One of the problems in dealing with dog cancer is what to put your attention on.
Truly, there are so many aspects to a life chapter like this one. The grieving process is no exception. We experience sadness and pain at so many different times, and in so may different ways, while caring for a dog with cancer.
For example, remember getting the news that your dog has cancer? Many are so shocked that they feel only a numbness, with the sadness totally buried. Some may have expected the diagnosis, and may experience a downpour of their worst fears come true. Others are surprised, and then it hits them soon afterwards, realizing they have a dog with cancer.
This period of chaos can be tough to deal with, and getting support from counselors, family members, close friends or spiritual advisors can help.
As time goes on, the sadness can surface at different points in treatment. Perhaps your dog has a hard time getting blood drawn, and you can feel every needle. Maybe your dog is suffering from a drug reaction, and is sick and not eating. This can be agonizing to see. Perhaps your dog is recovering from a surgery and seems disoriented and uncomfortable, maybe even painful. There are few things harder than feeling your dog’s pain.
As time passes, we can start to wonder about what it will be like one day, when our dear one leaves. The sadness can be quite sudden during times like these, and feel very sharp. Often we push the notion away, busying ourselves with some chore or activity.
Almost all of us will outlive our dogs, and at some point will have to deal with their departure. This is usually more intense than we expect it to be. For the lucky few, there is, instead of intense and overwhelming sadness, intense relief. Usually these are individuals who have had the opportunity and prepared themselves first. There are several techniques to help with this in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.
Sometimes the grieving process can involve spouses, children, other family members, other pets, or just people who have been close to us. There can be reminders and entanglements as time goes on that seem to make the sadness longer than one would expect.
Many have no idea the place that these four-legged family members actually hold in our hearts. And they have no idea what it is like to lose a loved dog. Those with grief that lasts a long time may feel wrong or like they are abnormal.
Everyone is different, and everyone experiences life passages in different ways. Just as we are different people with different histories, genetics, beliefs, and lifestyles, we have different ways of experiencing the passing of a loved dog.
Allowing yourself to go through your version of grief, at any point along the way, is absolutely critical. Do not let preoccupation with treatment decision-making mask your honest feelings. Do not spend all your time in your mind. Take a few minutes here and there, and more if you need to, to experience what is really going on.
And don’t be afraid to ask for a helping hand. You are not alone.
Best to all,
Dr. Demian Dressler is internationally recognized as “the dog cancer vet” because of his innovations in the field of dog cancer management, and the popularity of his blog here at Dog Cancer Blog. The owner of South Shore Veterinary Care, a full-service veterinary hospital in Maui, Hawaii, Dr. Dressler studied Animal Physiology and received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Davis before earning his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University. After practicing at Killewald Animal Hospital in Amherst, New York, he returned to his home state, Hawaii, to practice at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital before heading home to Maui to open his own hospital. Dr. Dressler consults both dog lovers and veterinary professionals, and is sought after as a speaker on topics ranging from the links between lifestyle choices and disease, nutrition and cancer, and animal ethics. His television appearances include “Ask the Vet” segments on local news programs. He is the author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Avian Veterinarians, the National Animal Supplement Council and CORE (Comparative Orthopedic Research Evaluation). He is also an advisory board member for Pacific Primate Sanctuary.