Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Phantom Effect. Grieving The Loss Of Your Pet.

Phantom limbs. That reminder of the piece you are missing. It is the lost limb your brain tells you is still there, ready to reach, itching in the sunshine, tickling, prickling, humming for function at the stump. Your brain remembers space, depth and tactile function of the appendage long after it is gone.  These days with all of our technology and science advancement the robotic arms are "learning" to replace the arm/leg by utilizing the brains remembrance and memories by tapping into that phantom calling.

For those of us who recently lost our beloved pets the "phantom theory" applies. My brain tells me Jekyll is still here. I can "feel" his presence in the sickening silence of the weight of this house.

I know he is there, on his bed, at the end of mine. He's just sleeping. He will get up when I do. He's waiting for me. He just pulled the aura of himself into his blankets. That's why it is so quiet. I can't hear his breathing. His "good morning!" wiggles, snorts, and bed dances. Maybe I am still asleep? But he's there. He's got to be there.

The bedroom is still the same. Some fear of losing all of him if I change the way he left it. There is a clean up of the stuff that his sickness required. The mounds of extra linens, the soiled bed pads, the piles of medications. I don't want to remember them. The went to others who need them. Like an organ transplant. They live on to help others.

Yesterday one of my patients, whom I fear is dying eminently, went home with a gift basket of hospice goods care of "Jekyll". My patients mom sobbing scared of losing her boy. I sobbed right along with her. We understand each other. There aren't words that need to be exchanged. Here is my basket of help and my outpouring of hope that he outlives the grimness surrounding his tired body.  We are both pet parents whose life centers around our beloved dogs. It is heart wrenching some days... to be reminded and still forced to reface the cancer again today in another brown eyed pup.

I sat in the car in the driveway last night. I didn't want to walk in the door. It is more raw here, in this house. At work I can stay busy enough to keep the whispers at bay. Kinetic energy helps keep the dam closed.

I sent the obligatory death announcements yesterday. I notified who I had to. His little army of angels.

"Hello All,

We are deeply saddened to announce that Jekyll was euthanized on Sunday morning. His edema and intractable HGE were no longer manageable and he was almost consistently frantically unhappy and unable to keep comfortable without constant sedation.  

The loss is almost more than we can express.

 We are so very grateful for the extra time that we got to spend with him because of everyone at VOSRC’s efforts.  

We would like to extend our sincere appreciation to all of the doctors and staff as many of you went out of your way to fit us in last minute, assist in desperate phone calls, and changes in his treatment plan on a moments notice when needed. 

There are lots of excellent vets in the world but there aren’t many who remain accessible 24/7, nor willing to think or act outside of the box. Even with all of this amazing care you never let me lose or abandon hope. In the end the greatest gift we give our clients is compassion and hope. You all exemplified that at every visit. 

Many thanks.

We miss our boy immensely. He was a magical spirit with a life that never would have been long enough. 

Krista Magnifico and family."

I hear him wrestling out in the hostas. Sneaking the cat food. Running down the drive. Every bed in this house has him on it, upside down, piled in a circular nest to nuzzle his nose into. Charlie won't go onto them. He know "his" from "jeks". The weight of his 30 pounds next to my legs at night. He needs me near and I need to know he is sleeping contentedly.

When you get to the end of a life you remember. Your soul is inextricably tied. I know he is here. I know it because I can't forget he was.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Aftermath.. The days after losing my beloved Jekyll.

It has been a day of crying. Just a puddle of despair....
.....and lots of self-doubting questions.

My dearest Jekyll-pup.. How I miss this face....
How will I go on?

How will I go to work today? How do I face anyone? What if they ask about him? How can I maintain any kind of decorum or composure? How can I talk, utter a word, without crying? And then how do I stop?

How do I go on?

How do I get through the rest of the days ahead when they can't possibly contain any light or joy in them?

Did I let him go too soon? Did I really (really) do all I could have? (Internally I never, ever, answer this question with conviction that "I did!" There was still chemically induced coma to let his gut heal for a while. Stem cells. Cloning. More radiation. More chemo? Bringing him to the teaching college to say "DO anything, everything. Money is no object."

Charlie, his roommate, companion, partner in crime for the better part of the last decade, is as lost and alone as I am. For the last year of Jekyll's intense treatments, unyielding all night emergency bathroom requests and alarms Charlie sat in the bed next to him. He never once got up with us. knowing these were just a part of his disease process. Not time to wake for the day. Not anytime to be going outside at O-dark-middle-of -the-night-morning for anything of interest. He would open one eye, check to make sure one of the parents was getting up to take Jekyll out and then go back to sleep. Charlie has been the guardian for Jekyll's whole life. The big brother overseeing the rambunctious energetic trouble seeking beagle-hound. He has kept a watchful eye, been very sedentary as Jekyll slowed down. Charlie's life had to sit in the wings waiting while Jekyll took so much time and attention. The daily 4 mile runs had to be truncated to long walks in the woods twice a day. The adventure remained but the stamina waned. Charlie, who has sat vigil or left his side in the last 6 months waited. He waited for his friend to get better. He waited for his mom to get more time to give him. His life got smaller, subdued, and simple. I owe him an apology for that. He never took time or attention away from Jekyll.. I didn't have any left over to spare. He was respectful of that.
Jekyll and Charlie,, always ready for another adventure.
On the first night without Jekyll, amidst the sobbing and the silence, and the loss, the loss of Jekyll's presence which brought a coldness and a stillness to the house which loomed, foreboding and haunting, Charlie got into his bed, curled up and closed his eyes like he has for years before. He is our steady sleeper. He never gets up at night. He never got up the thousands of times Jekyll needed to. He never made a peep until I got up and told him it was "time to start our day." That night, this past Sunday night, our first night without Jekyll in 9 years, Charlie got up every hour to summon me. Every hour he scratched me to wake up, he ran down the stairs, shot out the door, looking. Left. Right. Ears up erect. Listening. Looking.


Charlie looked for Jekyll all night long. Eight trips outside. Eight trips darting outside intent to find him. Eight trips being coaxed back inside reluctantly. Apologetically. Unwilling to leave him alone outside. Knowing he was not in the bed room, not next to him in his bed. Not with us.

It is so hard for all of us. The mark that this loss bears.

Two days after losing his best friend I still cannot get Charlie to eat. I have left over steak, roast beef, chicken nuggets. Charlie will only eat the snacks Jekyll was being blandished by. Charlie has retreated into a subdued routine. Nothing gets him happy. Nothing pulls him out. Not walks, not food, not me. 

I lost one kid on Sunday, and I cannot seem to cajole my other into rejoining the world. I get it. I do. I don't want to be here without Jekyll either. It just not the same.

People, souls, all of us, retreat into ourselves when life denies us the comfort we need. It is safer, quieter, peaceful here with my memories and loss.. no one will ask me anything here. I don't have to answer the why's, the how's, the dreaded "how are you doing?" I can just hug my dog who already knows the answers.

More on Jekyll here;
The Little Things.

Losing My Beloved Jekyll-Pup

there are dozens more stories on him.. he was my muse,,

Jekyll Arrives

Sunday, August 26, 2018

My Beloved Jekyll-Pup. May You Run Through The Fields Forever

I will spend the rest of my days trying to be as kind, loving, and affectionate as my dear pup Jekyll was in every moment of his life. He was a gift to all of us. He was the kind of soul that makes a mark, leaves an impression, reminds you that there is only good in the world. He was the source of my measure for genuine unconditional joy. He loved life. Every second, every person, every molecule of biology in every single thing.

And his mom,, well, she loved him for all that he was,, and her life will never be the same without him.

 It was the end of a battle. This morning the house of cards fell, collapsed, forced the goodbyes.

I cannot utter that word. I cannot say g-o-o-d-b-y-e. It is impossible, permanent, inescapable. So I just repeated that "I love you." The song to lullaby a sleep while we are apart.

It is eerily quiet. A catacomb has invaded and possessed my home.

It is too quiet. Unsettling so.

As if the air was sucked out of all of us. One great cataclysmic finale to end an era. Mark the passing.

I struggle to find footing here. Tip-toe through the rubble and the ashes. Find, clear, remove last remnants, sobbing all the while.

There is always an end. The end of all great things, tragedy when the end marks the last moments of a life you can't imagine yours without.

I had to say farewell. Had to. Not wanted to, Never wanting to.

I always fail to see that "loss of the light in their eyes", that begging for release. Maybe I am too analytical, too attached, too selfish? I just saw my beloved little one with no options left. There was no buying time, no fixing, no hidden tricks up my sleeves.

It was fear meets desperation and a finality I had tricked out of landing on our shoulders too many times before.

And I am here. Left behind. Feeling a loss so lonely I want to draw it around me and drown in it. Just to be quiet here with the memory, my last grips of his soul, the indelible mark he leaves me with. An open wound that doesn't have enough viable tissue around it to close. The hole so big I cannot cry out of it. Crawl under from, walk out of without feeling as if I left me there too.

He came to me in the palm of his breeders hand.  A cold man. Hardened. Rough. He had brought him into this world and brought him into mine as a scrap of a defective piece he no longer wanted to be burdened with. He was so small and insignificant his life amounted to a few sentences over the reception table. His breeder wanted quick cheap answers and wouldn't even leave him the dignity or respect to make the 30 foot walk to an exam room.

He was a puppy with a problem that prohibited sale and the man was looking for an option to rid him of the burden any longer.

I scooped him up, took him home and built a life around his needs, his love for living, and we ended just like we began. Interdependent on each other for life, and wondering how someone so little could be so vital to our living?

Jekyll leaves behind a legacy. Some we shared here, most we shared in the times I was off duty from being a vet, but all with fingerprints on the lives he met along the way.

He was always searching for his next friend. A boy who loved everyone. Loved every adventure. Never missed a day to smell the grass, walk the road, and go to the clinic. He was loved more than his little life leaves room to articulate.

He was loved because that was all he knew how to do.

He is missed because he was the joy that made life beautiful. Even when he was being bad. (Which he also loved to do).

Your mom loves you Jek pup.. and she misses you.

Thank you to everyone who asked, came to visit, and sent well wishes. His family is grateful for him, the time we had with him, and for all of you for letting us share it with you.

I understand why people close off their hearts after losing their love. I can't ever get him back. I am forever scarred by this loss. I want HIM back, not any dog, just him. He was irreplaceable. Irresistible. He loved to go anywhere we went. He loved. I miss him more than these words can signify. He was my beloved little velvet eared, wagging tailed beagle-boy.

May you be free from pain, wandering the skies, and eternally loved... Your mom misses you, and she loves you.. but most of all I am so grateful to have known you. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Challenges of Rescue Puppy Adoptions

The Challenges of Adopting a Puppy or Kitten

We have all heard the saying “adopt, don’t shop”, but adoption can be a complicated and sometimes confusing task for pet owners.  When it comes to adding a four-legged member to the family, it is important to look at many factors before making the final decision of adopting your new family member.

Once a pet owner decides that they are ready to add a new pet to their family, they must start to consider many factors to ensure that the best match is made for the people and the pet. Of course adoption is a great answer, and there are so many pets looking for their forever homes, but there are some challenges that need to be addressed before a decision is made. 

Lucy. Rescued from the worst circumstances imaginable.
 The first thing that should be considered is the rescue or organization that you are adopting the pet from.  It is important to make sure that the organization is credible and that they are doing everything that they can to ensure the animal’s safety and health.  Unfortunately, many rescues, while trying to do the right thing, end up creating more risks for young puppies and kittens.  Often times rescues will combine many small groups of puppies or kittens into one larger group to transport them from one area to another to be fostered, before being placed in their forever homes.  This can expose the puppies or kittens to many different diseases or illnesses, therefore causing illness in these young animals.  It is important to ask the rescue questions about where your pet came from, and how it was brought to the rescue? It is always important to ask about how long they have been in the last "quarantine" place. My personal recommendation is that the puppies/kittens are in the last foster home for at least 14 days without new pets being brought in. I also always ask where the parents are. I also ask for proof. Too often rescue groups take the puppies and kittens (some even "sell" them and leave the parents behind.  As potential pet owners, you are always asked many questions, but many people forget that they should also ask questions to the rescue as well.  It is important that both groups know all of the information so that the best decision can be made!

Additionally, after learning about the pet’s history, the new pet owner should make sure to receive the health records for the pet from the rescue.  Vaccine records and a record of any health issues are paramount to the short and long term health of your new furry friend.  If the pet doesn’t have any records or the rescue can’t provide documentation of the vaccinations, then you should ask the rescue to get the records.  Rescues commonly will provide veterinary care, or they can assist you in getting the proper care. If there is not a signed physical exam report from a veterinarian you should ask why? There is no reason this should not be a part of the pet adoption process. I also call the vet office to confirm, including that they, the vet themselves, gave the vaccines. In many cases the vet only signs an exam form, they do not provide veterinary care. This is also a cause of great concerns for me. In the end, everyone wants what is best for the animal, so making sure that it has all of the veterinary care that it needs is very important.

Lastly, every pet owner needs to make sure that they make an overall well informed decision.  If something just doesn’t seem right or you aren’t completely sure about adopting a certain pet, then don’t go through with the decision.  Make sure to take some time to make sure that this decision is the right one for you and your family.  While it might not seem obvious to ask the rescue questions, it is important to become informed so that you can make the best decisions for your new furry family member!

Scout. rescue pup, all adorable!
As a last note of personal experience I have witnessed many "new rescues" that are in essence "puppy brokers." Just because they call themselves a rescue does not mean that they are. All rescues should be designated as a 501c3. You should ask before giving them any money. You should also ask for references. I recommend three people from the last adoption verified by a previous social media post. You can also ask for references from their fosters. Most for profit people don't and won't use fosters. They should also have been around for 2 plus years. Many states also have publicly available lists from overseeing government organizations who investigate puppy mills and animal cruelty. Ask about whether any complaints or charges exist?

Jerry. Off the streets rescue.. total love-bug
The take home message is that there is no way anyone can deny the heart gripping adorableness of a puppy or kitten. It is impossible to resist. The challenge is that there are people who prey on this for profit and at the expense of the animals they procure and distribute. Be very cautious. Stay offline. Seek advice from people you know and trust. And as always, it is buyer beware even though those little ones melt your heart and skew your ability to be cautious. 

My beloved jekyll,, all rescue all the best of everything (and in beagle form).
Many Thanks to Lydia Schlitz for writing this. Lydia is a pre-vet student working at Jarrettsville Veterinary Center this Summer.

If you have a pet story that you would like to share, or an experience with this condition please add it to our Storyline page at

Please also follow us on, our Jarrettsville Vet, or our Jarrettsville Vet Facebook page, Twitter @FreePetAdvice, and YouTube

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Slipping Back Into Dying. When Remission Slips Away.

We got what we wished for. We got him back, for a while. An amazing, surprising, blessed few moments. It was more than I had hoped. It was everything I needed. Yes, as selfish and maniacal as it sounds, it was a miracle we wished for, bought, and had for a little while. Just a little while.

My dog Jekyll is the little beagle who stole my heart all of those years ago. He has always been a bit of a lemon. Always a little broken, a little fragile, and for 8 years a beagle hell bent on finding, exploiting and reveling in trouble. Running for hours on the lamb, bunny-drugged and possessed to be their shadow. He was his own pup. Loving a dog on their own terms is a challenge. Always. Always who he wanted to be, rarely who I wanted him to be.

Jekyll stumbled in November 2017 with an odd pain I couldn't quite identify among his lifelong of physical inadequacies. It took me 8 weeks of looking, hunting and knowing he wasn't quite right. It was January 2018 when his cancer was hunted to the ground: TCC, transitional cell carcinoma of the urethra. This cancer grows until it cuts off the passage of urine out of the bladder. You gotta pee, and when you can't long enough you die. Jekyll was dying. I was reeling with the quickness and mercilessness of the diagnosis. He had days, maybe weeks to live.

I wanted more time. I wasn't (yes, more selfish "me's" here) ready. I just couldn't believe it, and I wasn't going to accept it if I had any choice in the matter. I made desperate phone calls. The kind a frantic mom does when her kid is dying. Chemotherapy started in late January 2018. Jekyll had nine rounds of weekly chemo. Some worked, most didn't: but the ones that did he faced without pause or hesitation. He faced every day of those i.v. catheters, drugs, anesthesia and strangers poking him bravely and fiercely. He walked away from 4 months of drugs a dog with a new life. All of the pieces of him that had started to surrender to dying retreated. They stayed out of our life for two months of blissful, puppy-playtime joy. He was back to himself and I was left knowing that the beast we slayed was merely sleeping. We hadn't banished him, we had maimed him, but, he would be back. BUT, OH THOSE AMAZING MONTHS! I cannot tell you how wonderful they were. I cannot express how perfect life was again, and, how grateful I was to be watching him so full of life. His old troublesome, untrustworthy to stay at home self. He was his own destiny, life was all his to be whatever he wanted it to be. It was miraculous. Simply that.

The grip of cancer is creeping back into his life. I see it in small glances and ever increasing straining to urinate, sleep through the night, and leaking urine in his bed.

He is surrendering slower this time. The beast within is not as big and mighty this time around. But it is still there. Insidious, unrelenting, ever present if you look closely. I cannot, we cannot, escape him, that beast of cancer that dwells within.

Jekyll had a magnificent reprieve. A time of running, sniffing, playing, being happy. Really, truly, blissfully happy. Happy to be a beagle in a world of beings to discover and uncover. The truth is that I am/was most fulfilled to be the mom, the vet, and the person to help get him to that place of youth again. It is the essence of a veterinarian. To alleviate. To understand, dissect and unravel to make the patient whole again.

This is the curse you are given at some point on the journey of life. The plot always has an end. For me, what I have learned, is that what you put into this life is what you get out of it. Trying to thwart the ending, the tragedy that the end brings is cutting the corners. Negating the path of a long journey for the road that might be paved in good intentions but cheats you on the little joys that hardship, challenges, and grit built doesn't ever get you to utopia. And really, who wants to be anywhere else? You have to be really careful in protecting your heart if your heart is all in. I have failed being reasonable, finding peaceful passage when the road looks rocky, dark, uncharted and even treacherous. You walk on. Me, and Jek, we walk on. For today, hopefully tomorrow, but always grateful we had the time we did together. It is the life, unfettered, unforgiving, and never promised for tomorrow.

There are two important life lessons for me here, at this place where an end is still looming;

My job, my life, my purpose, is to help the suffering (the four legged kind). There is, and always should be much more to this quest to end suffering than a pink injection syringe. Right or wrong veterinary medicine does a lot of final mercy judgement in killing. We "end suffering" a lot more than we extend our necks to provide a brief respite for our patients and their family. Far too much to remind us to be compassionate and generous. Giving up too soon, or without a fight, a plan, a list of options, sells our profession short. It makes us able to euthanize without stopping our day to recognize the loss it brings. We have become hardened to euthanasia to the point we validate it for almost every possible condition and reason. It is the easy way out, and too often at our patients expense. What if it wasn't on the table as an option? What if?

There is life within dying. Little pieces left to cherish. I cherish every single one on a different level today than I did last year. What if every human cherished life to this extent? What if?

Lastly, I have to remind myself at the end of this there is a beginning awaiting. I have to. There is another beagle out there who needs me. Whom I need to be reminded why I am so dedicated to animals and the beauty they bring to our lives. I cannot shut down. I cannot bury myself in this grief, as comforting and consoling as it feels to be there. Wrapped in the memories of my beloved pup.

More on Jekyll here;

The Turmoil Of Contemplating and Deciding How Long To Fight For Your Pets Life.

If you are a pet parent in need there are lots of ways to get help, and even help others. You can find me, answering pet questions, providing support to pet parents, and building a place for others like us, here at

I am also at the clinic, and Facebook. Or see my helpful videos on YouTube.

Be well. Live Life. And GO ON.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Survivors Remorse. Living Beyond the Limits and Losing Your Friends Along the Way

for today there is remorse....

survivors remorse.

we did it, we made it, Jekyll and I, we beat the odds and outlived the dates and guesses his diagnosis predicted. He also outlived the posse we rode with. The gang we were a part of. The others who were like us. Who shared our common dilemma. Those of us who were dying together.

Today was the day we said goodbye to the last of our fellow cancer crew in our terminal cancer gang. Today was his the last day. He died today. He was the last one, save for us.

And for today as my heart aches for their families, I am feeling remorseful to still have my little Jek here, beside me, snuggled together on the bed.

Jekyll and I were a part of a terminal cancer pack who all shared ambiguously fleeting numbered days. Life for all of us centered around Bucket Lists to get to as fast as we could, and a calendar that just had this moment. We were a small group of moms who understood each other because we were all living it together. All suffering silently, hoping today also had a tomorrow and that there was wags, eating, and comfort in them. We could share our fears, our small triumphs, the devastation of bad news when the tests got back. We could confide and congratulate and know we weren't alone in this journey to an end. We swapped stories of the little things, the subtle clues that time was slipping and commiserated on the hopes and plans we couldn't bank on. The inability to plan for long trips, the fear that today isn't guaranteed and tomorrow is more luck than consequence.

Today and yesterday marked the last days for two of our dearest friends beloved companions. Truth is Jekyll never knew them, he was a part of the gang I put us in,, to not feel so alone in a quest that not everyone else understands. Jekyll doesn't need a group to feel as if he belongs, but I do, (did?).

I am so grateful to have this day with my pup. Grateful to have been a part of the path that his fellow cancer friends walked. And most of all I am grateful to have not felt that we walked alone, afraid and quietly worried. For as much as goodbye is blinding in its power to pull your heart away, I have had friends who held my hand, let me sob, and hugged me in the darkest days. I was never alone, even as I too prepare to say goodbye.

Today there is grief in the sadness I know my dear friends are immersed in. Today there is remorse in an ability to have gratitude that I am still here with Jek, and for this moment we are still a part of each others journey, even at the end of others.

More on Jekyll's life, his caner, and his vet moms inability to give up on him, here;

The Turmoil of Contemplating and Deciding How Long To Fight For Your Pets Life.

The Threats To Impending Death and The Vet Moms Promise.

Slowing Down Without Giving Up, Why the last days don't have to last forever.

A Tribute To My Beagle.

This morning.. his happy wiggle to start his good days
My heart goes out to you Sarah and Carol.. Jek and I are with you always.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Turmoil Of Contemplating and Deciding How Long To Fight For Your Pets Life

Jekyll has been actively dying for 6 months.  Getting here is like living in a dark tunnel you try to claw to the light from. It is an abyss of emotions that leaves you struggling with minutia details that define your whole day. You live your life in snippets that are defined by day and night and rarely last longer than a 24 hour time frame. You don't make any plans at all,, for the near future. He is dying and I am not going to miss a minute of it,, the living we have left to do that is..

For me it means I have cancelled (or rather, failed to make or dream of) any Summer plans. My scheduled list of Summertime activities which has always included a few days away to Cape May on the Weds through Friday before Memorial Day, my week to the beach for sand between my toes and a long awaited escape book, and my hopes for day trips to my favorite spots, are all laid aside for now. I would happily exchange each 'escape' trip for another day with him.. and so I do. I cancel everything, I make no plans, and remind each invitation that "I cannot commit at this time."

I live in limbo. I fight in moments.

I ask myself over, and over, and over, where my line is? Where is that place that is The End?

The abyss of dying. Of knowing you are there is where I define who I am. The adage about;

We veterinarians rarely get to that Holy Grail place of ... and the "Diagnosis Is". We plod instead in Obscurity and Guessing. These are too often the place of decisions and dire consequences in veterinary medicine. We are presented with a patient and a parent who is describing a set of clinical signs. A series of incongruous clues we try/attempt to string together into a neat series of features to fit a diagnosis and allow us to define a course to cure.

There is a short dire list of diseases you don't escape alive from. Jek picked one of those. One of the diseases that is only met by "I'm sorry," when you reveal it to another veterinarian. It is just a disease with a Hallmark card footnote. Jekyll picked a disease that is always cured by death.

For me the problem, the real life dilemma lies now in knowing where our line is?

I have been grappling with this for a long time. Perhaps made more acutely painful by the not too distant memory of Savannah who fought for a year to not die. That was a year of trying to keep her happy and alive. I vividly remember the exhaustion and uneasy release of the burden that caring for a pet so intensively takes. I remember being so tired after I finally said goodbye that I felt guilty to feel relief from that intensive care she required. I could bury her with the weight of relief that surrendering to a force you cannot defeat brings. Oh, my, God, was I spent. I was so tired I hid for days. Just sleeping and processing what life might look like and feel like without her. I remember waking up the next day feeling as if I was not used to the house so quiet and still. The fretful chaos had departed. I also remember catching myself in panic stricken moments thinking I had forgotten her outside, or hadn't heard her in a little while therefore she must be stuck/distressed/etc. The panic attacks after her passing were after shocks from the daily worrying I had grown so used to. I had to resolve these along with the grief of not knowing what to do with an easier day-to-day life. I also remember looking at the puppies she left behind, Charleston and Jekyll, who had existed around Savannah's needs for a year. I had essentially ignored them and overlooked how good they were. They had been quietly waiting for my time and attention. I remember the guilt of that too.

When you find yourself in a place where questions collect unanswered, and the ability to move in any direction is mired with contemplation so profound you end up paralyzed, you seek advice from mentors, friends, and confidants. That, well, this quest for finding myself an answer, the one single answer I am still trying to find,

"When do I give up on him?"

is not giving me answers I am satisfied with. I have asked so many people. (Heck, I am supposed to be the expert on this..).

I know why I am not able to answer for others, and I cannot come to terms with why I cannot answer for myself.

I am not another person. I am me.. way too over invested. Way too attached, and equipped with lots and lots of options (granted some are borderline crazy-town) to not be forced to give up. A large tool box and options are the curse of having the freedom to impracticality.

As a veterinarian in the trenches everyday I have to give parents terrible news about their pets health and prognosis. I do not ever underestimate the magnitude of this, nor the consequences if I am wrong. I have to be so careful to not over-promise, under-deliver and pass around prognoses based on scant advice. IF, I give a pet a dire prognosis I damned better be better than 100 percent sure of it. Lives are given up on if I hand out a premature, or an inaccurate, death sentence. I am not perfect, and no person knows all. Veterinarians, doctors of all persuasions, need to remember this. Many a person will not be able to afford long term end of life care, many more will simply chose to not strap into this lifeboat to nowhere, and others have lives who cannot weather terminality.

I learned a long time ago to be very careful with my diagnosis of certainty. You never know how people will react and act to impending, pain, suffering, or dying.

As for me, I am trying desperately to look the creeping insidious crusade of death in the eye and stare it down... for as long as it takes.

It is the person I have asked others to consider being. Unafraid of in-eventuality and inevitability.

Life remains, for me, at this singular time, a quest. To see what I am capable of, what life brings for us to enjoy at this once-in-a-lifetime moment, and to stay on the pursuit for another meaningful moment in a fleeting life's journey.

Life or me, and my beloved beagle Jekyll exists in a place where only today matters, tomorrow is a veiled shadow of uncertainty and a line of life meets death that I cannot define.

I do not know where that place is that I give up on him. I know there are a million excuses and reasons I can give to say that it is here and now. But, I made a promise, I hold a commitment and it isn't a clearly narrowly defined moment. It is days, and little suggestive clues, and a compromise that I will find a way to say goodbye while not denying him a chance to find a meaningful moment in the shadows that grow nearer.

I have pushed death much harder than most of my clients do. I do not presume to say I am right about this. That they aren't more forgiving and compassionate than I. I can only live my own life, and beat myself up for my own decisions. I do not know what is best, nor do I know what is concrete and without exception. I accept that Jekyll is leaving me sooner than I want, but I will not let it be without a chance to gain another day, good or bad, hard or easy. My line is not here, and it is not today. My line for his life lies somewhere in managing pain and maintaining functional life dependent necessities.

There is a road of scenarios in front of us. I have shared them with my family, the people who have to share and carry this decision. I have asked the experts who share the burden of navigating his path. We have all decided where we will not go. The outskirts of medical and surgical intervention we will not cross. I may not know where the end is, or what that date, place, or picture will look like, BUT, I do know where the suffering without benefit lies, and where the boy I love so much needs to be loved enough to let go.

For all of you out there who have to decide someday, or who have already had to surrender a pet they love so dearly, I can only remind you that life isn't supposed to be easy, it isn't supposed to be convenient and simple. It is hard, the veracity of that is what makes it meaningful. It is ok to not know, to question every step. But, please remember that the "light you see in their eye" the loss of the being they once were might be a medical need, it might be that it is time to ask for help and not just say goodbye. That maybe there is beauty and deeper understanding of all that life is in the hard days? Maybe you find the answers to the questions that trouble you in just being there? Maybe humanity lies in the edges and the fringes and not in the power to end? I ask myself these questions every single day. And for us, there has been joy and happiness in each as we struggle to see the light that lies ahead.

What have I experienced as a veterinarian? That people love their pets, that they feel pain and suffer when they say goodbye, and that we often think goodbye earlier is kinder than struggling later when there is no hope otherwise.

What I have learned as a mom to my beloved pets is that the most deeply meaningful moments were in the hard days, not the easy ones, and that I can love them even when they are leaving, and that mercy is the lifeblood to salvation and peace.

More  on Jekyll here;

Jekyll Arrives

Jekyll Loses His Tail Mo-Jo. Tail Droop.

The Things Only A Mom Knows. Planning for our pets lives beyond our own.

A Tribute To A Beagle, Jekyll.

Slowing Down Without Giving Up.

If you have a pet story that you would like to share, or an experience with this condition please add it to our Storyline page at

Please also follow me on, our my vet clinic website Jarrettsville Vet, or our Jarrettsville Vet Facebook page. 

I am also on Twitter @FreePetAdvice, and YouTube