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I lost my dog (not a Golden) on Thursday the 15th. He had Cutaneous Lymphoma, a rare malignant cancer which has a poor prognosis even with aggressive treatment. I decided against aggressive treatment to buy him time (he was diagnosed one day after his 13th birthday), due to age, travel time, and his recent blood screening that showed suspicious liver enzymes. He developed the tell tale open sores, and started losing hair. We opted to try palliative type care with some other alternative type treatments, and he went into partial remission over the summer. The sores healed over with healthy skin and his hair grew back in. He was still doing mini backyard agility courses (rather slowly, with low jumps and an A-frame with barely an incline). He was loving his life, engaging with me, and interacting with the other dog and cats. Bright eyed. Happy. Demanding his nightly bully stick or kong (or, as he often got, both.) We were over the moon.
In late August, he began losing weight despite eating 3 large meals a day and snacks. He stopped engaging as much and his gait started to be off. His right rear leg would occasionally stretched straight out behind him and he would lose balance. A few times he fell completely over. He continued to lose weight. Vet looked at him on a Friday. Heart didn't sound good. Fluid in the lungs. Vet noticed his breathing wasn't right. We discussed QOL and I couldn't do anything because he was still eating. I took him home, and he did OK over the weekend but I started taking his RRR. It was high, in the 40's. I monitored him. A few nights later, I checked him at 1:00AM and his breathing looked semi normal so I layed down and dozed on the couch. I woke up 45 minutes later to what I thought was a seizure, but I think now was syncope. He wasn't "out of it" but was struggling to get up, couldn't walk right, was breathing VERY loudly (panting/raspy) and wouldn't settle. I'm really disturbed by the fact there are NO vets who do emergency care around here, so I called my vet (it was almost 2AM, and she's a one person clinic) and she answered on the second ring and talked me through it. He settled and slept soundly all night, and I slept on the floor with him. The next day he wasn't quite right. Breathing was not good, and he wasn't eating as well. The day after that, I hated even taking him outside because I guess I stopped thinking something was going to fall out of the ceiling and cure him and I saw how bad he was. He was so skinny, so frail, and taking 5-6 steps made him stop and his sides were heaving. I heard gurgling in his lungs. He wouldn't drink on his own at all. He refused all food. I called the vet and she came to the house. By the time she arrived, his breathing had worsened and he was rattling and choking. He was drowning in his own fluid and there was no getting around the inevitable. I knew I'd waited too long, and was almost delirious from lack of sleep when the vet walked in and I knew my dog had minutes to live. Minutes seemed like too little time, but in the shape he was in, it seemed like too much. He was, in many ways, the dog I've shared the closest bond with in my entire life. I was a mess.
One one hand, I read once that (on the subject of euthanasia) when you make that decision, you need to realize that the life your pet loved is over and you're only ending the suffering that remains. But again, when he went into partial remission I felt like maybe we were onto something that could help other dogs with this cancer, and people for that matter because it's not well understood. I felt like I'd let my dog down by not being able to help him, and all the others that will unfortunately be diagnosed with this disease down too. I held onto the idea we were going to save him, and help others some day and unfortunately, that didn't happen. My own **** stubbornness played a role.
In the past year I've lost 3 to cancer. I'm so sick of cancer.
 

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This is going to be long since I just had to make the decision for Kaizer and I drove myself crazy trying to figure out what the right thing to do was.

I went back and forth for the past YEAR on when it was time for Kaizer. He kept getting more symptoms, kept getting put on more medication, and we just could not find a cause. I mean I probably would’ve been weirdly happy if someone told me he had cancer because it would’ve given me prognosis and options.

Regardless, that didn’t happen and I kept wondering how much more one dog could take. He had been dealing with pretty bad environmental allergies for the bulk of his life, then was diagnosed with IBD (April 2021), had this episodic inability to urinate issue (June 2021), had his first stroke/TIA event (July 2021), simultaneously diagnosed with lymphoma and then “un-diagnosed” with lymphoma in the same month (August 2021) and had another stroke/TIA event (September 2021). Then he started having possible focal seizures/seizure activity (March 2022), then bloated and required GDV surgery (April 2022). Had another reoccurrence of that urinary issue, was put on meds, + started with back pain (May 2022). In June 2022, he started having this weird Horners-esque eye issue. He became incontinent (July 2022), started having collapse episodes that were potentially more stroke/TIA events + worsening incontinence + diagnosed with reflex dyssynergia (August 2022). By the end of August, I knew our time was running out. His inability to urinate had gotten much worse, his overflow incontinence was bad. The Saturday (September 3) before he passed, we drained 1500mL of urine from his bladder. I let him go the day he could no longer stand, walk, and had no interest in eating.

It sounds like a lot but I can tell you with 98% certainty that he was not suffering up until that last day. He was still happy and interactive and present - the day he bloated, he had legitimately been bloated for hours before I took him in (he did not present like a normal GDV bc he was Kaizer so I had been going back and forth about if he actually needed to go to emergency). When I went to say bye to him before he went into surgery, he was jumping on the door to stand up and watch me. He was happy and wagging his tail (which typically is not how GDV dogs look!). I said I wouldn’t put him through a bloat surgery if it happened due to all his comorbidities, but I could not euthanize a dog who looked like he did that day. The Friday before he passed, incontinent as he was, he demo-dogged with me and was SO happy to do it. He did all his stupid tricks that made people laugh, he wagged his tail. He got his lovings from people. We went to the pet store that night to get his belly bands and he stole himself a buffalo horn (I have it in my car) and stole one of his favorite cookies - I’m so glad I didn’t stop him.

Most of my struggle truthfully was knowing how/when to make a decision for a dog who did not have a diagnosis. We went to UPenn two weeks before he passed, I did a couple thousand in diagnostics. I asked very specifically if they saw any cancer, and I was told no. I was told that I may never get a diagnosis for his various issues and my best chance would be supportive treatment. I didn’t (and truthfully still don’t) know what to do with that lol.

The day before he passed, I knew we were running out of time. Monday night, he started having difficulties standing up. He seemed painful for no apparent reason, started with some mild inappetence. I laid in my car with him for an hour, he couldn’t get up and I knew I’d have to lift him. As crazy as it sounds, as I laid with him, I told him that he’d have to let me know when he was done. I told him that I’d keep trying as long as he kept trying, so if he was done he’d have to stop eating. Told him dinner tonight or breakfast tomorrow. He didn’t eat breakfast the next day.

This is the last happy picture of him I took - Monday, Sept 5. He was gone 36 hours later.
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What a sweet expression up until the end.
 

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I found out my sweet Luke had an aggressive cancer the day after Easter in 2019. He was eight years old. They said the longest he would probably live was a year, but the average life expectancy was two to four months. Luke lived four months. I opted for chemo as long as it didn’t make him sick (it didn’t) and as long as I thought he was still happy to be here & eating his food well. These photos are from vacation in the mountains of North Carolina a month before he passed and the swimming photos were in our pool on August 22, 2019 — he died on August 28, 2019. He was as well loved as a dog could be and loved us back a hundredfold.

It’s a very difficult and heartbreaking time. I’m fortunate in that I wouldn’t change anything in how we handled Luke’s illness and he left this world very peacefully in our home. It could have been different and I feel some was careful decision making and some was just being lucky.

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Photographic proof that Old Gold is really the best Gold.
I'm so sorry for your loss, he looked like such a sweet heart.
 
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