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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Reflections Four Days After Departure

Updated: September 26th, 2018

This post will be a little different.

I put my own dear Ginsu down four nights ago due to cancer.  Ginsu was a loved cat, not the usual subject of the Dog Cancer Blog. Yet loss is loss, and as a provider of information that sometimes involves coping with loss, I would like to give you some reflections that might help you, when  forced to deal with loss of a loved one.  I’ve always found the best wisdom comes from the trenches, after all.

Ginsu, thankfully, beat the odds, and hung on long after a textbook might have suggested.  But his passing was no less brutal, and the brutality of death is something worth mentioning.  For a lucky few, the passage of someone in your heart can represent something beautiful.  Yet for most, its finality can be spirit-crushing, especially during the passing and for the days following.

Sure enough, just as written in the Guide, my mind was clouded and it was difficult to think and function. But I took the steps prescribed for guardians myself, and was able to get some clarity. I had to guard the guardian and experience the sadness.

I heard from a very smart man long ago that the way to move through something is by “experiencing it away”.  We have to be controlled in this, and so I’ve  took it bit by bit, stopping what I am doing for a couple of minutes to shed some tears, then moving on to what’s next. This provides the salve that helps us to function during grieving.

I saw a thought in myself during this time. There was something not okay about the whole experience.  In other words, this was something that I had not signed up for and that was simply not right, unjust.  These were what they call preconscious thoughts, not quite easy to pinpoint as they were kind of floating in the background of the mind.  But they were there, and I feel that this “wrong” sensation is common in those coping with final departure.

And when something feels wrong, the natural thing to do is to find its cause.  Next comes doing something about what’s wrong. And here is where things get a little weird (and again, I am speaking from self-observation here, so these ideas may not apply to everyone’s experience).

Inside all of the grief is this current of addressing the injustice in front of us, somehow helping to soften the wrong-ness of it all.  So I noticed myself searching for a release valve to help fix the unfair situation. In my case, it was  a little life form, my dear Ginsu, who did not deserve to have his jaw broken by an invading tumor. What in the world did he do to deserve this?  Where is the justice in it?

A few things happened from these thoughts.  One was guilt.  This as many know is common during guardian grieving. Also, anger. As I watched myself I realized that I was trying to find a release from the unfairness, and was turning it on myself (guilt) or the outside world (anger).

It seems these are connected. In other words, our pet is experiencing undeserved suffering, which feels unfair, which needs a resolution, which has no resolution, which gets turned to “someone’s gotta pay”, which travels to ourselves as guilt and outside ourselves as anger.

Once I realized this, it helped me cope with what was happening.  Some call this a “handle”, which means you identify what’s going on so you can deal with it (handle it).  A handle allows you to move at least one of your two feet out of the mess.

Once some of the feelings grew softer, all that was left was a deep sadness, just a wound. And as this did what wounds do (hurts), it dawned on me that that this is the price of the joys of life. There is a cost to life, and it is only my inappropriate feelings of entitlement that make death feel unjust.

Another way to look at it is that humans often believe we, and our loved ones, have a right to be here, like a big cash prize that we expect to be free. No repayment expected, no abrasions of life tolerated.  Yet this was my delusion, created by my own simple and silly human way of only looking at a small piece of a much larger picture.

For me, watching this simple and silly idea fall apart was the root of the guilt, anger, and even sadness.  It was not just Ginsu leaving- it was also my silly idea of what is “supposed” to be.  And I have carried this over the years, and encountered it with other guardians in my veterinary practice and life.  But for the first time I can actually see it.

I read a quite wise thing once.  It sounds a little grim but it actually is not- it can be joyful.  The short point was this:  if we live with the deliberately continued recognition that we may die at any time, it changes everything.

As I am passing through Ginsu’s departure, this is the gem I’ve gained. And I pray as the weeks, months and years travel by, that I remember this advise to myself.

By the way, a simple new tip: look at pictures and any videos.  Go do it. It helps a lot through the whole thing.

Best,

Dr D

 

 

 

 

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  1. Richard Smith on September 30, 2012 at 5:00 am

    Dear Dr D,

    I just wanted to say sorry for your loss and thank you for all the help your words and work have given me.

    Also 4 Days ago I had to make the hearwrenching decision to have my beautiful boy Camden (a Canarian Podenco) sent to sleep. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma on AprilI 11 2012. I read your book cover to cover and it provided me with lots of great information, he was put on the dog cancer diet immediately. We moved swiftly and had the affected leg amputated on April 20th. He was up and about the next day and the day folloing that up and down the stairs.

    2 and a half weeks after the operation stitches were removed and painkillers stopped, our baby was back to normal running around like a crazy thing! We satrted with Chemotherapy, Apocaps and Artemisinin. He suffered no side effects what so ever, always happy and energetic even the day after chemo sessions. Our vets were amazed at his levels of energy and happiness.

    3 weeks ago his blood test results for AP levels were back to normal and the outlook for the future was bright I was elated, a few days later we did a chest x-ray just to check for metastic spread to the lungs. Unfortunately it confirmed our worst fears with 2 areas of concern showing. He was fine and none the wiser however the news knocked me sideways. I had the feeling we were nearing the end.

    Last weekend we went on a 3 day trip to the Mountains for some reason I was compelled to do something special for all of us. We walked and ran for miles, relaxed and ate good food together. On the last day I noticed his abdomen was bulging slightly and felt hard and he was quiet and a little sad looking. The following day we returned from the mountains and went straight to our vet, Camden was still walking and trotting around but his sparkle had gone, he seemed to have lost his enthusiasm a little even for the fun things. Surely enough another mass showed on x-ray. I was gutted and cried for hours. The next day by ultrasound (September 26 2012) it was confirmed in his abdominal lymph nodes a 7cm by 9cm mass, also his liver, lungs and heart had been invaded. We had discussed this and had both agreed that if this was the case and due to the fact we knew he was “tired” we chose to send him off.

    Both of us and our wonderful vet Zereida were all in tears, Camden laid and licked my head (his favourite passtime) as she administerd the drugs, he quietly, calmly and peacefully fell asleep, he felt no fear or pain.

    I´m struggling to cope with my loss and feelings as it´s all so raw and it hurts like nothing I´ve ever felt before. I always described him as my little soul mate. He´s left a big space in our lives,our beautiful, sensitive, funny and gentle boy.

    We had 5 and a half months (3 dog years) from diagnosis until his passing. Despite the pain and the tears, I know we did the right thing to let him go at that time, I know we did evertyhting we could to extend his time with us and it was all quality happy time.

    I know time is a good healer, I´ve already managed to laugh at some photos of him wading around 3 legged in a filthy swamp. Soon I hope all I remeber are the great and fun times we had.

    To Dr D thank you, your words have helped me rationalise things and get through was has been a very tough but probably the most rewarding 5 months of my life.

    To any one reading this your possibly going through something similar, keep going, stay strong for your beloved friend. If your bond is even half as close as ours you´ll know the right thing to do.

    Camden, I´ll love and miss you forever with all my heart. X

  2. April on August 20, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Dr. D,

    So sorry for the loss of your beloved cat. They can never be replaced and will remain forever in our hearts until we see them again.

    Take care.

  3. Melissa on August 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Dr. Dressler,

    So sorry to hear of your loss. Your cat knew your love. That is for sure. Your thoughts about what is supposed to be are not silly. We as humans were not intended to deal with death, in my belief, and it is not really possible for us to know how to deal with loss of this kind. It is wrong and unjust. Your feelings are right on the mark. You did your best for Ginsu, and I believe that somewhere in Ginsu’s mind, there was understanding of this and trust in you. I grieve with you.

  4. keath rhymer on August 13, 2012 at 11:07 am

    My prayers to Father Sky as he surrounds you in his arms.

  5. Kim on August 12, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Dear Dr. D,

    I am so sorry o hear of your loss our thoughts and prayers go out to you. We have an 11 year old pug named Penelope and she has cancer. With sympathy. Kim

  6. Celeste on August 11, 2012 at 3:33 am

    Sorry to hear of your loss.

  7. Rene @Tripawds on August 10, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Dr. D., we send our deepest condolences. Thank you for sharing your insight at this difficult time, I know it’s not an easy thing to write about.

    I’ll be sure to refer to your sage words often when our own members at Tripawds are grieving their own great losses. Thank you so much.

  8. Mary Emmons on August 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Dr. Dressler-
    I am so sorry for your loss of Ginsu. I knew that I was going to cry so I had to wait until I had a quiet moment to ready your story. My heart is heavy for you and Ginsu and I just wanted to THANK YOU for sharing your personal story with us. I too think that looking at pictures and videos help the grieving process, and 7 years later, I still have a picture of my beloved Boxer Baron on the wall in our front room in the middle of all of our family photos. My best to you!

  9. JanMontgomery on August 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    My heart goes out to you on the loss of you companion and friend. I am living with a 9 1/2 year old female lab mix, Gracie, who truly lives up to her name. A graceful and beautiful girl with a beautiful soul. Shewas diagnosed a year ago with a very aggressive foem of melanoma that was located in a skin tag. After two surgeries and experimental treatment out of the University of Wisconsin, we hoped for the best but in March, the cancer was found in her lungs. Chemo did not help so we have opted to let her live out her life as nearly as normal as her disease will allow. Shewas given 2-4 months to live in March so we have been blessed to have her a little longer. Now we are at the decision making time and I am so struggling with when we should give her to God. She is a lumpy little thing now, with the cancer growing everywhere, but she still wants to go on her walks and in the car. She is on prednesone and previsid to help stimulate her appetite but I am cooking for her, whatever she will eat. Chicken and noodles, eggs, cottage cheese….whatever. Will we know when it is God’s turn to enjoy her? How?

  10. Vickie Karrer on August 10, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Dear Dr.
    Thank you, in advance.
    My 10 year old Lab, cancer is stable. However. his heart disease is progressive.
    We know that we are down to week, or days. Cannot count on years, any longer.
    You have helped so many pet “parents”, and I pray that God helps you, now at this
    very difficult and very sad time.
    God Bless You and Your Work.
    Vickie

  11. Gloria on August 10, 2012 at 5:42 am

    Sorry, I meant ‘their time’….not ‘there time’..//

  12. Gloria on August 10, 2012 at 5:41 am

    It is 2 days since my little Toro passed and reading all these posts, I am gratified to find so many who understand what it is to nurse and finally send a pet to peace.

    My two other dogs visited the crate that Toro had been in the morning he left the house for the last time and now are getting my full attention. The “twin” of Toro, a chi-corgi mix I adopted from the shelter, is on a tonic for his liver but in good health, as is Slick, the stray min pin I rescued years ago, They are both about 11 years old. The vet I now go to does extensive blood work in older dogs so she can spot any metabolic changes before things get to a crisis state like we had with Toro. She spends an hour to an hour and a half on exams and bloodwork and acupuncture if needed. Her clinic is quiet and peaceful, without a big room of dogs, etc. waiting to see one of many vets, as was the case with my other vet. I feel that my two buddies will now have a better chance at a graceful aging process as a result of my experience with Toro and the new vet who looks at quality of life and, as she says, balancing everything as well as possible so that they are happy until it is there time….

    My heart goes out to all of you who have also been through your recent losses.

  13. Lisa on August 10, 2012 at 2:25 am

    Dr. Dresser, I am sorry for your loss of Ginsu;it is very hard, and only time eases it a bit … I was wondering about Ginsu’s life, when he got cancer and if he was on an anti-cancer diet?

    My dog is on the anti-cancer diet, and I swear it’s why she has beaten the odds — she is 5 months away from being *cured* of lymphoma, which is not supposed to happen!
    But my cat won’t touch homemade/human food, and eats Royal Canin Urinary SO for crsytals in his urine. Do you have an anti-cancer diet for cats that he could eat?
    Thanks again for your book; it helped me/my dog, and I had a friend get it too for her dog.

  14. Kellygirl on August 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss, Dr. Dressler, and I hope that through your grief, you will find a way to honor Ginsu’s memory and what he meant to you. You are right about the unfairness and why of it all also prompting gratitude and appreciation for every moment you have with a loved one, because you cannot take it for granted how long you will have that time. My golden retriever Bailey was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in May 2011 at almost age 10 and had amputation surgery in June. I decided against chemo and was given about a 4-6 month life expectancy for Bailey. I discovered your books after the diagnosis and have incorporated a lot of your guidance in choosing to prepare a home-cooked anti-cancer diet and a lot of immune-enhancing supplements. The diagnosis was surprising and shocking, the amputation was radical, and I had many tears and fearful moments of grief last year, yet I felt at peace with all my decisions once I made them. But I knew that Bailey might be on borrowed time. I could not wait for the first real milestone to me–6 months, which we hit last December. I relaxed a little after that. And then, as 1 year and another birthday for Bailey approached, I rejoiced and celebrated and shared postcards and dog treats with all the family, friends, and neighbors who have been so supportive. There is so much meaning and value in every moment I have with Bailey. I really have wanted to take Bailey to the beach again, and now at 14 months after his surgery, it appears he will be with me at the beach this September. I know and dread when that day will come for him to go, but I am immensely grateful for time I have now that I did not think I would get.

  15. Kathy Chiavola on August 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Thank you for your post and my heart goes out to you in your loss. My only consolation is that I believe I will meet with my loved ones, animal and human, in heaven.
    Peace and God bless,
    Kathy

  16. Deb on August 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Dr. Dressler,
    I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved kitty, Ginsu. Your comment about the unfairness of it all resonated with me as I’ve been thinking exactly that. My 10 year old Jack Russell/Chihuahua mix, Sobaka, has been diagnosed with anal sac adenocarcinoma with mets to the lymph nodes. He is not a candidate for surgery as the lymph nodes are too close to the major arteries. He is such a happy boy, we’d never have known he was sick if I hadn’t asked the vet to express his anal glands when I took him to have his teeth cleaned. Your book has given me hope though, and a sense that I can do something to help him. I don’t know how long I will have him with me, but I will cherish every day. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, and with dear Ginsu. I know he’ll be waiting for you when your time comes, as Sobaka will surely be waiting for me.
    God bless you,
    Deb

  17. JJ on August 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Thank You for the post. And Sorry for Your Loss.

    Life is about having the experience. And the best best way is to fully experience whatever that emotion is…… so you can let go of the sadness and hold on to the joy your pet brought into your life.

    Thank you for sharing all the gifts of wisdom. As my dog as of August 29 will be tumor free for one year.

    God Bless ,,,,
    JJ

  18. Dagmar on August 9, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    I also can relate so much to what you are saying (lost 2 beautiful dogs within only a few months) and I feel truly so sorry for your loss!
    As you said, looking at pictures is one way to deal with it.
    What helped me and my husband extremely was the Emergency Essence of the Australian Bush Flower Essences. You are still grieving, but it takes the edge off it.

    Dagmar

  19. Celia Bucio on August 9, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Dr.D Thanks for the post, you’ve described exactly what my feelings are. I lost two weeks ago My lovely Myla a Jack Rusell Terrier 11 yrs , metastic lung cancer.. I spent this two weeks going through the photos and memories….. grieving with my other two dogs and coping with our sadeness. She gave me a lesson, live everyday as if it is the last one and try to make each day the best as my lovely Myla did. She was so brave. Im very thankful ’cause of your dog cancer survival guide she lives better her last two months.
    My heart goes out to you and Ginsu.

  20. Laurie on August 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Thank you for sharing your emotions over your grief from saying goodbye to your beloved cat, Ginsu. The love we feel for our pets is so pure–not blended with any conflicting emotions like we may have over the loss of people near to us. Animals are like little children and they are so innocent and dependent on us. I’ve been through this very sad experience a number of times and it is just so very sad each time…

  21. Nanette on August 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Dr. D., I am so sorry for your loss. I understand your grief. I helped my sweet Cocker, Toby, cross over to the Rainbow Bridge, just last Friday night. He was diagnosed with Lymphoma October 2011, so we had an amazing extra 8 months with him. But this fact does not erase the ache in my heart from missing him.

    I hope and pray you are comforted by the fact that you did your very best to make Ginsu’s life wonderful, and extended his life beyond the limits of the clinical norms. And he, most likely, knew that and was grateful.

  22. Allison on August 9, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Thank you so much for this beautiful post. There is so much I would like to say but what really matters as you put it so perfectly is to live deliberately as if everything may change. Ginsu was such a special and unique soul and I know he lived his life in a very deliberate and in the moment manner. This is how I will remember him and I thank him for the space he created in me to open myself up to unconditionally love such a special being. I miss you my fiery, sweet and loving friend. What a blessing you are to my life.

  23. Melissa on August 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Thank you.
    My 15 year old cat with cerebellar hypoplasia died recently, just after my wife died of lymphoma. I have read a great deal since then. I listen much.

    Your piece was exceptionally touching and helpful. I will pass your wisdom on.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  24. Jesse Brown on August 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Thank You, Well spoken.

  25. Jeannette Botza on August 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    I feel your pain. It has been 6 months since I lost my beautiful girl from a dreadful
    cancer, called Hemangiosarcoma. I still cry, and I talk to her everyday, and would do anything if I could have her back. Did everythng possible while she
    was ill, even had 2Xray phone sessions with you from California. I know what you are feeling, and there isn’t a pill in this world to take that pain away. I was
    so overjoyed when I spoke to you and told you after all of her chemo they saw
    nothing in her monthly ultrasounds, and then 3 months later, xmas eve, she
    fell ill, and it was everywhere. I felt the same as you. why did the tumor break
    your Ginsu’s jaw….why did my girls cancer comeback? WHY…Dr. there isn’t
    any answer. My heart goes out to you

  26. Bonny on August 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    For anyone whose ever lost a furry best friend-please read Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates by Gary Kurz. It’s an amazing book that will help you through the grief and fill you with the hope and joy of knowing your friend is alive and well and waiting for you!

  27. Liz Hancock on August 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Demian, My heart goes out to you, it truly does. On Monday my beloved 10 year old Border Collie ‘Major’ seemed to be losing his battle agianst Lymphoma, just days after having received his 4th Chemo therapy treatment. Diagnosed just 5 weeks ago I had hoped and prayed that he would respond positively to his treatment and enter remission. Keen to do all I could for him I came across your Dog Cancer Diet and made slight adjustments to his already excellent diet, with the hope of providing him with the best possible nutrition. Unfortunatley he kept getting bouts of severe Diarrahoea – and on Sunday I noticed that he was passing considerable amounts of blood in his very watery motions. The vet saw him on Monday morning – gave him an injection and prescribed drugs and antibiotics – but for the first time he had lost all interest in food and seemed to be in discomfort – I asked the question, ‘Is it time?’ – but the day before he had still wanted to play and his eyes remained bright. I was tenderely cleaning him up with each motion passed – his rear was somwhat sore and inflamed – and on the vets advice I tried to soothe this with a mild antiseptic cream. With each passing hour he refused to eat, though still drank water, and he kept wanting to lie alone in the garden. At 10.45pm I was thrown into hysterics as I tended to his rear and spotted maggots in his fur. A frenzied call to the vets and by 12 midnight we were in the veterinary hospital – my vet shaved the fur from his rear and his tail – and though riddled by the little blighters, there was a sense of relief that we had spotted it just in time as they had not managed to penetrate the flesh. As a minister of religion I was angry with God ‘Why did this have to happen?’ I cried, ‘Isn’t he suffering enough?’. My vet advised that due to the diarrhoea, flies would have been attracted to him, as he lay in the garden, ‘Why had you not noticed this earlier’ I asked? And she explained that the hatch time from lay was around 8 hours, and so it had most probably happened after I had seen her earlier. She then advised hospitalisation and putting him on a drip for the next 24 -48 hours, and suggested I phoned in for an update after 10am the next morning. Throughout the night I was told that he suffered further bouts of diarrhoea but also vomitting – but by morning his condition had moderatley improved. Again I was filled with a sense of hope – but nothing could prepare me for the phone call I received later that afternoon, telling me that my poor Major had suffered a nosebleed and was now struggling to breathe. Living a good 30-40 minutes from the hospital I had to take the decision fot the vet to euthanase him without my being present – that was 3.30pm on Tuesday just 2 days ago, and I feel absolutely wretched. Did we leave him too long? Ought we had better read the signs? I guess I will always wrestle with these questions, but in a sense thank God for the maggots – without them, I would have been at home, alone with Major through the night, what if (not being on a drip) his condition had rapidly deteriorated and I’d woken to find him bleeding – to imagine that is just too horrible. I find myslef crying at the simplest of things – On Tuesday evening I stubbed my toe on his water bowl left on the kitchen floor and I cried, then spotted his empty bed on the bedroom floor and I sobbed. Yesterday I noticed a closed back door – whereas the last few days it had been left ajar, I awoke last night and leapt out of bed convinced that I’d heard him pawing the door to go out – and for about ten miuntes I lay back on the bed and wept uncontrollably, this morning I switched on the kettle – and automatically opened the back door for him to go out when he came downstairs, and realising what I was doing cried soem more. A short while ago I ran the hoover over the house and wept that no more will I be vaccuming up his dog hairs and I’m typing this now through tears. You are right though when you say that photographs help – and people are offering tributes in memory of him on my facebook page. Whilst he was one special boy and I know I could never replace him – another burden I bare is a stark realisation that practically, because of the nature of my work, and the prospect of a change in appointment just a couple of years away, I wont possibly be able to have another dog and that really is tough. God bless you – keep up the good work, may memories of Ginsu continue to comfort you and memories of Major be a source of comfort and blessing to me. Yours in Christ, Liz x

  28. Gloria on August 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Condolences on you loss. Your email came a day after I had to part with my little dog Toro, 13 years, 5.5 months. His rear leg had suddenly swelled up in early May and it took a week to diagnose that it was, indeed, a mast cell tumor on his lymph node. He was nearly dead and required transfusions, but he stabilized. Although he had been lagging, I thought it was simply old age…until the tumor “erupted.” The vet could only offer me chemo hundreds of miles away, so I opted to go to the vet in town who practices Western and Chinese medicine. He rebounded miraculously with mushrooms, western immuno support, silymaryin for his liver, omega 3’s and other herbs. (Also, a reducing dose of prednisone, prevacid, sucralfate)
    He regained all his weight on a low protein diet and his liver improved. His abdominal ultrasound was clean.
    He lived his last few months as if he were a young dog. Until a few days ago he appeared to be a bit less energetic and the tumor was growing. On Tues night he took his walk but later started licking the leg. By morning, he could not walk on the leg and there was bruising, which later, the vet said was probably bleeding.
    I took him in on Wednesday (yesterday), happy and still very healthy, but with probably only a 2-3 weeks left. These would have been weeks of deterioration, and the vet agreed it was time. He went very peacefully after sedation which allowed me to pet him and love him, then he was put down.
    I read a prayer as he passed, an old Taos Pueblo poem….for yes, it was a good day to die because Toro had relived his remaining days feeling well and doing all the things he enjoyed.

  29. Julie Isidro on August 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Dear Dr Dresser….I am so sorry for your loss. I have already started my grieving process as I wait for my dog Haley to tell me when it’s time to let her go. She has IMC and we’ve chosen to stop one of her chemo drugs due to the side effects. She is on pain meds now and her quality of life has improved a bit. But I am feeling the guilt of not being able to do more, and anger that she wasn’t spayed prior to being rescued as a three year old. I am trying to enjoy the time she has left and to be positive but I’ve been through this kind of losses before and I know it will be difficult.. fortunately I have friends.and family who are very supportive …I hope you do too.

  30. Diane C Nicholson on August 9, 2012 at 11:57 am

    So sorry to hear about Ginsu. It doesn’t matter how much we know about the subject, grief still hits us like a passing hurricane. And one of the first things we do, whether it’s the death of a human or other animal loved one, is look for guilt. Even if we know we did everything possible, we look for a bit.

    I made an appointment for my vet to come out yesterday and put down my girl, Suki. Now 17, Suki was diagnosed with a large splenic tumour 19 months ago. I did not want surgery so simply took her home.

    But the tumour has encapsulated or whatever, and after a few minor bleeds– all symptoms disappeared.

    She did not die of the tumour but now she is senile. This has been going on for about a year and over the weekend, she became extremely agitated and since she’s sundowning and therefore, so am I, I figured it was time.

    However, Suki had other ideas and started to wag her tail, walk to the right and in a straight line (first time in months!) and generally, convinced me that she wasn’t ready yet.

    It’s one thing when your dog, or cat, is in pain– the choice is usually clear. It’s different when it’s a brain issue.

    We’ll take it one day at a time but as long as she wants to stay, she’s welcome to do so.

    Again, so sorry about Ginsu….

  31. Linda Fisher on August 9, 2012 at 11:57 am

    My heart goes out to you at this time. This is something that is growing closer for me at this moment. My sweet, 11-1/2 yrs old Lab, Jake, was recently diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma following spleen removal. I am in the process of gathering together supplements and trying to determine what our plan will be. I just received your book this afternoon. I know all this trying to organize a treatment plan is partly my way of “doing something.” I tend to be a “fixer” and need to try everything to make things right. When I am taking a moment to be honest, I realize there will likely be no “fix.” We have had him three years longer than we thought we would; he has been seemingly cancer-free after being diagnosed with oral melanoma three years ago. And, now this, a cancer which has no miracle vaccine. But still, I can’t give up the hope that there is something. Gonna be hard to deal. I feel I’m already starting the grieving process and it sucks! I wish the best for you and your family in getting through the grief.

  32. Pat on August 9, 2012 at 11:45 am

    I’m deeply sorry about your loss. It’s devastating to have to cope with the absence of such lovely creatures. I don’t fear death itself, but the lack of presence is unbearable (maybe that’s why photos and videos help, although my experience was exactly the opposite, I deleted all photos/videos of my 2 months old puppy after a horrible suffering and death due to cinomosis). One of my Labrador Retrievers has cancer (hemangiosarcoma) and the other (his daughter) has an undiagnosed disease which comes and goes like a guillotine blade over my head. I’m trying to rationalize the inevitable, but what I get is just emotional breakdown. Maybe we should start teaching how to cope with death and absence in preschool, so we could know how to handle this in a more natural way. I hope your sadness can become wisdom and peace of mind.

  33. SSusan Decker on August 9, 2012 at 11:42 am

    So sorry about the loss of your cat. I know how precious each companion pet is to us, and it never gets easier no matter how many we have, or have lost, each one is special. As to your new revelation about about ‘dieing at any time’ …it is truly the ancient philosophy of Buddhism that respects this premise:
    “all life is transient, a part of us dies and is regenerated every instant we breath, we have only the present moment in which to live, live it to the fullest, what is past is over, there is never a guarantee of any future, cherrish each breath we take”
    It is only when we respect death, and accept it as being a part of our everyday life, that we can really appreciate the gift of living.

  34. Kris Graham on August 9, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Dr. D.,

    I have experienced the death of loved pets, and I also experienced the deaths of both my parents. In fact, the 19th anniversary of my dad’s death is today, and I thought of him and mentioned the anniversary to my husband. Time does not heal all wounds contrary to the old canard. Time merely dulls the sharp edges of the pain. You never forget your loved one whether it be a human or an animal, and you never really get accustomed to the loss. All of us must go through the pain of losing a loved one because that is the price of being born and living. One day we will all leave this earth whether we are human, canine, feline, whatever. We have to deal with that knowledge, and it’s tough. Human beings are so egocentric. We think the universe revolves around us. It doesn’t. We and all living beings on this earth are just tiny dots in the larger universe.

    I hope and in fact, I know that given time you will not feel so much pain at the loss of Ginsu. Let the emotions come and feel them and realize that what you feel is very normal. Hell, I can still cry when I think of my dad and mom and the fact that they aren’t around anymore. We’re human. We love, we feel, we get enraged, we have guilt. Our emotions run the gamut. Those emotions and our awareness of the precariousness and preciousness of life are what makes us human. Maybe other animals like dolphins and elephants realize this, too. Who knows? We should all try and love one another including our animal companions and make every day count as though it was our last day on this earth.

    By the way, I have my dog, Maddie on your Apocaps. I am hoping that she will beat her cancer with the Apocaps, the K9 Immunity Plus, a grain free diet with cruciferous veggies and fruit, cottage cheese and a whole lot of love, grit, determination and a healthy dose of luck. Send some healing energy our way here in Houston anyhow.

    Big hug to you. You’re gonna be okay.

    Kris in Houston

  35. Penny on August 9, 2012 at 11:38 am

    I am so sorry for your loss Dr. Dressler and appreciate your words of wisdom from the heart. I lost my 12 year old Brittany to Nasal Adenocarcinoma just 9 short weeks ago and am still struggling with the loss my precious girl 🙁 Your book was a God send during the time of the discovery of this tumor, but sadly the Nasal cancers are a diff. thing to deal with. She was very anxious and was just not a great candidate for radiation so palative was really the only choice best for her… Though I would have done anything make her live forever for me. I pray your loss becomes easier to bear as time goes on and look forward to future updates and possibly books your author for us that love our fur babies like children.

  36. Suzanne Baker on August 9, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Dear Dr. Dressler,

    Your work and writings have helped so many of us so I hope that we, your readers, can help you a little by letting you know that you and Ginsu are in our thoughts as his little soul passes to the next realm, whatever that may be, and as you struggle with the pain of not being able to save him from the cancer that overtook his physical body. We just went through this a few weeks ago with our beloved cat, Danny, who was suffering from advanced oral cancer, which eventually consumed almost all the boney structures of one-half of his face. It was very hard to let him go and I have been fighting the same guilt you describe in your post so your sharing of your experience is particularly meaningful to me at this sensitive time. Even when we feel we have done the right thing by our companions in helping to free them from their pain and suffering that guilt tries to rear its uggly head. At this time I keep reflecting on what my wise brother said to me after the all too recent loss of another dear animal campanion…in trying to help me reconcile my guilt with my responsibility, he said “animals don’t understand suffering…”. Although I’m sure this statement could be debated in that we don’t know for sure what animals understand and how they understand it, the statement was offered in kindness and it has comforted me in carrying the heavy burden of making such a difficult decision as to put a loved one to sleep. Maybe you can find some comfort in the thought of this as well…

    My deepest sympathy,

  37. Alyssa on August 9, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Having lost my sweet Cairn Terrier, MacKenzie, to cancer last November, I feel your pain. I too escaped into her photos and videos. It is absolutely heart and soul wrenching to lose a beloved animal companion. However, I do not think they see death as we do – they see it as the next step. Only we humans see it as so final. Ginsu is no doubt around you still. Embrace the grieving, treasure the memories and pure unconditional love that our furry companions give us. Wishing you peace and calm as you adjust to your loss. Namaste.

  38. Natalie V. Belcon on August 9, 2012 at 11:25 am

    My Mocca passed away this morning. My heart is broken. I lost one the morning after this past Thanksgiving and the second 2 months later. She was diagnosed with thyroid/ lymphoma on December 09th 2011. Today is August 12 2012. She actually died from an enlarged heart and water in the lungs. I probably make no sense right now. Thank you for being a part of extending her life and making her comfortable and happy. She was going on three 45 minute trots every day until this past week. You gave us more time together and it means everything to me. I’ve been looking at pictures all day. I know it will get better.

  39. Joan on August 9, 2012 at 11:23 am

    So sorry to hear about your loss. I am new to your blog. My tripawd is sitting at my feet as I type. I have lost several dogs in my lifetime. Two things help me get thru the grief. (1) If the older dogs didn’t die, there would be no room for puppies, and (2) the homoeopathic remedy Ignatia Amara. This remedy helps with grief. When I go through grief, my thoughts keep circling and I can’t focus. Ignatia Amara takes just enough edge off the grief so that I can focus.

  40. Renae on August 9, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Thank you for sharing your personal experience in dealing with the loss of Ginsu. After losing Carmen two months ago, your words ring true in every aspect. A 14 year old rescue pom mix, Carmen lived 3.5 years after having her first mast cells removed due to your excellent advise. Your knowledge validated the actions of our local vet. and provided Carmen with a wonderful quality of life for the 6.5 years she belonged to us. May Ginsu’s life make an lasting change on your life, too.

  41. Peter on August 9, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Thank you for your email. I can so associate with all you have said, and I can feel the sadness and loss you have experienced. I am really touched by what you say, and the fact that there are people like yourself that feel so very deeply about loss of a loved pet, that makes me feel that I am not alone in this emotional state. I am struggling with my beloved German Shepherd who collapsed on 1 June as a result of a spleen bleed due to Hemangiosarcoma. The tumour was relatively small with no sign of any spread. It was well removed by a very talented vet, and Chart has returned to his old self. However I know the dangers of Hemangiosarcoma, and am going through all you have suggested in your book, and more. He is on Salvestrol, and I am very positive about it not spreading. I have followed many of your suggestions, but I realise that only time will tell. I am counting the days, and although my vet thinks that he has already passed the critical period, I believe that this may be more realistic after 6 months. All this, as I have experienced such emotional turmoil, and feel so much for what you and your family are currently experiencing. I can only say a huge thank you for what you have done to make this passage easier for all of us as well.
    Thinking of you and Ginsu.

    Kind regards
    Peter and Chart

  42. Karen on August 9, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Hi Doc, love to you during this hard time. May you soon lessen the grief and begin to celebrate your dear Ginsu’s life and memories.
    Hugs,
    Karen

  43. Deborah on August 9, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Dr D, my heart goes out to you and your family. It is so had to lose a very much loved pet, I think there are times they are more to us than perhaps a human because our pets give their love unconditional. I lost my boy to cancer last November, I followed your diet and I’m sure it gave him and I a few more weeks together and for that I am grateful. The pain does ease but never goes away, I shed a tear even now but they are tears of love, they show how much each and every one of my dogs and cats have meant to me and for those tears I am grateful.

  44. Chris on August 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you for your post. It is so heart felt and so on-the mark. I lost 2 of my furry gang back in December within a week of each other, one from advanced kidney disease and heart disease and the other from a complication after a surgery. What you described is what I went through to a T. My heart goes out to you and Ginsu and your family. No matter how many times you encounter losing a loved one, there’s always a deep sadness and it’s so hard. Photos and videos DEFINITELY help! I spent the first week after they passed on doing nothing but going through the photos and videos. I ended up putting together a photo book of each of them and it’s been so precious to have since. Their spirits always live on if no where else but our hearts. Thinking of you and Ginsu