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Posts: 4
I posted recently about my dog having died in my boyfriend’s arms from an unknown cause.

Our vet, who had seen him earlier in the day yesterday, (the day he passed) before his symptoms worsened, called today to let us know that his bloodwork was a bit alarming. He had an extremely high white blood cell count. He ventured a guess and suspected that bloodwork and symptoms suggested it may have been an undiagnosed autoimmune disease like Addison’s Disease.

I’ve been reading and re-reading AD symptoms, and though I’ve forgiven myself for not knowing that he had a disease, I am reading that Addison’s Disease can be triggered by certain stressors, one of which is stress caused by owners going on vacation. Just two days before we had gone on vacation for five days, and had left our 1.5 year old dog with a friend who was dog sitting for us at our home. I now feel guilty that our leaving for my family reunion stressed him out to such a degree that it caused a flare up of this dormant disease, powerful enough to kill him, and I didn’t think anything of the symptoms because they were in line with what I was reading about deworming tablet symptoms, which I had given him just 24 hours before he passed.

The grief and the guilt just doesn’t stop. And every time I remember he’s gone my heart throbs so hard and so powerfully inside my chest. I wish he was here, and I so badly wish I knew that he had this disease so we could have prepared him for our time away, since AD is manageable if treated. Ugh. Does the guilt ever stop? Has anyone grappled with a similar situation?

Posts: 3
I don’t know but if someone had good advice I’d love to hear it. We put our dog Pauleena (We called her Pig) to sleep yesterday. Over the past few months she slowed down considerably and was having frequent digestive issues. She had cataracts and hearing loss but you would never k ow to look at her She would have been 16 in Sept but everyone who saw her thought she was a puppy. Just over the past 4 weeks she began to have more difficulty walking and seemed a little weak and disoriented. We took her to the vet on Monday and he drew blood By Tuesday she lost the use of her hind legs and became incontinent and refused to eat or drink Her blood showed that liver and kidney values were highly elevated and Tuesday night her breathing seemed difficult. She could no longer walk or squat so I put a diaper on her By Wednesday morning I couldn’t bear the way she looked - just sad and scared We went back to the vet who said we could a bunch of diagnostic tests but he believed it was her age catching up with her We decided that we should let her go before she became completely disoriented and in pain I am inconsolable I feel so guilty Maybe I should have done more to save her no matter how little time she may have had. I can’t stop sobbing and I’m literally sick to my stomach and don’t know what to do So I know how you feel and I’m so sorry for your loss

Posts: 730
Dear Nicole,

I read your first post and I wanted to say how very sorry I am that you've lost your beautiful, wonderful pup in such a cruel and unexpected way.

I know a bit about guilt - having experienced this lying, twisted cousin of grief after losing my own dog Fiona to cancer. It's the awful emotion that takes the place of the dreadful, painful, aching sadness that we are unable or unwilling to feel.  Rather than true grief, guilt is accompanied by anger, fear, self-torture and recrimination.  As horrible as it sounds, guilt seems to come along to 'protect' us from the terrible shock and loss we've just experienced - somehow, there must be a reason, someone to blame, someone who should OWN this terrible loss.  Guilt tells us it can make sense of the senseless. That's what guilt wants you to believe.  And I am here to tell you that it's not true - will never be true when it comes to your beloved boy. It does not belong in the same sentence as his name - or in the heart of the person who loved him most in this world.  

Guilt has us believe that, somehow, we changed from loving, caring people into killers overnight.  Yesterday it was belly rubs and chew toys, and today we are horrific people who neglected and cruelly treated that same beloved pet to the point where he died. Makes no sense to anyone except you - vulnerable and heart broken as you are.  It made perfect sense to me, too.    

The voice in our head says, you SHOULD have seen that something was wrong.  Just like a highly trained or experienced clinician, you SHOULD have been familiar with and attuned to the signs and symptoms of the rare Addison's disease or a a million other potential diseases. Though every vet journal indicates the rarity and difficulty of diagnosing the symptoms of Addison's disease, YOU should have been smart enough/capable enough/educated enough/keen enough to see it immediately.  You SHOULD have been able to hold back the ravages and damages caused by this illness because you have magical power over death and you failed in your mission to control the world.  You SHOULD have had some perfect insights that allowed you to tell the future, and what would happen if your little pup fell victim to cancer, Addison's, diabetes, arthritis, etc. etc.  Even old age would have been your fault, according to the voice of guilt.  And if it wasn't Addison's disease, then surely you must have missed some other disease process that robbed you of your best friend.  

Now, imagine that you are saying those things to someone who has just lost their beautiful little dog.  Imagine telling your brother, or another pet parent on this website message board, that he should have KNOWN that his cat had bladder cancer and it's his fault his cat passed away. That his ignorance and neglect caused the death of an innocent little cat.   Imagine even thinking that.  The truth is, you would NEVER use such words or have such thoughts about anyone else - but somehow it's okay to believe this voice when it is speaking to you without a hint of compassion or understanding  That's the ugly lie that guilt tell us.  That's the cruelty of guilt that we accept as if it's real or true or deserved.  It's not real or deserved - and it never will be.  You are punishing yourself for a crime you did not commit.  

I read your story of the months you spent with your baby, and I see nothing that would cause anyone to think guilt belongs in this story.  What I read was a love story, and I truly felt the strong heart of someone who would have gone to the ends of the earth for this dog to save him, to help him, to keep him.  Guilt is a poor substitute for the light and love you had with him - and it's the love that comes across in every word you write.  

Please remember, this pain is YOURS, not his.  He died in the arms and in the presence of people who loved him, honored him, allowed him dignity and peace.  He does not have the memory of the shock of his passing and then being left with the devastation of the loss.  He only knows that his people, YOU, were there with him in that moment - just as you had been since the day you met each other.  It's not much comfort, but somehow knowing that my dog Fiona would never feel what I was feeling made it a tiny bit easier in my own heart.  She was safe, and she took with her only the memories of warmth and the feeling of love.

All I know, from experience, from my heart, and from every ounce of comfort I can send you through this board, is that this disgusting guilt will die a quick death, and slink off to the gutter where it belongs - for it does NOT belong anywhere in your reality with you and your dog.  The responsibility for his death lies directly at the feet of his disease just as it would at the feet of old age or accident or anything that takes these precious pets from our side. That's what 'owns' this terrible outcome.  That's where the real fault is.  

Right now, guilt has ownership of your emotions.  But grief, held so tightly in your heart, will allow you to start processing the shock of what has happened, and how to find some kind of 'new normal' in a life that was centered on him and you.  It's anything but easy.  There are bad days (today, for example), and then better days.  There are steps forward and back.  There are times when the despair is the loudest voice - you just WANT HIM BACK - and you'd give anything, anything, to have have a rewind button or a chance to do things again, hoping for a different outcome.  I know all these feelings. Desperation. And I thought I'd lose my sanity when Fiona died, unable to figure out how to cope or how to think or how to make any sense of a future that didn't have her in it.   

Right now, I cannot offer anything in terms of a timetable, or any actions you can take to make this journey any easier.  I wish I had a secret I could tell you about how to feel better - to feel anything other than the guilt and pain.  But I cannot.  Nothing will restore him to you any more than my pup can be restored to me.  This is forever.  But want I want you to know is that the love you had with him is also forever.  It cannot be lost, cannot die, cannot be taken away from you.  You don't get to keep him, but you do get to keep the love.  In a place of misery, it's love that shines the hardest, and it's the love you shared with him that will see you through.  Just not today.  Or tomorrow.  But soon, I promise you with all my heart.  

Posts: 3
Dear nground,

I’m so sorry for you losing your beloved dog on the way to the vet. As you mentioned, unfortunately, he acquired Addison disease and I just want to add as human we are horrible at always looking for cause and effect. As result of this trait all humans seem to have we misplace blame or assign blame when there is none to be assigned. Stress is just one of many known and unknown contributors to Addison. Stress also comes in different forms. For example your wonderful dog may have been under going physical stress from the effects the disease was having on his poor body. There is no way in which you or vet could know about any potential physical stress. There also too many unknowns on how fast the disease progresses or what even causes it.

The sheer emotional burden you are under for missing him so much will make you second guess every decision you ever made. At the end of the day will be emotional and physically exhausted from playing the blame game and left where you started from. Unfortunately, your beloved dog had a disease and you did everything you could for your dog. There is no blame! Let yourself grief and process the pain you are feeling and try to concentrate on the fond memories and how you did everything possible to give a much needed dog a loving life. It is easier said then and it will take a while. Nine month after losing my beloved cat, I still miss him dearly and the blame game has been greatly reduced to he got old and I find that unacceptable. 😀

Posts: 4
Debjayg - I am so sorry for what you are going through. Pig sounds like a lovely companion and it is so evident how loved she was by the way you speak about her. I hope that you find peace in your situation and overcome the guilt you’re feeling because it absolutely doesn’t sound like you were responsible for her death - if anything you brought her comfort by keeping her from any further pain, suffering, sadness, or fright. I know how difficult it is to even begin to believe those words though because I am struggling to truly believe that myself.

Fionasmum - Thank you so much for the perspective you’ve shared. I am very appreciative of the thoughts you’ve presented and they have definitely opened my eyes. I would never tell anyone that their pets loss is their fault; nor would I think it and I would actively plead with them to believe otherwise. From what you wrote, I’ve realized that I need to have some compassion for myself, though truly beginning to give myself that compassion will be a work in progress for a while. Today I have had fewer “what if” moments. I know he’s gone... and there will be no bringing him back, no matter the number of times I pinch myself or think about other outcomes that could have happened but ultimately did not. You are right though, that he lives on in my heart. I will never forget him, or the beautiful, special memories we had like playing hide and seek and playfully barking at one another in the mornings. I am not sure when I’ll be able to think about him, or talk about him again, without crying, but I know that day will come, and I’ll allow myself to grieve as needed for as long as is needed.

Posts: 4
Thank you for your perspective, Dan. I will be reminding myself of the points you’ve stated and hope to eventually come to terms with what’s happened, and stop blaming myself. For now I will continue to grieve as needed and will do my best to stop my mind from going to the place that says I failed my dog, and that I did wrong by him and am ultimately to blame for his premature, unfair death.

Posts: 54
thank you Ngrounds for sharing your story. i know there is nothing i can add to the kind words and perspective already offered cause i really needed it right now.
my heart is with you all. 

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