If you’ve ever lost a dog to cancer or a prolonged illness, it can be very traumatic when you find yourself at the vet again with another dog, especially if that dog has a serious problem. We never really talk about how hard that is, so I’m going to talk about it today.
Gunny was euthanized by his long-time vet. I knew it was coming, but events overtook us and I had to bring him to the emergency room in the middle of the night. Mark came in quite early to let him go, as I couldn’t stand the thought of a stranger euthanizing him or being with me at such an intimate soul-crushing moment. A couple of weeks later, I had to bring Bacchus in for some follow-up tests to see if his cancer had returned. Man, it was hard to go into the building. Without realizing it, they tried to put me in the same exam room where Gunny had died, and I declined. “Find another room,” I said. I burst into tears when I saw Mark. I was so anxious. It was horrible being back in the place where I had lost Gunny; and it was agonizing waiting for Bacchus’ test results. Was I going to lose this dog, too?
I couple of friends have recently been through this experience, so it reminded me of all the emotions and stress of walking a medical road with the next dog. It’s very traumatizing to go back to a place where your dog died. Or where they were last seen for care. If you’re now facing a serious medical situation with another dog, it’s so easy to just emotionally break down, afraid that you’re going to lose this dog, too. How on earth are you going to survive that loss on top of the last one?
If you find yourself in this situation, take a breath. Pause. Every dog is different. Every illness is different. Even every cancer is different. Try not to get ahead of the facts. Take it step by step. Don’t assume the worst. Make space for hope. Hope that there will be a good outcome. A solid treatment. Your dog is going to feel your fear and your pessimism, so do your best to be hopeful. Try to stay in the moment you find yourself in. Don’t skip ahead to the end.
More than anything, please be gentle with yourself. Verbalize your fears and concerns to friends and perhaps even your vet. Losing a dog can be debilitating. Fearing that you’re going to lose another even more so. The pup in front of you needs you to make good decisions and stay even-keeled. You can do it. It’s not easy. But you can do it. I know you can. Because your dog needs you to rise above the pain of the past and sit with them in the present moment.