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Many years ago, when I first decided to get a golden retriever puppy, this forum was a lifesaver. I learned so much, from the breeder we chose to raising a puppy, to getting into dog sports. I brought Abby home from Delmarva Goldens in March 2015, as a little 8-week-old puppy. After Abby turned one, we posted much less frequently, but I owe so much of the beautiful happy dog she grew into, to the words and support of people here. She was my everything.

So, it feels like closing the circle to come back and share my grief with you. On Monday something felt off - I throw the ball every morning for her out the back door, but when Abby didn’t reappear indoors and I went out to check with her, I found her laying on her side in the grass. She didn’t want to get up, but it wasn’t immediately clear it was a physical problem - she often “pouts” and refuses to come inside if she thinks I won’t throw the ball again.

But it bothered me and didn’t feel right. So a little later I went back outside with her for a couple short ball tosses - and both times she stormed after the ball like a madman (as usual)…and then stumbled and slowed and lost control of her limbs returning.

Alarmed, I called her vet and they said they could fit her in the schedule after my faculty meeting ended at 1pm. (They also offered a next-day appointment, which - thank god - I did not do). Right before we left I took Abby out front; she romped around with no problems but then stopped to pee and after standing up, again lost control of her rear end, and I had to catch her.

We got to the vet, and they weren’t terribly concerned at first - physical looked fine, temp was fine. She eats All The Things, so some kind of toxin or poison or obstruction was a concern. But we’ve been concerned about possible arthritis in her rear end for a while, so they wanted to take some X-rays to compare with her last set (from last summer) and went ahead and did a chest/abdominal X-ray while they were at it. Abby went back on her own - she loves the vet.

I knew something was wrong when the vet came back alone. She looked about to cry and said she had bad news, and pulled up the X-rays. Cancer. The x-rays were full of cancer, everywhere. Most immediately, a tumor at the base of her heart, which had ruptured and was filling the lining of her heart with fluid (pericardial effusion), and compressing her heart. But it was everywhere. And the way her organs were compressed and out-of-place, suggested large tumors in her abdomen as well.

I knew, we all know, the odds of cancer and hemangiosarcoma, when I brought Abby home. But it seemed so far off, and I didn’t expect to be standing there in that office a couple weeks after her 7th birthday with a terminal cancer diagnosis. They gave her days, if we didn’t drain the fluid. And only a little longer if we did - it would refill, and she’d have to be on limited activity/rest. Abby has never rested in her entire life. She lives for running and chasing balls and bouncing off the walls; even with her heart failing, she chased after every ball like a maniac. She was beautiful in motion.

After a long talk, we decided to do a more in-depth ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis; we have a large veterinary teaching hospital here in town if there was any uncertainty for a second opinion. So they brought Abby back and shaved her belly for a portable ultrasound there in the office; and it was everything we feared. A huge mass eclipsing her liver, her spleen was bright (instead of dark like it should be), and the fluid around her heart and how much her heart was struggling were so clear, even to me.

I’m so grateful to our vet for taking the time to walk me through and explain everything we were seeing; I have no doubts and she didn’t either. We didn’t want to subject Abby to any invasive procedures, but they suspect it was hemangiosarcoma that started on her liver and metastasized to her spleen and heart; there were lots and lots of smaller masses throughout her chest and abdomen as well. Her blood work came back, confirming that she was anemic and had all the signs of end stage cancer.

I still can’t believe I’m typing this. She had a clean bill of health at her annual check-up in December, normal bloodwork on her senior panels, and absolutely no signs of anything. I’m still in shock.

She went downhill even over the few hours we were at the office, and we scheduled Lap of Love to come out yesterday morning to put her to sleep. And then we went home, to spend our last afternoon and night together, and it all feels like a terrible nightmare.

I was just getting used to the idea of her getting older, turning seven, and making plans to make the best of the next few years, and in the course of one day those years I thought we had together dwindled to mere hours. It doesn’t feel real she’s not here.

The vet with Lap of Love came to the house yesterday morning - Abby’s breathing got more labored overnight, but she woke up at 7am her “normal” self: cheerful, bouncy, swooped into the kitchen to steal the cats’ breakfast, brought me ten thousand balls to throw. I did relent and throw a few, not very far…I couldn’t say no to her to that, not in her last hours, when it’s her favorite thing in the world. She couldn’t chase more than a couple before getting tired… (but brought me more when she recovered, of course; relentless to the end).

She was thrilled when the vet arrived, brought her new friend all her balls and kisses, and it was all very peaceful - I’m glad we were able to do this at home, and the vet was so kind and thought out. We made a pawprint and took a clipping of her 90s crimped ear fur, and the grandfather clock tolled 10am right as she passed and was at peace.

But now I am here, alone in my house, without her. And I feel so broken and shattered. Forty-eight hours ago our lives were whole and complete, and I had no idea that things had gone so wrong or we had so little time left together.

I’ve known since she was a tiny puppy, that it would most likely end with cancer one day - but I didn’t expect it to happen like this, so suddenly and with so little warning when she was still relatively young.

She lived her life to the fullest, right to the very end.

Abigail “Abby” (Delmarva Chrysae Canis)
Jan 6, 2015 - Jan 25, 2022

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I’m so sorry about the loss of your sweet Abby. I remember her puppy antics very well. My thoughts are with you.
 
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This brought me to tears. I lost my Taz to HSA, almost 3 years ago exactly. I don't wish it on anyone. Much love to you and your family.
 
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I'm very sorry. I went through something very similar and you have my sincere sympathies. Kind thoughts to you.
 

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I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful and sweet Abby. 7 is too young but it feels unbearable at any age. I can tell you gave her a happy life with all the loving and being loved a Golden wants. I hope you find some comfort in knowing you loved her well right through to the end.
 
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My heart goes out to you as you deal with this sudden overwhelming loss. Abby was a beautiful girl and it sounds like she had a real zest for all the good things in life. The photo of her with her 7 birthday candles that must have been taken so recently is a wonderful treasure to have. I hope you feel her presence around you to let you know she will always be with you.
 

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We lost our beloved Chewie at 7 years old to cancer last January. It was very similar to what you experienced. He’d been fine, then seemed a little off, went in and an X-ray showed diffuse cancer. He died within ten days. It was very hard for our whole family, especially my teenagers. What helped me, at least a little bit, was to really understand that my Chewie didn’t
know how long his life was supposed be. And we gave him an amazing life. He never spent a single day without someone loving and adoring him. So it’s still hard for us since we’re left behind and we miss him. But I know my Chewie had a wonderful life.
 

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She is beautiful and it looks like you gave her a wonderful life.

We lost our 7 yr old yellow lab last May to the exact same thing. Very similar story. Heartbreaking to stay the least. We recently got a golden retriever. Our sonny could never be replaced but it's nice to love another pup. All we can do is treasure the times we had and love our dogs endlessly when they are here with us-its all they want. Hang in there-it gets better
 

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My heart goes out to you on the loss of your beautiful Abby.... thank you for sharing photos, it's easy to see how perfect she was. My heart just turned 9, I know tomorrow isn't promised, but your poignant tribute to your girl has me in tears... I'm so sorry you didn't get to have her longer, just so sorry.
 
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