Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is something I prayed and wished I’d never had to deal with. Although I wasn’t naive to the fact that the day would eventually come, I didn’t expect it to come as soon as it did. Having to make the decision to euthanize our sweet Luckie Girl was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. Today I’d like to share my story as a way to not only help and sympathize with others going through a similar situation with their own furry babies but also as a way to help heal my own broken heart.
If you’re an animal lover like me, I’m sure you can agree that a pet is so much more than just an animal. They are part of the family and are loved with every ounce of being you have within you. When saying goodbye to a beloved pet becomes your reality, your whole world feels like it’s crumbling down. The devastation you feel from losing your best friend can almost seem unbearable.
How do I know this? Unfortunately, this is my current reality. A reality I wish was just a horrific nightmare that I could wake up from at any moment.
About a week ago, our family said goodbye to our boxer, Luckie. A little more than halfway to her 11th birthday, it became evident that the Lymphoma cancer she was diagnosed with at the beginning of July had won the battle for her life.
Our once strong, muscular, and energetic, Luckie Girl, had dropped so much weight she was almost unrecognizable. Normal daily activities as simple as eating, drinking and going out to use the bathroom became hard for her. Her hind legs could barely support her body to stand up. It was torture to see her that way.
It all happened so fast. It truly feels like one day we were finding out she had cancer and the next day we made the painful decision to put her down.
We noticed some inflammation in her throat area in early June right before heading on our summer vacation to Greece. My husband, Patrick, was petting Luckie the night before we left and felt two small lumps in her neck. The feeling was similar to when we as humans have swollen tonsils.
We quickly looked online to Dr. Google (probably our first mistake) and read that this could be a symptom of many things but the one that seemed to make the most sense was allergies. We’d noticed Luckie licking at her paws a couple of days prior and thought allergies would be a reasonable assumption to make.
Ugh, you know what they say happens when you ASSUME, right?!
We left the country for a week and came back the following Tuesday. Our friend, Jhonny, picked us up from the airport with Luckie waiting eagerly to see us in the backseat. The first thing we did was pet her, we missed her so stinking much after being gone a week, and quickly noticed that the lumps were still there.
The very next day I called the vet and made an appointment for Luckie to be seen. She was due for her shots as well as more Heartgard and flea prevention. I made sure to address my concerns about her swollen glands and told the receptionist I thought she could potentially have allergies.
Zach and I took Luckie to the vet the following day, Thursday, and honestly walked into the visit with zero stress at all. For ten years, Luckie has always received a clean bill of health. The veterinarian had always been complementive to us in terms of the food we fed Luckie, her ideal weight for a boxer, and exercise level. Luckie always got rave reviews!
I can’t even describe the feeling of shock I felt when the vet looked up at us and said he had a large suspicion Luckie had Lymphoma. After a thorough examination, it turns out multiple sets of Luckie’s lymph nodes were actually inflamed which is a pretty good indicator of Lymphoma.
The vet drew blood to see how Luckie’s organs were functioning and to also check her white blood cell count. The results would take up to 24 hours so we left the office basically stunned with what had just unfolded.
Lucky for us, no pun intended, we received a call from the veterinarian the very next morning saying Luckie’s bloodwork came back with flying colors. All her organs were functioning properly and her white blood cell count was perfect. Yay!
Although the news was great, the fact remained that Luckie still had inflamed lymph nodes that needed to be treated. The vet prescribed an oral steroid and antibiotics for Luckie to hopefully help with that. I gladly went to the vet that same afternoon to pick up the medication. You have no idea how relieved I was.
We started the medication that same day and Luckie seemed to do pretty well at first. Unfortunately, by day 3 or 4 we noticed some very scary symptoms starting to arise. Between panting constantly, drinking excessively, uncontrollable urination and finally vomiting, we had no choice but to bring her back to the vet to be seen.
I again had looked online prior to heading to the appointment (mistake number 2) and all the symptoms that were present seemed to be side effects of the steroids. Surely they were just going to put her on a new medication and all would be fine, right?!
Nope, that couldn’t be further from what happened. Yes, the vet agreed that the symptoms were most likely a result of the steroids, however, he still wasn’t convinced Lymphoma wasn’t the underlying reason Luckie was dealing with the inflammation of her lymph nodes.
He said, and I quote, “Some forms of Lymphoma are not visible in bloodwork and I will need to do a biopsy today to find out more.”
And just like that, I once again became deflated.
Another 24 hours to wait and this time the results came back that Luckie indeed had Lymphoma. There are 5 stages of aggressiveness and she was diagnosed at stage 3. He did actually seem rather pleased with the fact that the cancer had not yet affected her organs, which would be stage 4. He had a few different treatment plans in mind but told me to go home and think about what we would want to do moving forward as a family.
That weekend, me and “The Boys”, spent a lot of time talking about what we wanted to do. It’s extremely hard to make a decision for a living thing who can’t tell you how they feel or what they want to be done for them. We ultimately decided that our number goal was to give Luckie the best quality of life possible, period!
I spoke with the vet on Monday and told him what we had decided as a family. He recommended starting with three shots of steroids along with IV fluids to try and bring down Luckie’s inflamed lymph nodes.
We agreed to this for two reasons:
- He said it was the least abrasive method.
- He had us under the impression this could put Luckie’s cancer in remission.
So the week of the 4th of July we took Luckie to the vet 3 times for the steroid treatments. At the end of the three treatments, her lymph nodes went down substantially and we were so happy!
The happiness quickly faded once more when the vet told us that this was just a temporary fix and we’d have to continue with chemotherapy if we wanted the cancer to have a chance to go into remission.
WHAT?!?! We thought those steroid treatments would potentially do that.
There you have mistake number 3. We didn’t ask enough questions and clarify what the vet was saying. At the moment, I know I was an emotional wreck but I truly wish I would’ve been more thorough in my questioning and known what the expected outcome of the steroid treatments would be. It was a waste of time and cost $350 a treatment…
We left the vet, for what seemed like the 100th time, and talked more about what we wanted to do next. The vet gave me the name of the medication he would be using if we decided on chemotherapy and told me to do some research.
After reading tons of articles about chemotherapy, the effects on dogs, the survival rate, and the statistics for putting animals into remission, we decided to move forward with it.
Here’s the thing. Our biggest concern with doing anything to Luckie was again, compromising her quality of life. After all my reading, I became aware that the symptoms from the chemo would be minimal and there was always the possibility of lowering the dosage to make Luckie more comfortable if she didn’t do too well with the first treatment.
The veterinarian seemed optimistic that she would take well to the treatment since the inflammation in her lymph nodes decreased just with the steroids we had done the week prior. We said yes to chemo and the office ordered the medication.
Treatment one of four went super smooth. I dropped Luckie off at 8:00 am and the technician took her to the back. I was told that she would be sedated and then administered the medicine through an IV. They explained that the vet would call me after the treatment was done but Luckie would need to stay at the vet for observation for most of the day.
We picked Luckie up at 4 pm and the vet ranted and raved about how great she was. True story: She didn’t even need to be sedated. She laid there like a champ and let them poke and pry and all that jazz. It’s like she knew they were trying to help her. The thought still brings tears to my eyes. She really was the best dog, that Luckie Girl!
The next couple of days were actually really great! She had energy, seemed happy, and was moving around just fine. She was doing so good in fact that Patrick and I took her on the boat to do some fishing. It was one of her favorite things to do and she loved every minute of it.
The following day she started becoming very lethargic. I read some more online and it turns out that those were normal side effects for pets around days 3 through 5 after treatment. I wasn’t too concerned at the moment.
But as the days passed, Luckie got worse. She couldn’t hold her bladder, she was vomiting periodically, and she couldn’t make it on the couch without some help. She was slowly deteriorating right before our eyes.
We ended up taking her back to the vet, AGAIN, because she was vomiting quite a bit and she was clearly miserable. The vet gave her some fluids and medicine to calm down her stomach. He wanted to draw blood from her but I opted not to because she would have blood drawn on that upcoming Thursday before her second chemotherapy treatment.
We got home and she did better after the fluids and meds. No more vomiting and she was able to eat, drink and keep it all down. Although she wasn’t anywhere near 100%, she was better. Tuesday came and we put Zach on an airplane headed to New York to spend time with his grandpa. Little did we know that would be the last time he’d see Luckie…
By the time I got home from the airport, I could tell Luckie wasn’t doing well. It’s amazing how quickly she can go from one extreme to the next. When Patrick came home that night he could tell things weren’t good. We both knew things were bad but didn’t want to vocalize it because it would make it real and neither of us was ready for that.
The next morning when we woke up, Wednesday, I knew I couldn’t wait until Thursday for Luckie to been seen. Plus, the point of the Thursday appointment was for the second chemotherapy treatment and there was no way she was going to be able to handle another one in the state she was in.
I called the vet’s office and they were able to fit me in that morning. After talking about what was going on with Luckie since my last visit to the office, our vet recommended we do a full blood work on her to truly see what was going on. They took her blood and I waited for the tortuous 25 minutes for the results.
The results showed no damage to the kidneys or liver which was a good thing. What it did show was a huge increase in calcium which suggested the cancer had spread to Luckie’s pancreas. The chemotherapy had proven not to work.
The next question the vet asked hit me like a ton of bricks, “Are you prepared to put Luckie down today?”
Fighting back tears, I said NO! Not only was I at the appointment alone, but Zach was in NY still and I couldn’t imagine him not having an opportunity to say goodbye to Luckie.
I asked if there was any way that we could try to keep her comfortable until Zach came back on Monday. Once he said his goodbyes we’d bring her in the following day to put her down. Gosh, even saying those words to you right now is so painful!
The doctor was understanding and had a technician teach me how to administer IV fluids at home. He gave me enough to make it to Monday but warned me that she might not make it that long. He reminded me that our number one concern has always been her quality of life and we didn’t want her to have to suffer any more than she had to.
From that visit until her passing, I swear I didn’t stop crying. I literally couldn’t look at her without crying. When I would eventually stop crying, Patrick would start crying and he’d get me going again. Then we would laugh/cry because we sounded absolutely crazy but we just couldn’t help ourselves. We were emotional wrecks!
As devastating as it was to know we’d be putting down our beloved Luckie Girl in less than a week, the fact that we had this time to spend with her and be intentional with her final days of life was a blessing I’ll never take for granted.
We spent the next few days spoiling her rotten. We gave her a bath, took her on the boat to fish, fed her table food which she NEVER got, hugged her, kissed her, and told her how grateful we’ve been to be loved unconditionally by her for 10 plus years.
Saturday came, Zach would be home Monday, and I did the IV fluids as I had the days prior. I tried to get Luckie to eat but she refused. I even went as far as buying a rotisserie chicken from Publix but nothing. She tried drinking water and it came up. My apologies for being so graphic here, but I took her out to use the bathroom and she had nothing but blood coming out of her. It was clear her systems were all shutting down. She was just done.
With Zach still in NY and Patrick at work, I spent the rest of the day sitting with Luckie on the floor and just holding her. Day turned to night and I sat in the complete dark trying to process the fact that when Patrick made it home we were going to have to take her to the emergency vet to put her down. Keeping her alive until Tuesday was no longer a reality.
Patrick made it home and I knew the time had come to officially say goodbye to Luckie. I texted Zach to see if he felt comfortable enough to say his goodbyes through FaceTime. He decided he wanted to and we watched as he said goodbye to his “little sister” who had been around since he was just a tiny 1st grader…he’s now a junior in high school. Cue more waterworks…
In the end, Patrick and I were actually grateful Zach wasn’t here. We wanted his memories of her to be good ones where she was vibrant, full of life and her crazy boxer self!
We got Luckie’s bed in the car, put on her collar, grabbed her leash and headed out the door. I sat in the back with her holding her paw and petting her like I did most of the day. I just couldn’t believe that I would be returning home without my Luckie Girl.
Patrick and I walked into the office crying hysterically. I’m not going to lie, we were hot messes!
The vet on duty was extremely compassionate and authentic. He even offered to try and help us keep Luckie alive until Zach made it home. Unfortunately, that included more fluids, steroid shots, antibiotics, sedatives, and much more. We just couldn’t do it to the girl. She’d already suffered so much.
Once we made the decision to euthanize, we were asked a series of questions that I had put zero thought into at all. We were totally not prepared for this…mistake number 4.
For starters, they began by asking if you wanted to be present during the euthanization. As painful as I knew it would be, I didn’t want the last thing that Luckie saw to be people she didn’t know in a place she had never been before so I said, yes.
The next set of questions were about what we wanted to do her remains. Do you want to take them home to bury yourself? Do you want to cremate? If so, do you want a private cremation or a communal one? So many questions our heads were spinning…
Once we decided on the private cremation option, the technician then came back in with a box full of different urns to choose from for the remains. You also had to decide if you wanted the name of your dog engraved on the urn or put on a nameplate on it. Do you want a mold of your dog’s paw print?!
I wish I could’ve seen our faces on the surveillance cameras because I can guarantee we looked like a deer in headlights. Boy, I wish I’d prepared myself for that a little better.
With the 21 questions behind us, they had us pay while they took Luckie back to put in a catheter. I appreciated that we paid ahead of time because it allowed us to mourn in the room once everything was over and just walk out when we were ready to leave.
We were brought to a different room with more comfortable seating and they placed a comforter on the floor for Luckie. They came walking in with Luckie on her leash and I swear to you she had a little bounce in her step. She came over to me by the blanket and just laid down.
The vet explained that he would be giving her two shots: the first being a sedative and the second being the one that would end life. Patrick sat on the bench while I laid on the floor holding her sweet little face.
All I could say as the vet administered the injections was, “I love you, Luckie. I love you, Luckie. I love you, Luckie”. She passed peacefully in less than a minute. She didn’t yelp or urinate which is something they warned us might happen.
The vet left the room and told us to take all the time we needed. When we looked down at her, I swear to you, she looked so relaxed. She wasn’t in pain. She wasn’t suffering. She looked happy and beautiful and I’m so grateful I decided to stay in the room during the euthanization so I was able to see her that way. We stayed a good 10 to 15 minutes before heading out.
We got home and cleaned the house of all her things. I kept important things like her collar but got rid of her bed and bowls. I just couldn’t look at them. It was too painful for me.
I woke up the next morning feeling completely and totally empty. That’s the only way I can explain it. It was like a piece of me was missing.
You don’t realize how much your life revolves around your pet until they’re not there anymore. Taking them on walks, feeding them, seeing them follow you around the house, their sweet face waiting for you when you walk in the door…
Luckie was our family dog, but really she was my dog. Yes, Zach walked her, played with her and loved on her constantly. And Patrick spoiled her rotten with treats and the occasional piece of food from his dinner plate.
But the truth is…she was my baby.
From the moment I found her online at 1 week old and knew I had to have her to the last car ride we had together, she was always my Luckie Girl. From training her as a puppy to wanting to pull my hair out when she would get loose in the neighborhood to snuggles on the couch and smelly breath kisses for days. She was my girl and I loved her unconditionally. The same way she loved me.
Yesterday we picked up her ashes from the vet, and oddly I now feel a little better knowing she’s here in the house with us again. It’s definitely not the same but at least it’s something and I’ll take whatever I can get at this point.
My heart is still broken and I expect it to be for a long time, but it’s getting just a little better as the days pass. I have peace knowing she is no longer suffering and in pain.
So many people have asked me if I plan on getting another dog soon. My answer is no! I have even gone as far as saying I’ll never get another dog again. It’s just too painful! You love them so hard and their lives are just so short.
But Patrick said a couple of things to me that really hit home. First, he asked me if I would give up the 10 plus years I had with Luckie just to avoid feeling this way for this short amount of time? Truthfully, I wouldn’t. I have too many wonderful memories to ever regret having Luckie in our lives.
And second, he made this point. He told me that regardless, Luckie was going to be born. Whether we picked her out from the litter or not, she was going to end up in someone’s home as their pet. He said it should make us happy knowing we got to spend all these years with her as our companion and not someone else. How lucky were we?
So will I get another dog in the future? I’m not sure. Truthfully, I really wasn’t looking for one when I found Luckie. Luckie found me. The stars aligned and we found each other and the rest is history. If that happens again, who am I to stand in the way of destiny, right?
A huge thanks for being a trooper and listening to Luckie’s story. Being able to write about my experience with Luckie has been tremendously healing for me and I’m so grateful to have a place to share my feelings and story with others.
Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is a pain one can only know if you’ve been through it. If you found this post because you are currently going through something with your own pet or have in the past, know that my thoughts and prayers are with you.
I’ll end this post with a saying I’ve said time and time again for these ten plus years, Our family was so LUCKY to have LUCKIE in our lives.
We love you, Luckie. See you at the Rainbow Bridge 🌈