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AdamElijah

My Family is Heartbroken and There's Nothing I Can Do

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This is mostly a way for me to cope by talking about my loss.

Our Golden Retriever Charlie was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his muzzle in October. We were devistated as he was only 4 at the time, and we couldn't just let him go. After some screenings and testing it was determined he had a high chance of recovery with radiation treatment. My mother was able to take a large amount of paid time off so she could take him and live in our camper in a campground nearby the treatment center for the several weeks he needed treatment.

The treatments started late October, the rest of our family including our other Golden, Phoebe, would go out to visit them on the weekends. He was doing very well, happy and healthy despite the mouth ulcers and fatigue caused by the treatment. We all thought he was going to fully recover.

Then yesterday we got a call. When he was put under anesthesia for the treatment as they always had, his heart stopped beating. They tried everything to save him but it was too late. It wasn't anyone's fault, we don't blame the medical staff. It was a risk we had taken. He was supposed to come home next week. He was just barely 5, his birthday was November 6th.

The entire family is devastated. He was the first dog me, my mother, and brother had ever owned, and probably will be the best dog we've ever owned. It was impossible to meet him and not fall in love with him. He loved everyone and everything, and would go up to complete strangers wanting to be pet. He was very goofy, he snored like a person, belched like a sailor, loved to steal all kinds of things, and liked holding blankets in his mouth. He's made us laugh countless times.

It's so unfair that this wonderful dog who made so many people happy had his life cut so short. It wasn't his time.

He was especially close to my father. They had a special bond, Charlie loved him more than anyone in the world, and that's saying a lot for a dog who loved everyone. Charlie's favorite thing to do was lay by my dad's rocking chair, blanket in his mouth, holding up a paw so my dad could hold it as if they were holding hands. Charlie was most definitely my dad's soulmate.

My mother is devistated. She blames herself, the sort of "If I just hadn't got out of bed that morning." I'm not sure if she'll be able to go camping again for a long time because of all the memories the camper has for her now.

My brother has been quite in his grief like I have, but I know he's devistated too.

Phoebe is at least already used to Charlie being gone due to their separation, but she just doesn't act the same without him around. She's confused as to why my mother is home but Charlie isn't. My parents let her see his body last night, but she didn't understand it was him. (I didn't see his body, I want to keep my memories of him alive and happy.)

It hurts me so much to see my family hurting like this. More than anything I just want to see them happy again. But I know it will be a long time before that happens, and it kills me. I just want things to be 'normal' again. But it never will be because part of our normal is gone now. 

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Hi @AdamElijah, I just want to say how heartbroken I am for you and your whole family. Charlie sounds like a wonderful, sweet, funny dog who brought you all a ton of joy. 

When we lose our pets, especially one so young and so suddenly since no expected it to happen this way, it is devastating. You will all grieve in your own way. I remember when we lost our cat, for the first couple weeks, I couldn't even say all the silly nicknames we had for him. The loss was crushing. I cried a lot. My husband tried to move on and distract himself even though he was as depressed as I was.

I am glad you came here and shared your story.  I hope in some small way it made you feel a little better. It has for me (I have pages here!) as I just need a place to vent my sadness. There is nothing to fix, no control to be gained. We just grieve and miss them and take it a day at a time. Things will get back to "normal" eventually, but you will always carry a special place in your heart for Charlie. That will never change.  

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Thank you @AJWCat

I nearly cried when I read your reply, but I was in a college class. I managed to keep my composure until I got home, where I cried on the couch with my parents for a few hours. They took him to a funeral home earlier today to be cremated. We usually bury our pets, but it just wasn't practical. We don't know if we'll bury, scatter, or keep the ashes.

I've never delt with a loss this bad. I lost family members when I was young, and we've lost pets. But never one so special. In the past I've just ignored my grief. But this time it's impossible, and that's hard for me to deal with.

My mother suggested that I should schedule an appointment with my consoler, which I will be doing. She's taking his death so hard, but she's still looking out for me.

I'm currently laying in bed cuddling one of his blankets. It's comforting to be covered in his fur, because I've constantly been covered in his fur for the past 5 years. I'll take some off the blanket at some point to save in a baggie.

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Yes this one is really hard, a counselor is a good idea. 

And yeah save the fur... and a favorite toy if he had one? I hated the moment when we vacuumed, a couple weeks after losing our cat. Like we were losing the final evidence of him. Yet... even weeks later, I would see one little white hair in some random place and I believed it was a sign he is still with us.

I hope you are doing okay.

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AdamElijah,

I'm so sorry for your loss.  Golden Retrievers are prone to cysts, tumors, cancer.  I have a dog that is 1/2 Golden Retriever, 1/2 Siberian Husky, he has tumors and cysts also.  I have feared having him put under worrying about him not waking up, and also being opened up for fear of cancer spreading if he has it.  I have a friend that went through that with their dogs, both under two although different breed.  Golden Retrievers are known as gentle giants, I had one before, he was beautiful and sweet.  I smiled as you talked about your dog being goofy, so is mine, also mine softly snores, I love listening to him.

I think going for counseling sessions is a great idea.  I totally understand your wanting to save some of his fur.

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Things have gotten better. I'm ok most of the time, but there are periods where I'm still sad. The same applies to my parents. Having our other dog Phoebe around has really helped us, as well as our one cat Jessie. They both have been comforting us when we've been upset, and cheering us up when needed. We are also lucky to have so many people in our life that understand how hard it is to loose a pet. We have received sympathy cards, flowers, a gift basket, framed photos of Charlie, and visits from friends and family. The owner of a food truck who met Charlie only hours before he passed away is working on getting a memorial sticker made using Charlie's pawprint.

On Saturday we were given Charlie's ashes from the funeral home. The funeral home had placed them in an ornate wooden box, and also made an impression of his paw. We set up a memorial for him with those items, as well as his favorite toys, his collar, photos of him, and the sympathy cards we have received. 

I can't help but be mad sometimes. It turns out that in the two treatments before we lost him, his heart rate had dipped and they needed to use medication to raise it. It shocks us that they didn't tell us about this. They were so open about everything else that was going on with the treatment, and the place is known as one of the best canine cancer treatment facilities, we had no reason to doubt them. They also adored Charlie at that clinic, everyone who worked there loved him. They truely wanted the best for him, we can't understand why they didn't tell us about his heart rate. We would have given him a break from the treatments. If they had just told us, he would still be alive. I know that there's no use dwelling on the past, but it's hard not to think about.

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I'm sorry they didn't let you know so you could include that in your decision making.  It does sound like Charlie had a lot of love, I'm glad you're surrounded by people who care.

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@AdamElijah, I am so glad to know that you have a wonderful support network and have created such nice memorials for him. 

We don't know what would have happened to Charlie. I assume since the vets are really good, they felt the treatments were important enough to continue and that it was not an issue. I understand about being mad about what happened though but dwelling on it will make you crazy. (Along with sadness, I also have anger - not really at anyone besides myself and the situation.) 

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