Whole Dog Journal's Blog January 18, 2011

Winter, and Dog Love and Loss

Posted at 12:11PM - Comments: (15)

This has been a rough month or so for my dog-loving friends. Dempsey the Boxer lost his fight with cancer just before Christmas. His owner summoned a veterinarian to put him out of his pain, but said that there was barely a flicker of life left in him by the time the vet arrived.

A couple of weeks later, a friend’s Akita, who had been born with neurological defects that affected his ability to walk and his coordination, began suffering frequent, long seizures. My friend had rescued the dog from euthanasia when he was a puppy, hoping to give him as long a life as his condition would permit. His condition proved to be degenerative, however, and the moments of his life that had any quality were increasingly outnumbered by those that were painful and scary for him, my friend also made that call to a veterinarian.

Most recently, my friend Sarah reached the end of her long road with Lenny, a mixed-breed dog with whom she had shared 15 New Year’s eves. When I first met Lenny almost five years ago, he was starting to decline, but a switch to a high-quality raw diet brought him back to peak health. A couple of years ago, Sarah made the decision to have a large mass surgically removed from Lenny’s abdomen – a tough decision with an old dog, putting him through a long surgery. But Lenny again rebounded and improved after the surgery. He stayed vital and active right until the end, which came last week.

All three of my friends suffered tremendous pain and sadness over the loss of their canine companions. All three have other dogs with whom to continue to share their love and lives, but the memories of losing their special dogs will undoubtedly flavor this season for years to come. I lost my “heart dog,” Rupert, in the darkest depths of winter in 2003, and I think about him and miss him especially at this time every year.

Do we lose more of our canine friends in winter? Or does it just seem like the saddest season?

Comments (15)

The world should be warned about corrugated piping with regard to dogs. No article, brochure--no one ever warned us that it could be a hazard. I came home today and Hobbs, our yellow lab, was not immediately by my side. I looked around the yard and there he was lying lifeless with his head caught in the corrugated pipe. He was a good dog, smart, and loved to be with me. He was innocent. He would have been such a companion. I miss you Hobbs. I'm sorry I couldn't keep you safe.

Posted by: Travis Hobbs | February 9, 2011 6:56 PM    Report this comment

it was not too long after New Years back in an 2007. My 7 y/o yellow lab/shepherd mix, Happy loved to play in the snow. Well one day she was as energetic or playful in the snow something that was very unusual for her. i noticed brownish/red urine spots in my backyard. She looked so tired and worn, her eyes droppy as if she was about to cry. I immediately wrapped her with a thick blanket picked her up and took her straight to the vet. Within 30 mins the vet called me in and told me the bad news. she was diagnosed with liver failure possibly due to leptospirosis virus. She was due for her vaccinations the following month. However the vet stated the virus was either transmitted by either sniffing or coming into contact with infected urine from another animal. Aggressive antibiotic drips and fluid replenishment were initiated. The following day she seemed to look better however the look she gave me will stay with me forever, said otherwise. It was as if she stayed alive to see me one last time. Her hair changed from yellow to white within a 24hr period. after that last look i knew it was her time to go. One of the hardest moments of my life was letting her go and knowing nothing could be done. Two weeks later i was given a 3 month chocolate lab to help soothe the pain deepened in my heart. Nothing could replace my girl however giving love back to this new little guy i know would of made her happy. This little guy now 4 y/o has been suffering from b/l knee and hip dyspalsias. He has undergone 4 knee reconstructions in which has helped him very much however still limited. Sad but every day i think how hard it would be to lose him too. i do my best to give hm the most out of life filling him with hope, joy and happiness in his days here. My heart goes out to all who have lost a little angel. Thats truly what they are angels that provide unconditional love. Just think back of the memories and good times. They will instill that happiness and compassion that was once lost.

Posted by: angelo08 | January 24, 2011 11:53 AM    Report this comment

My first "heart" dog was a golden mix, Sassy, who died in my arms at the ripe old age of 14. Rocked by that loss, I distanced myself from the puppy that my ex-husband brought home as a companion to our other golden who went into a decline after Sassy died. Not long after, my husband became my ex.... and his dog had become my second heart dog. Having had the joy of having two goldens last long past their normal lifespan, I anticipated having Jake, a JR mix, for a good long time..... only to have him diagnosed in his 6th year with lymphoma. Two weeks or two months, without chemo, was not an option.... and chemo got us 15 more months with him..... long enough for him to save the life of my father, (living with us and also battling cancer), who fell one night and lost consciousness. According to the medics, Jake's demands to get up and follow him saved my dad's life. In October 2006, I lost Jake... I couldn't take his pain any longer and summoned an old friend / vet to relieve it.......... and again I vowed.... NO MORE. I

Enter Tanner.... a Rhodesian mix puppy, who needed a puppy sitter while his human mom worked 24 hours on / off shifts. Yep, no problem.... I'll care for him, at a distance. Tanner actually was in our lives a year before Jake passed... he was tolerated by Jake, and housebroken by me..... Tanner was there when Jake crossed over. And over the course of the next several weeks, he moved up and moved in..... taking full time residence at my home, and at some point that I can't identify, in my heart.

Two YEARS after Jake passed, Tanner has demonstrated the ability to perform activities that Jake learned (was not taught) like opening our sliding glass doors to come in at will. Never taught Jake, and never taught Tanner..... so you explain it.

The holes in the heart never fully mend when you lose a "heart" dog, but I do believe all dogs go to heaven. Sassy sent me Jake and though we did not know it Jake sure left his mark on Tanner...... Tanner is my velcro dog and my heart dog, and though I know his passing will tear me apart and I will vow NO MORE, I also know that between the three of my angels, they will not let me wallow in pain long before they send me my next companion.

I believe the pain that we feel is because of the loss of the most perfect love we can find on earth......unconditional, 24 x 7, without ever having to say you're sorry......... yep, all dogs go to heaven. I know it.

Posted by: Becky F | January 23, 2011 1:18 AM    Report this comment

I lost my 'heart dog' Duchess (Duchy) on May 24, 2010. It was an unseasonably warm and sunny day. I remember thinking that at least it wasn't on a cold dark winter day (as if that would some how help). She was the sweetest little Jack Russell ever. She was a rescue and already 9 years old when she found her forever home with us. She went everywhere with me, errands, to visit friends and family and every vacation. I would often wonder how someone woke up one day and decided to surrender her to a shelter. There must have been a very good reason and it must have been a very difficult decision I surmised. That little dog wormed her way into my heart and filled it. I guess that is why now with her gone I feel such a large void. There is not one day that goes by that I don't think of her and miss her dearly. However, the short and dark days of winter accompanied by festive holidays makes her absence more difficult. Our warm house filled with family and friends, filled with good smells and happy moods isn't complete without her. Duchess was my comforter when I was down and would listen to all my concerns. If I shed even a tear she would kiss it. When it was time, our vet came to the house. As hard as I tried to hold back tears to not upset her, a couple snuck through. While in my arms and drifting off to sleep for the last time, she still tried to comfort me by licking my tears. There is never a good time to lose such a good friend, but the winter months are certainly colder without the warmth of my furry comforter.

Posted by: LINDA D | January 22, 2011 4:49 PM    Report this comment

I lost my wonderful boy, my miniature poodle Jon, on October 27th. It was a week and a day after his 13th birthday. He had nasal cancer that had grown back into his brain. He had brain surgery and a miraculous recovery. Then he had radiation therapy and I was told by one of the technicians that he had tolerated the radiation better than any dog he had ever seen. All during this he remained his loving, sweet and joyous self. Then his back legs started getting weak and after another MRI we found that his cancer had started growing again just beyond where the surgery and radiation had been. We started him on chemotherapy but within a few weeks he stopped eating and had three seizures and I had to let him go. He did all he could to stay with me and I, and his vets, did all we could to keep him here with a good quality life. He was a once in a lifetime dog. He was my shadow and I see him everywhere. His attitude his whole life was "What can I do for you next?" He had four Agility titles, a C.D. and went as far as he could go in Rally. We had such a good time together. I can still see him bounding around with his ball in his happy little dance. To sum it all up, he was the best little dog in the world! I thank God he was in my life.

Posted by: ROBERTA T | January 19, 2011 5:18 PM    Report this comment

We lost our 5 year old B&T Shiba Snickers in a blinding Feb 08 snowstorm. She opened the door to the kitchen and escaped with our male thru the garage. He was smart enough to find help but based on evidence she winged a rabbit and got her head caught in some corrugated plastic drain pipe. (She was not very good at completing the hunting thing. The rabbit must have run thu the pipe.) We and numerous volunteers looked for her for a week before we got a call that her body had been exposed by the melting snow. She was a puppymill rescue who had severe epilepsy and would likely not have lived much longer, but we still grieve every winter and every time we walk by the place where she died. She was a force of nature, often naughty but creative in her mischief. We miss her terribly.

Posted by: LARRY S | January 19, 2011 3:00 PM    Report this comment

Juet over ten years ago on the day before New Years Eve in 2000, I said goodbye to my wonderful black Lab, Parker. He had been diagnosed with cancer on the day after Thanksgiving five weeks prior. I knew he was terminal from the beginning and knowing that I would eventually have to say goodbye forever, I wanted to make sure our last days together were very special. The holidays that year were very hard and sad. Christmas Day came and I asked him if he wanted to see what Santa put in his stocking and he got all excited and couldn't wait to get his big head and nose in there! He just made us laugh and I know that is what he wanted us to do. I had been crying so much before that at the thought of losing this wonderful, amazing dog... my gardening buddy, my protector. After Christmas, he was rapidly declining and I knew the night before he died that it was going to be our last. I was putting away the decorations and he did his best to make me laugh again by going into the laundry room, opening up the closet door and taking out all the rags from the rag bag and brought them into the family room! He was telling me it was almost time. I sat on the floor with him, hugged him so tightly and told him how much I loved him and would miss him. Then I just cried and he kissed me all over. The next morning, he was not good and I called my vet and said it was time. As he was going to his forever sleep, he looked at me telling me that he loved me, too, and was thanking me. He would have been 12 in February on Valentines Day.

We had gotten another dog, a little Shih Tzu. Oh what a cute little guy he was and just so fun. Unfortunately, this past September, I lost my little boy...less than 10 years after loosing my Lab. Bailey was diagnosed with a sudden onset of blindness. He was only 9. During the week after the diagnosis, an infection had attacked his immune system. I couldn't believe what was happening and all just so fast that for weeks I was in denial that I had lost another.

No time is good...winter, spring, summer, fall or holdays. I miss my dogs every day but will be forever grateful that I had them in my life, and forever in my heart.

Posted by: Unknown | January 19, 2011 12:06 PM    Report this comment

Our 12-year-old Italian Spinone, Gussie, had a splenectomy in the fall of 2008 and was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma and given 2 to 4 months to live without chemotherapy and 3 to 6 months with. We opted for holistic measures, treating her with Neoplasine, an herbal supplement achieving some success in dogs with Cancer. She did very well, and had a happy autumn, spending a lot of time with me on long walks and lots of love and hugs. She seemed to be beating the odds as we went into the winter months, so that in January we thought we could go away to Florida for a long weekend, leaving her with a trusted sitter whom she loved, as well as our son, daughter-in-law and grandsons, who live a mile away and came over every day. On day two we received a call that she had had a bad morning, having trouble walking (she also had bad hips) and no appetite, but that she had seemed much better by evening. We couldn't get a flight till the next morning, and arrived home later that day to find that she couldn't get out of her crate. My husband tore it apart, and she got up and staggered to her water bowl for a drink. Then she lay down on her blanket at my feet and didn't and stayed there. It being Saturday, we couldn't get a vet to the house. My husband and son made a stretcher out of a blanket and put her in the back of our SUV, where I lay with her for the half hour ride to the emergency clinic, where she had had her surgery. An examination showed her abdomen to be filled with blood once more, and there was nothing to do but euthanize her. We were there, my arms around her, as she took her last breath and the light left those beautiful golden eyes. The date was January 31t. Gussie was truly my heart-dog, and I will never know whether it was the cold of winter or missing me that brought on her collapse. I know that the life expectancy was 2 to four months, but still...............

We had two Dobermans who died in winter as well. The first was only 6, who was suddenly brought down by a virulent cancer and died within days, also while we were away. The second, 11, had laryngeal paralysis, and died a week before her scheduled surgery.

We have a young (2 1/2 year old) Italian Spinone, Giada. She is a wonderful, beautiful girl, who is well on her way to being another heart-dog of mine. Maybe we had better take her south for the winters. :)

Posted by: Michelle S | January 18, 2011 7:58 PM    Report this comment

We lost our beloved Lab, Rusty, 21st July 2008,(midst of Winter here), (VIC,AUST).He would've been 12 in October of that year, we still miss him despite now owning two delightful Beagles, Dexter and Lilth. Winter always reminds us of our loss and how much a part of our lives he filled, he sadly succumbed to cancer, we hadn't realised how sick he was as he was so brave, he went peacefully to 'forever sleep' aided by our local Vet at home surrounded by his 'human pack' and his companion Morpheus (our cat).It's approaching the third anniversary of his passing, I usually light candles in his memory.I'm fortunate to have Dexter and Lilith now to help me through the long Winter months which can seem desolate after the loss of a much adored dog, he remains forever in my heart and always in my thoughts. Janine W 19/01/11

Posted by: luvsahound | January 18, 2011 5:46 PM    Report this comment

In 2009 I lost my aging Boston Terrier just two days after Christmas. Even though I had another (mixed breed) dog and now have adopted a rescued Boston, I still miss Peaches terribly. Although she had been declining, her death was sudden and unexpected and left me wondering if I had missed some clue as to her condition. She was one of those very special, once-in-a-lifetime dogs. The only way I could think to make her perfect would be to give her a human lifespan. When I think back, I think that is the first time I've lost a dog around the holidays, though I did lose one in late winter once. I think we remember those that go around the holidays most--it is such a sad note to what otherwise is supposed to be a joyous time. May they all rest in peace and be reunited with us when we join them at the Rainbow Bridge someday.

Posted by: PJKutscher | January 18, 2011 3:53 PM    Report this comment

Jan, I don't think you should feel that Misha thought you had gone from her life and therefore gave up. I've heard many stories about dogs waiting until an owner left to succumb. It seems to be more about the dog knowing they were free to let go while you were gone, rather than thinking you abandoned them. While you were there, they did their best to be the dog you wanted and loved, and when they had a chance to go without your being there and being distressed they felt free to let go. Sounds crazy, but I've heard it more than once.

Posted by: annbellamy | January 18, 2011 1:50 PM    Report this comment

My daughter's golden retriever Bonnie died last Monday. She and our retriever Beemer were best of friends, and loved to play "Golden" games. The week went from bad to worse. On Thursday, Beemer, couldn't eat and hardly moved. He passed up the chance to take the trash to the street, a favorite activity. We took him to the vet and had to say good-bye to our own "heart" dog. Both were 9 1/2 years old (not related) and both had different forms of cancer. Our vet said Beemer's condition had probably been going on for awhile, bu he just kept on keeping on. There's a big hole in our lives for my husband and me.

Posted by: Jeanne M. K | January 18, 2011 1:50 PM    Report this comment

I have now lost two dogs in December, as my beloved Daysie died three weeks ago, three in January and a couple in February. Have felt that, just like the low ebb hours before the dawn, the winter months are the low ebbtide of the year (seven of my ten Irish Setters since 1984).

a still grieving Sue

Posted by: Sue Setter | January 18, 2011 1:48 PM    Report this comment

Interesting, but I've lost mine in summer--2 in June, one in Aug., one in Sept. A friend also lost her heart dog in summer.

Posted by: Unknown | January 18, 2011 1:39 PM    Report this comment

My husband and I spent Christmas and New Years in Florida 4 years ago, for a much needed rest away from our business. We left our Blue Heeler Misha - 12 years old and a tad rickety with arthritis, with our eldest, a nurse practitioner. Not a peep of any problems the whole time we were away. Little did we know our kid was keeping things under wraps - but all was not well. Driving the long drive home to Ontario, Canada on January 6th, we got about half-way when our daughter called and said that Misha was not right. She hadn't eaten now for 3 days, and nothing to drink for about 36 hours. She had taken to laying under our Dining-room Table more and more often that we were away, until she wouldn't get out at all. Our daughter announced Misha's gums were pale and although she had checked them daily after she seemed unwell - on this day - they were almost white. We told her to rush her to the Vet while we aimed to speed up our journey home. Within half-hour of her first call - our daughter announced that our beloved girl had had a seizure in the car when they put in to go to the vet and had passed away.

How we got home I'll never know. It was a dreadful time, and when we got there, we both slept on our comfy old couch - Misha's favorite place in the whole house - just to be near her in spirit. It was cancer we eventually found out - but we would never have known. She showed no signs whatsoever.....until we left her to go on holiday. She gave up then we think - thinking we had gone from her life. So - this was winter. Our friend had lost 17 year old Max on a cold winter's day 3 years earlier.

Posted by: janscott | January 18, 2011 1:38 PM    Report this comment

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