and feel like i can cope for a bit longer. Hubby took my daughter, Buddy and other dog to park. They had a good time. Though Buddys decline was noticable. Last sunday he was running around after my daughter today he ran a few steps and that was it. Poor lil man.

JulesP you are amazing for doing this so long. Like you said it takes its tol but you do what you can.

Time for a glass of something i feel ????

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swain   

Thanks Papillion kisses and Scottsmum! Helps so much to have extra support. My hubby and family are really supportive so I'm fortunate in that way xx

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JulesP   

You can do whatever it is you need to do Swain. Sometimes that involves having a good cry and then getting on with it.

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Nope, you are definately not alone. We are still recovering from a very recent loss. My sister and her heart dog lived with me and my two dogs. As a large breed dog little health issues started arising when she hit 11. Her first health issue was these weird skin growths affecting her vision. Surgery x 3 as they kept appearing. All was good and then I noticed she had a discharge (hard to see with her furry foo-foo). She had pyometra and went straight in for surgery (my sister's choice not to desex and it had never been an issue - no unwanted litters or on heat escapes). Then three months after that she was on her back having a scratch and in amongst the fur I noticed mammary lumps. Straight into the vet the next day and it was mammary cancer. She looked like Frankenstein after she got home from surgery but for 9 months her xrays were all clear and she was in perfect health. Then she started being a little incontinent and we put it down to age as she was normal in every other way. Then she was struggling with our 3 stairs due to arthritis. We started her on shots and physio (she was already on other supplements). There was initial improvement and she was able to use the stairs again.

But then all of a sudden after Christmas she stopped. We bought a ramp which she wouldn't use. My sister simply moved to the lower area of the house to be with her, no biggie. She started to be fussy with her food (she was a fussy eater when she was younger). After her emergency desex she had put on a lot of weight fairly quickly but all of a sudden she was losing weight so it was back to the vet. After we mentioned the incontinence and stair issue (which we'd put down to age) he found high levels of calcium in her pee so did more tests and determined she had cancer in her anal glands.

We went to our first oncology appointment on a Wednesday and scans revealed cancer in the glands in her groin, near her liver and in the anal glands. They gave us a list of 6 treatment options. Despite her age the first two included surgery and an 18 month life span prognosis. We asked numerous times how soon we had to decide and what to look out for regarding deterioration in her condition, what to expect if treatment wasn't working, etc. We went home with the dog started on the most basic of cancer meds. My sister immediately did some research, talked to others who'd had cancer treatment for their dogs and also saw our usual vet to weigh it all up. She made her decision and had an appointment back with the oncologist later the following week.

On the Monday night after the Wednesday appointment her dog had diarreha (which I can't spell!). We thought it might be a reaction to the meds and when it didn't settle overnight we booked an appointment with our vet on the Tuesday afternoon. We were all shocked to find out the cancer in the groin area was stopping her from pooing and everything inside was breaking down. We basically sat with her on the floor of the consult room and said our goodbyes less than a week after scans and advice from specialists saying she was a surgical candidate and 'could' live for another 18 months (which we felt was rather unlikely and we were not comfortable with the surgical options anyway).

We got one lousy hour to say goodbye to a dog that had been my sister's world for almost 13 years. I can't tell you how much that sucked. She wasn't even well enough for us to take home for just the night. I am still incredibly angry about not being told how large those tumours were and what might happen despite repeated questioning. There was no mention of blockages. We only ever wanted to do the right thing by her and were denied the ability to spoil her and spend time with her at the end because we didn't actually know when the end was. We put a lot of changes down to age, like most people would, so there is a lot of guilt. Even though we sought immediate treatment for everything unusual and she showed no signs of being that ill.

I have to remind myself and my sister that all dogs die of something. Very few of them just go to sleep one night in a comfy warm bed when they are really old and never wake up again. That is a fantasy death that we'd all like for them to have. Nope. They get cancer and other crappy illnesses and they try to be strong, not make a fuss and hang on for us. Unfortunately they rely on us to make the 'hard decision' at the 'right time' whether we are ready or not. It's frigging hard. Even if you know your dog you will second guess yourself. Did I leave it too long? Did I do it too soon?

My advice is if they become a risk to themselves in your absence or if they no longer actively engage with you in your presence then it might be time. Don't leave it to the last minute to spend time together or spoil them or you might miss out like we did. Comfort them with your words and touch. Live in the moment together for as long as you can. Those little things mean the world to a dog.

Hugs to you. I know exactly how much this sucks.

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Tassie   

Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Little Gifts ... awesome post! So sorry about how it worked out for you and your sister.

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swain   

You can do whatever it is you need to do Swain. Sometimes that involves having a good cry and then getting on with it.

Thanks JulesP. Today was a better day. Just enjoyed being around Buddy and his painful puppy antics ???? He can chew as many of our shoes as he likes????

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swain   

Nope, you are definately not alone. We are still recovering from a very recent loss. My sister and her heart dog lived with me and my two dogs. As a large breed dog little health issues started arising when she hit 11. Her first health issue was these weird skin growths affecting her vision. Surgery x 3 as they kept appearing. All was good and then I noticed she had a discharge (hard to see with her furry foo-foo). She had pyometra and went straight in for surgery (my sister's choice not to desex and it had never been an issue - no unwanted litters or on heat escapes). Then three months after that she was on her back having a scratch and in amongst the fur I noticed mammary lumps. Straight into the vet the next day and it was mammary cancer. She looked like Frankenstein after she got home from surgery but for 9 months her xrays were all clear and she was in perfect health. Then she started being a little incontinent and we put it down to age as she was normal in every other way. Then she was struggling with our 3 stairs due to arthritis. We started her on shots and physio (she was already on other supplements). There was initial improvement and she was able to use the stairs again.

But then all of a sudden after Christmas she stopped. We bought a ramp which she wouldn't use. My sister simply moved to the lower area of the house to be with her, no biggie. She started to be fussy with her food (she was a fussy eater when she was younger). After her emergency desex she had put on a lot of weight fairly quickly but all of a sudden she was losing weight so it was back to the vet. After we mentioned the incontinence and stair issue (which we'd put down to age) he found high levels of calcium in her pee so did more tests and determined she had cancer in her anal glands.

We went to our first oncology appointment on a Wednesday and scans revealed cancer in the glands in her groin, near her liver and in the anal glands. They gave us a list of 6 treatment options. Despite her age the first two included surgery and an 18 month life span prognosis. We asked numerous times how soon we had to decide and what to look out for regarding deterioration in her condition, what to expect if treatment wasn't working, etc. We went home with the dog started on the most basic of cancer meds. My sister immediately did some research, talked to others who'd had cancer treatment for their dogs and also saw our usual vet to weigh it all up. She made her decision and had an appointment back with the oncologist later the following week.

On the Monday night after the Wednesday appointment her dog had diarreha (which I can't spell!). We thought it might be a reaction to the meds and when it didn't settle overnight we booked an appointment with our vet on the Tuesday afternoon. We were all shocked to find out the cancer in the groin area was stopping her from pooing and everything inside was breaking down. We basically sat with her on the floor of the consult room and said our goodbyes less than a week after scans and advice from specialists saying she was a surgical candidate and 'could' live for another 18 months (which we felt was rather unlikely and we were not comfortable with the surgical options anyway).

We got one lousy hour to say goodbye to a dog that had been my sister's world for almost 13 years. I can't tell you how much that sucked. She wasn't even well enough for us to take home for just the night. I am still incredibly angry about not being told how large those tumours were and what might happen despite repeated questioning. There was no mention of blockages. We only ever wanted to do the right thing by her and were denied the ability to spoil her and spend time with her at the end because we didn't actually know when the end was. We put a lot of changes down to age, like most people would, so there is a lot of guilt. Even though we sought immediate treatment for everything unusual and she showed no signs of being that ill.

I have to remind myself and my sister that all dogs die of something. Very few of them just go to sleep one night in a comfy warm bed when they are really old and never wake up again. That is a fantasy death that we'd all like for them to have. Nope. They get cancer and other crappy illnesses and they try to be strong, not make a fuss and hang on for us. Unfortunately they rely on us to make the 'hard decision' at the 'right time' whether we are ready or not. It's frigging hard. Even if you know your dog you will second guess yourself. Did I leave it too long? Did I do it too soon?

My advice is if they become a risk to themselves in your absence or if they no longer actively engage with you in your presence then it might be time. Don't leave it to the last minute to spend time together or spoil them or you might miss out like we did. Comfort them with your words and touch. Live in the moment together for as long as you can. Those little things mean the world to a dog.

Hugs to you. I know exactly how much this sucks.

Appreciate you sharing this Little Gifts. What a deeply life changing experience for you all. As much as you were lucky to have her, she was lucky to have you guys caring so much for her. That last sad week you had with her doesn't define all the other months and years that you had together. Wonderful memories ????

I have a 16 yr old girl as well and tend to put a lot of her aches/ incontinence to old age and i think to some extent the vets do as well. After reading your story though i don't think I'll accept that as a reason without extra investigation.

My heart goes out to you and your sister. I hope that when the time is right your sister can find her 2nd heart dog. Our hearts are big enough to love again ????

Love your advice.....thanks xx

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That last sad week you had with her doesn't define all the other months and years that you had together. Wonderful memories ????

You started this thread asking for help and advice .......... amongst all the gold is this piece you wrote that shines more than anything, for me.

Another DOL going through the watching, racing around the house and yard when dogs not immediately in sight. :cry: :cry:

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Thank you Swain. Yes we have lots of great memories and pictures and two other dogs to keep us distracted so we are lucky in that way. I wasn't posting my recent experience to detract from what you are going through but to express how difficult a time this is and how emotional and hard on ourselves we can get. We wait and watch and agonise and perhaps we need to be more like our dogs and be in the moment while we can. I'm sure they devote no time to worrying about the end because they are too busy just enjoying the now. Of course it is hard to find a balance between going with the flow and oh my dog we need to the emergency vet right now.

There's not really a way to make this easier. I'm so sorry you are going through this but at least you know here on DOL you are not alone.

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Thank you Swain. Yes we have lots of great memories and pictures and two other dogs to keep us distracted so we are lucky in that way. I wasn't posting my recent experience to detract from what you are going through but to express how difficult a time this is and how emotional and hard on ourselves we can get. We wait and watch and agonise and perhaps we need to be more like our dogs and be in the moment while we can. I'm sure they devote no time to worrying about the end because they are too busy just enjoying the now. Of course it is hard to find a balance between going with the flow and oh my dog we need to the emergency vet right now.

There's not really a way to make this easier. I'm so sorry you are going through this but at least you know here on DOL you are not alone.

Too true, Little Gifts. The problem for me and, from being on DOL for many years, for many others is wondering IF they are enjoying the now. How can we be sure when their creaky bones settle into a comfortable bed or mat and they fall asleep, that they are not remembering the days when they were young and strong and pain free?

I worry all the time about Danny and whether he is enjoying himself. One time through the day I know he is and that is when he chews down on his strip of roo jerky :laugh: . At other times, he wanders around looking lost :cry: .

This is at the crux of Swain’s (and that so many others) dilemma: the not knowing. So many people say, “You will know when the time is right,” or, “You will see it in their eyes.” To be honest, I have never really totally believed that - unless a pet is so very sick that there is no doubt.

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This is at the crux of Swain’s (and that so many others) dilemma: the not knowing. So many people say, “You will know when the time is right,” or, “You will see it in their eyes.” To be honest, I have never really totally believed that - unless a pet is so very sick that there is no doubt.

I knew with Guin. It's entirely possible that she was over it before hand and I didn't notice but I have no doubt in my head or heart that the time was right. It was literally over night - well - over a day - I got home from work on a Monday evening and I knew with no doubt it was right. On the opposite end of the spectrum - our old cat was pottery and old and forgetful and miserable and regularly missing the litter tray and just not OK but I still feel like we didn't make quite the right decision for her - part of me feels like we left it too long, another part of me feels like I didn't try hard enough.

To address the OP again - if you're really not sure you will know when the time is right - is there a trusted friend or family who can help you make the call? I have made the twice for family pets - one of my parents cats and an Aunts dog. Not the actual ultimate decision but a very firm "I think this is it" on pre-arranged agreement - is that a possibility?

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Each situation is going to be unique. If you think about dogs from their living in the wild, wolf background then any barriers to toileting, walking, finding somewhere safe to sleep, hunger, accessing food and water and consuming it would be considered a serious life threatening problem. But because they live with humans we can compensate for all those things. I think that makes it hard for us to see the truth from the dog's perspective and always know when the time is right. Scottsmum your suggestion about someone less attached looking at the situation is a good one - what do they see that we can't?

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Scottsmum your suggestion about someone less attached looking at the situation is a good one - what do they see that we can't?

Don't get me wrong - I bawled both times - but my heart wasn't being ripped from my body and utterly smashed to a thousand tiny bits. I had the clarity and blessing of a smidgen of distance. :(

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Last night I wrote a post in response to the thread about the dog who is in heart failure. I've saved it on my phone but fear it may be too upsetting for the general forum. It's not graphic but it does mention suffering and waiting too long.

I could write here but I'm not sure it would help since it seems like you have more time.

Our beloved papillon, Tuffy, died of congestive heart failure. My own heart breaks for you, Swain.

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