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The pain of losing a furry friend.

For many people, their dogs are a family member and the loss of a dog can be just as painful as losing a human loved one.

I wish there was a way to “teach” people how to cope with the pain of (or the expectation of) losing a dog. Unfortunately, there isn’t a recipe for that.

I’ve had dogs all my life and losing them either to old age or to an accident never gets easier or less painful. But it is something that we know will eventually happen and as much as you try to prepare yourself for that dreadful day, the suffering always takes over you. In my case, it’s normally at night time as I lie in bed with my own thoughts.

I’m currently in Brazil visiting my family and my dogs (although they are more my parents’ dogs than mine). We had 8 dogs, but cancer took Thor last February and it’s taking Thor’s father, Hulk this time.

I got the news of his terminal cancer about a month ago and I prayed for the chance to see Hulk one last time. I felt I was being selfish for wanting Hulk to hang on through his pain so I could see him again. But my father and the vet said they would try to help Hulk “stick around” as long as they could see that he was not suffering too much.

I arrived only a few days ago and I was struck by how much weight he’d lost (he’s a Rottweiler) besides all the other changes in his behavior. However, I am aware that besides the cancer (he has liver cancer and the tumors have spread to all his organs) he is also old for a large dog (he’s 11 and 1/2 years old). He’s also survived a stroke two years ago which left the right side of his face paralyzed, and blind in one eye. So I know he’s been through a lot already. When I arrived at my parents’ house and saw Hulk, I was determined to end his pain quickly.

Hulk with his favorite toy: a basketball (2014).

We scheduled the euthanasia for that Friday (yesterday here in Brazil). However, ever since my arrival, Hulk seems to have perked up. So, we decided to wait a little more (not before a long discussion with my father, who is struggling more with the whole idea). But I also feel that Hulk is enjoying my presence and the time I’ve been spending with him. Therefore, I accepted my father’s decision (or change of heart) and decided to wait a little longer for Hulk’s “walk over the rainbow bridge”.

We are not waiting for a miracle. We are hoping that he will go away on his own and peacefully, at the same time that we know that if his pain becomes too much (and Hulk will tell us), then we will go on with the procedure.

As long as he is reacting to our presence, is eager to go for short walks and for a swim in the pool (he always loved to swim), we will enjoy his company. Every day, my father prepares a plate for him with roast chicken and vegetables and soup as a “side dish”. Hulk is hand-fed and the soup is giving to him in a syringe, but he takes it. He also loves coconut water, which my father gives to him three times a day also with a syringe.

Hulk and me in 2014.

I got in the pool one hot afternoon and Hulk got up and walked to the rim. I noticed he wanted to get in the water, but was a bit wary probably because he’s aware that his legs aren’t strong anymore. So I helped him in to the pool and held him while he slowing paddled from one end to another, doing about 4 laps. When I took him to the shallow part of the pool, he looked at me and I could tell how happy he was. He had the same look in his eyes that he’s always had when I used to live with my parents and he and I would go for a swim together regularly.

I broke down then, holding him and giving him cuddles, to which he responded with short and low growls of excitement.

His appetite isn’t nearly the same as before his disease, and I feel that Hulk enjoys more the attention he gets than the food that we try to force feed him. I know that; I think we father knows that. Hulk knows.

Hulk knows that his time is coming. Cancer is unforgiving.

We enjoy each and every moment that we still have with him. That’s all I can say. There’s no other way besides making sure he goes away knowing he was loved. And that he will always be remembered as a gentle, playful dog with a regal posture that made him the alpha of the pack. The one that loved water and could swim for hours if we let him. My little King. My Hulk <3

Hulk now in October 2018.

 

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