Editors Note: I wrote this days after saying goodbye to Patrick as a way for me to process, cope, and rationalize what happened. It has not been proofread, and there are probably still typos. It just hurts to read through this again, so I hope you’ll overlook that.
When I was 19, I found an ad in a newspaper. Someone was selling Poodle Bichon puppies.
There was a black and white picture of their cute little faces looking like teddy bears. It took some convincing, but Tony finally agreed we could get a puppy IF and only if I was the one taking care of him. (PS. This agreement is total BS and never lasts long.????)
So I drove 2 hours away and had my pick of which puppy I wanted. This little puppy that was so sweet and didn’t seem to have as much energy, he really spoke to me. I picked him up, gave him all the snugs and put him in a small kennel.
I don’t recall for certain, but he couldn’t have been more than 4 pounds at that time. He looked like a little Guiana Pig.
On the car ride home, I caught him peeking out of his kennel looking at me. I would smile and say “hi” and he would get scared and hide. Leaving his mom was so traumatizing for him.
When I brought him home, Tony and my brother were playing video games on the couch. It was November 2007 and the Christmas tree was up. I set him on the ground to start exploring his new home.
He was so nervous.
Immediately he had diarrhea and shat all over my rug. Trying to stick with my agreement that I would take care of him I grabbed some rags and started cleaning up the mess while comforting my little buddy that he was going to be okay.
We went back and forth and eventually decided that Patrick was the perfect name for a Poodle/Bichon.
Over the next 12 years, we build up a strong bond with Patty. He became our everything. Our life decisions always included him. And anytime we traveled we felt immense guilt for kenneling the little dude.
I thought Patrick was a shy, timid, quiet guy when I first got him, but I was wrong. He was the most energetic, playful pup I’ve ever met. He was also a runner.
We had this system where when anyone would come over, you’d have to pick up Patrick let the person in and get yelled at (welcomed?) for a few minutes straight.
Whenever he heard the garage open, I’d hear his barking. I’d shut the garage door, waiting for it to close and crack open the door to find his cute little nose trying to get through.
He would greet me, go outside, come back in to get some tickles, and then proceed to follow me into every room I went in.
We even had a morning routine. I typically wake up before Tony and would head downstairs to make some coffee and start my day. Every morning I would hear Patrick’s name tag clink around as he would do a little morning shake and hear his little feet pitter patter on the floor as he sleepily made his way around the corner to greet me. After a few minutes of hanging out with me, he would make his way upstairs to go back to bed with Tony.
Before I would start my workday, I’d tell Patrick, “alright, it’s time for work- you ready?” Patrick would give me a high-five and we would go into the office. I worked with him by my side until it was time for our lunch break and we’d get back into our day.
I miss that so much.
In February 2019, we took him to the vet to get his teeth cleaned. The vet did some blood work and found his liver enzymes to be elevated. She mentioned that she wasn’t comfortable putting him under anesthesia and referred to a specialist.
We weren’t concerned. Another vet had mentioned his enzymes being elevated a couple years prior and did an ultrasound to find gall sludge. They told us it wasn’t too bad and not to worry.
After telling the specialist that exact thing and showing his ultrasound paperwork and prior blood work from years ago, the vet told us that most older dogs have some sludge and that it was likely not the cause of the enzymes being elevated. It was likely liver related. They would need to do a biopsy to know for certain. It would cost, on the low end, $2,500.
In March, we took Patrick on a beach vacation to go play, explore and hang out with other pups. He did so good with the car ride looking out the window, peeking up to see what was going on and snoozing. He loved exploring the beach and peeing on everything he could get his paws on.
He was so so happy.
As the year went by, we were finally ready for Patrick to have his liver biopsy. I called around, got some quotes and found a vet 1 hour away that could do the biopsy for $1,200. We scheduled his biopsy consultation. A detailed ultrasound showed that Patrick’s liver was smaller than usual and that a laparoscopic surgery would likely not be as effective and an open surgery wedge biopsy.
We agreed and elected for the wedge biopsy.
When I picked up Patrick from surgery, my heart was crushed. His incision looked terrible, he was in so much pain and I felt so much guilt I bawled on the way home.
He came home and started to heal, but was in too much pain to lay down. He stood for 5 days straight and didn’t sleep. We set up an air mattress downstairs and slept there for a week and half to be near him so he wouldn’t go up and down the stairs.
It was one of the most heart wrenching things I’ve ever seen, but he healed. 2 weeks later he was back to playing, sleeping and eating like nothing ever happened.
Almost 3 weeks after his surgery, I went to the vet to have Patrick’s stitches removed and discuss his biopsy results.
Patrick’s liver was too far gone. He had severe cirrhosis of the liver. Through tears I read the results over and over again- “end stage liver disease.”
We put together a treatment plan with some liver support medications (Denamarin), anti-nausea meds, and specialized food for his liver.
The next day, we took him over to my brother’s house to play with his new puppy. Patrick had the best time. That afternoon his started going down hill. He didn’t really eat and threw up.
We’ve seen this before and assumed he would pull through. He always does. But over the weekend he didn’t progress. He still didn’t eat and had severe lethargy.
Tony had a work trip on Monday and would be gone until Friday. Tony said goodbye to us and left at 5 AM.
I took Patrick into his normal vet for a checkup to see what was going on. I demanded blood work and a bile test to see if everything was okay, and I’ll never forget what she told me:
I know you want him to live, but the bloodwork isn’t going to change anything. He’s going to die from liver failure and if he’s not eating, this could be it. There’s nothing wrong with letting him go on a good day.
It’s better to be one week too early than an hour too late.
She shared her story of how she went through this with her dog and regretted not putting him down earlier because he began to suffer.
It felt weird to hear this. He stopped eating a day and a half ago, he’s not dying.
Patrick got some fluids under his skin and we went home.
He still wouldn’t eat and was incredibly lethargic.
On Wednesday, I went to the vet who performed Patrick’s surgery and spoke with him. He said Patrick’s liver looked like a really old leather shoe. It was the second worst liver he had seen. But he was convinced that if we kept Patrick on IV fluids all night, maybe, he would be a brand new dog and we’d get another year with him. His vet clinic isn’t staffed 24/7 and I didn’t feel good about the idea of Patrick, being that sick, in a unknown place, with fluids and by himself all night. We did another round of IV fluids under his skin, an appetite increaser, and an antibiotic shot.
Patty ate a tiny bit of rotisserie chicken, but it was a negligible amount. He lost his appetite again.
Wednesday night I went to a grocery store, bought a $13 rib-eye steak and cooked it up. He was interested, ate a couple pieces and stopped. I knew this was it.
I called Tony and told him he needed to be back home if he wanted to say goodbye to Patrick. Deep down, I knew he wasn’t going to make it.
That night, my mom and I took him to an emergency vet and needed to get fluids in him. They kept Patty for 7 hours running fluids and nutrients through him all night. We prayed and hoped that maybe he would get better and these fluids would give him some energy to want to eat.
I picked him up 8 AM Thursday morning. He wasn’t doing better and still refused food. I asked to speak with the ICU vet. The question I asked every vet I came across was, “if this was your dog, what would you do?” She told me if he doesn’t eat within 24 hours– it’s time to stay goodbye.
Tony was getting in at 10 PM that night and I just needed to keep Patrick going. I sat with I’m on the couch, getting eye level with him I spoke with all my heart. “Buddy, I know you don’t feel good. I’m so scared to be without you, but I need you to tell me if it’s your time to go. I can’t make this decision on my own.”
My sister in law came over, sat with me and brought blueberry scones. As I was munching on one, I dropped a piece. Patrick dove in. He ate almost 1 full mini scone and then again, lost his appetite.
I don’t know how to explain it, but I saw it in his eyes- he was ready to go.
These little moments of eating gave me false hope. Maybe he’s getting better! Maybe he will kick this. Dogs won’t actually starve themselves to death, right? He’s still drinking water, that has to be a good sign.
My head knew it was time.
My heart didn’t want to let go of my fur baby.
But I called Gentle Goodbyes and scheduled an appointment for Friday at 6 PM for Patrick’s in-home euthanasia.
When Tony got home, the garage door opened. Patrick didn’t even acknowledge it. Tony walked in and greeted Patrick. You could tell he was excited to see him, but was so weak and sick he couldn’t be his normal rambunctious self.
When everyone left, Tony and I took Patrick on one last walk. He was sick, but I’ve never seen that little guy so determined to go on one last walk with his humans. His nose was out, he looked straight ahead and went strong for a few blocks.
That night he snuggled with us and got all the tickles. We made all sorts of fun plans for Patrick’s last day.
Friday morning was tough. I woke up in the middle of the night bawling and reached over to snuggle Patrick. I’ve never felt so much pain in my life.
It was this really weird place where I was grateful that I could snuggle him, but knew it was the last night we’d ever have together.
Not able to sleep, I woke up at 5 AM, went downstairs and made coffee. I heard Patrick’s little tag shake and I expected to see him do his old man sleepy walk into the kitchen. He didn’t.
I headed back upstairs, drank my coffee and spent time tickling him and talking with Tony. We went downstairs and that’s when things got bad.
We tried to go for a walk, but he wasn’t doing well. He stumbled along, walking very very slowly and started shaking. We put him in Tony’s coat and walked back home in tears.
At home, Patrick wanted to go outside about 7 times. This isn’t abnormal on a regular basis, but it was for the week he had been having. He would walk a little ways, look back at us and continue walking. He went to all his favorite places in the yard and kept looking back at us. I knew this was not good.
After coming inside, he continued acting really strange. He was trying to get away from us. We sat on the office floor and he would go to the guest bathroom and lay on the rug, away from us but in sight. He even wanted to be on the reading nook that he hasn’t been on in 3 years.
I truly believe he was looking for a place to die.
In tears, I called Gentle Goodbyes and asked if they could come earlier- I didn’t think Patrick would make it until 6 PM. They could come at 10:30 AM. In just 1 hour.
My sister came over to make us breakfast and spend time with Patty.
Patrick threw up a lot of muscous-y clear liquid.
Shortly after, Patrick and Tony shared a Rice Krispy treat together.
The vets came to the house, told us about the procedure (which I already researched) and said they felt comfortable moving forward with this.
For some reason, I wanted to hear someone tell me if I didn’t do this, Patrick would be in a lot of pain. I wanted that reassurance.
They set up, and allowed us to spend some time with Patrick before they began his euthanasia. I knew I had to be strong and give Patrick the reassurance that everything was going to be okay and remind him how much he was loved.
I still don’t know how I did it, but I somehow managed to hold back my tears, hold his paw, and make eye contact with him letting him know how much I loved him.
The anesthesia kicked in within minutes and Patrick was out.
Part of me wanted to cry and say, “I changed my mind. Let’s stop now.” But I knew that it was the right decision for him. He had suffered long enough. This was the best way for him to go and the kindest thing we could do for him.
We moved him to the floor on his favorite blanket and a potty pad, and they gave him the last injection that stopped his heart.
“He’s gone,” the vet said as she checked his heart.
The whole thing felt surreal. How could life be gone in a matter of minutes? How the fuck did we get to this place? He was fine a week ago.
Tony and Morgan wept. I was numb. I didn’t have any tears in that moment. I just felt this huge heaviness and blanket of sadness over me. I just lost my baby, my best friend, and I felt empty.
Patrick is being cremated and we should receive his ashes in 10-14 days. We plan on spreading his ashes in all of his favorite places as our final act of saying goodbye and thank you for the memories and joy he brought to us.
We packed up his toys, beds, food and bowls and donated them to the Idaho Humane Society right after. We looked at the dogs and were reminded that we gave Patrick the best life we could. We never even considered giving him away and did everything we could show him how much we loved him. He did the same thing in return. Not all dogs have that life and it breaks my heart.
As we were going around gathering his belonging, I noticed he had peed on the bed. Another reminder that it was the right time.
It’s been 2 days since he passed. I wake up in the middle of the night crying. I roll over and expect to feel the weight of his body on the covers and they aren’t there. When the doorbell rings his bark isn’t there and it kills me. We don’t have to wait for the garage to be fully closed before coming in the house and we don’t hear him yelling at us for being gone so long. I no longer hear his pitter patters on the floor or the shaking of his tags. I hate it. But it was time to say goodbye.
In hindsight, there were a lot of signs we missed. I lost another pup, Minnie, years ago and kicked myself because I missed the signs for her and came home to find her dead. Congestive heart failure. It was terrible. With Patrick, there were a lot of writing on the walls that I should have paid more attention to.
- He would snip at people when they would try to pick him up when he was laying on the couch.
- He had a lot of more accidents in the house.
- He was vomiting a lot more and it was yellow-bile.
- A few months ago, he started trying to be by my side even more than normal and would freak out when I took a shower and he couldn’t see me.
It all makes sense now, but I minimized the significance of these things. We spoke with vets about all of these things, but because he was such an energetic pup, it didn’t register to them or me as a big deal.
What I Wish I Someone Would Have Told Me
I spent every waking minute researching liver disease, cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure, when the put your dog down, how does euthanasia work for dogs, signs your dog is dying, can you cure liver cirrhosis, life expectancy of dog with liver disease, and so much more. My search history of full of depressing queries.
What I didn’t see was the emotional struggle of making the decision to put your dog down. I saw people say it was the worst day of their life, and while I know this to be true now, there wasn’t much information sharing what this decision making process looked like. So I’m going to be really real and heartfelt with you and share my exact thoughts and emotions.
They might sound crazy and some of them f*cked up, but they are genuine.
- When the first vet told me I should put him down on a good day, I was pissed. She didn’t even know his case intimately. I hated hearing that advice.
- When my friends and family suggested I consider putting him down, I legitimately questioned whether they were just saying that to make me hurt or if they even cared about Patrick. (This one hurts to write, but my brain was stretching for anything. And of course, that wasn’t true at all.)
- After I made the call to have him euthanized, my mom came over and Patrick perked up. She said, “wouldn’t it be amazing if a miracle happened. He seems more energetic than I’ve seen him all week” and I immediately doubted my decision for the appointment. I held onto a little bit of hope, wondering if she was right.
- When I called Tony earlier in the week and told him things were getting bad, I was angry he didn’t come back immediately. When I lost my dog Minnie, I was alone and he was gone and this was going to happen again.
- I felt like it was my fault that Patrick was that uncomfortable. I still wonder if he would have lived longer if I took matters into my own hands the day we found out his enzymes were elevated. I wished I got second or third opinions on what was wrong with him years ago.
- I got really cynical and every time I looked at a dog, human, or even a freakin’ plant, I would say in my head, “everything dies. Nothing good lasts.”
- I felt guilty for having the biopsy surgery in his last month of living. I know I couldn’t have known that, but part of me questions whether this sped up the process of him dying. While at the same time, if I didn’t do the biopsy I would have probably let Patrick suffer longer because I wouldn’t have known what was wrong with him or the severity.
- Anticipatory grief is a very real thing. You start the grieving process when you find out that there is nothing that can be done to change the outcome. My grief was ugly, emotional, and full of regret. I started grieving on Monday when the vet told me no matter what I did, it wouldn’t change the outcome- Patrick would die from cirrhosis of the liver.
- Part of me wished I could run away. Go somewhere and just forget everything.
- I felt a huge wave of relief when he passed. He was no longer suffering and it wasn’t going to get worse.
- I didn’t realize I stopped eating myself, and when I finally ate, I felt an immense amount of guilt because Patrick couldn’t eat and I could.
- Part of my heart still feels like I gave up on him. Even though 5 vets, my closest friends and family, and Tony have told me it was the best decision for him, I still question if I gave up on him. I feel like he’s dead because of me.
- At the same time, I feel like I waited too long. I knew how much Tony wanted to spend time with him before he passed and I think the only reason he could is because the IV fluids throughout the week kept him alive.
- I regret not taking Patrick on more walks, hikes and road trips.
- It feels insensitive when people say “at least you had 12 years together.” It really doesn’t help you feel better and makes you feel like you should just be fine with saying goodbye because they were old.
- Some of my loved ones didn’t check in, or ask how things were going before or after our loss and I felt personally hurt.
These are just some of thoughts and emotions I went through. Your emotions will be all over the place, even though they might be unfair. Making the decision to put your fur baby to sleep is the hardest, most heart wrenching decision ever. But keeping them alive while you hold on to hope feels worse.
I needed to hear professionals tell me how they would proceed if this were their dog. I didn’t like it, at all, but I needed it.
One piece of advice that helped me so much was this:
When it comes to putting your dog to sleep, you need to look at the trend line, not the snapshot.
I wish someone would have told me to be kind to myself during this process. I went into a very dark place and honestly, would have given my own liver if it meant Patrick was okay.
Remember- Grief is Grief
When I dove down the rabbit hole of articles from people who put their pet to sleep, I came across one that really spoke to me.
For some reason, as a society we understand that pet loss is shitty, but we fail to recognize the significance that it has on us. If your loved ones die, we immediately ask for time off work to grieve, but when you lose your fur baby and best friend for over a decade, we feel like people won’t understand because “it’s just a dog.”
Frankly, it’s not just a dog. It’s your best friend, your most loyal companion, and for some the center of your world. It’s okay to grieve and mourn in your own way.
In an article I read, a man was sharing that he felt the same amount of pain losing his child as he did losing his dog. The comments were in an uproar saying how dare you compare losing a dog to losing a child.
Both situations suck ass. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a loved one, but I also don’t think it’s right to try and minimize the pain of losing a fur baby either.
People will be there for you during and after the loss of your loved ones, but for some reason- when it’s a dog or a cat, the support seems to stop shortly after they die, even though the pain of losing a pet can hurt as much as any other loss.
Patrick was there for me every day of my lie, 24/7/365 with a smile, unconditional love and a playful demeanor. He was by my side day and night.
In an article, researchers found that more than 25% of respondents had found their pet’s death as difficult as the death of a family member, and 33% thought it was on a level with the loss of a friend. Nearly half of the bereaved owners were still mourning after two months, and 16% were struggling a year later. This stuff hurts hard.
It’s wrong to try and compare or categorize our grief.
It’s crappy no matter what, and the pain you feel doesn’t need to be categorized in a hierarchy of how we think we should feel based on the relationship and who we lose. It’s okay to feel deep loss and pain and instead of feeling dumb or trying to diminish/rationalize the pain of losing your best friend.
Here’s the thing that hurts the most:
Not everyone will be empathetic to you saying goodbye to your loved one. Some people won’t get it.
But you’ll have a handful of people who show so much compassion and love. I have friends that have checked in on me every single day. My little sister, Morgan, and mom have called me every day and cried with me leading up to Patrick’s death and even after it.
People will surprise you with how much they care and some people will surprise you with how little they care.
If you are fortunate enough to be a ways out from saying goodbye to your pet, here are some tips to help you enjoy your time together.
- Make a pet bucket list. My favorite memory that brings me joy is knowing that we took Patrick to the beach to run, play and have the best time.
- Change your vocabulary from “if” to “when.” This helped me in the previous years. It’s not a matter of if they will die, it’s a matter of when. I find that when you say if, it keeps you in a place of denial for longer.
- Detail out what you will do when the times comes, so you don’t have to trust your emotions during this process. I told myself as Patty’s health deteriorated that if the IV fluids didn’t work, I wouldn’t put him through any more vet visits and I would say goodbye. We also discussed cremation vs. burying well in advance, and knew that an in-home euthanasia would be our choice if things all go to plan. It’s critical to detail out exactly what to do so you don’t have to make extra tough decisions when you don’t have the emotional capability/want to.
- Don’t try to suppress your emotions. I make no apologies for how I feel. I lost my best bud and fur baby, I feel like shit. Let your emotions come and go– trust me, you’ll feel things when you least expect it.
- Take time off unapologetically. I took the entire week off of work and cancelled class. My time with Patrick was most important to me. Just tell people you have a family emergency and leave it at that. It’s not your job to try to get people to understand how much they mean to you.
At the end of the day, you need to do what right for you and be kind to yourself– you gave your buddy the best life possible and that bond you formed is special.
This was a glimpse of the journey I went through with my fur baby.
Tony and I both agree, it was the worst day of our lives and part of us died in that moment. We know we will eventually begin to heal, but for now– it just sucks.
If you are going through the heart wrenching decision of when to say goodbye to your friend, I hope you read this post and recognize that your emotions are normal. You’re not crazy. This is one of the hardest decisions you will ever make and no matter what, you’ll feel guilt and regret.
But most importantly, if you are going through the loss of your loved one, know that I deeply understand what you’re going through and am so so sorry. You and your pet deserve more.
All my hugs and love,
PS. If you are grieving the loss of your pet, I’d love for you to share your favorite memory with your little buddy in the comments below.