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It wasn't supposed to end like this


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Last week my 5 year old Bernese Mountain Dog unexpectedly passed away and I am really struggling to come to terms with this. My Berner was like my baby and best friend. All I can currently think about is her last moments on this planet and how awful they were, and how I did nothing to help her.

About two years ago she began exhibiting really bizarre symptoms, constantly licking the roof of her mouth. She went to two different vets and specialist and was knocked out twice to have a scope put up her snout. They found inflammation but nothing else. The full blood work that she had done twice all came back with nothing. I was half expecting cancer, but there were no raised enzymes to make the vets suspect this. They all put it down to just "one of those things". She would have a "flare up" about three times a year where she would become incredibly restless, panting and pacing and crying, every time I took her to the emergency vet they would just give her a sedative and a steroid shot and send us home saying there was nothing they could do. She would get so upset and stressed about being taken to the vet (she was always a very anxious dog). Last week she had one of these flare ups, she was definitely even more restless and upset than normal, I gave her a pain killer and a sedative (that the vet had given me to use in the event of a flare up). She still did not settle down. She was retching and trying to vomit but nothing was coming out. I sat up with her until about 3am and then went to bed. She came up to my room about half an hour later crying and panting, clearly asking for help, I just gave her a pat and sent her out of my room. I thought her sedative and pain killers would kick in soon enough and she would settle down.

My husband woke in the morning to find her dead under the kitchen table.

My entire being is now consumed with the fact that she was asking me for help and I did nothing. I should have taken her to the emergency vet, I knew that her symptoms were presenting far worse than they had ever been. I ignored my baby and now she is dead. All she would have known in her last moments were that she was in pain and I would not help her. The vet took a quick look at her and said he thinks she bled out from her spleen and it was possibly cancer. How did this happen? I don't know how long she suffered for over night, it could have been hours. I feel so empty. I keep looking for her around the house. I have lost dogs earlier in my life, but this is by far the hardest. I raised her from a puppy and I was such an overprotective dog mum. I feel slightly ashamed of how deeply I am grieving for her. My behaviour has changed, I can't bare to do things around the house that I would normally do. I just want to be left alone to grieve by myself. The comments like "she had a great life" cut me so deeply. She did, but she was such a young dog and it was not her time to go. 

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I'm so sorry, my dear, and I can only imagine the pain and sorrow you feel in the wake of this tragic loss. You say you feel "slightly ashamed of how deeply" you are grieving for this precious family member ~ but I see no shame in this at all. Clearly the vets you consulted were mystified by whatever caused her symptoms, and you couldn't know more than they did. I know you wish her last moments could have gone differently, but you are not clairvoyant, and you could not have predicted her dying that night. If you could have done things differently based on what you know now, certainly you would have done so ~ but you didn't know, and you can't go back and re-write that script. Of one thing I am certain: This dog whom you describe as like your baby and your best friend knew ~ knew with every fiber of her being ~ how much you love her. The deep grief you are feeling now is a measure of how very much you love her! Hold onto that love, and know that it did not die with your baby. The relationship you have, the love you shared, lives on in your heart, just as long as you keep her memory alive. I hope you will find a way to forgive yourself for however you think you may have failed her, recognize how hard you worked to take such good care of her, and give yourself permission to mourn your loss of her. And I hope you will find some ways to memorialize her and celebrate the wonderful life she shared with you. 

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I am so sorry for your loss of your baby, it's so hard when we lose one, they are our family, our companions and we'd do anything for them.  You didn't know.  We can't help what we don't know.  How is it no one every knew what was wrong and all of a sudden when she's dead they have a diagnosis?  That's odd.

Marty already said the words I want to say to you,  I will post these articles and hope they are of help to you.  You have been through great trauma in the last week, I pray for comfort and peace for you.


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Thank you for the replies.

Yes I was angry at the Vets originally as well. Her primary care vet, a second vet AND a specialist were all unable to determine what was wrong with her. Unfortunately, the symptoms she presented with were so bizarre (licking the roof of her mouth and tossing her head) that they were all looking around her snout & ears for the source of the problem. Her blood work did not show any indicators of cancer, apparently spleen cancer is one form of cancer that does not show on blood tests. She was also happy & healthy, eating her dinner and exercising etc. Normally dogs present with a lack of interest in their food, playing and walks when they have cancer. The Vet cut into her after she was dead to see if he could find the problem. He determined that her spleen had ruptured in some way and caused her to bleed to death, he said it may or may not have been cancerous. They also believe she may have had some sort of brain tumour which was the cause of her symptoms. 

I am still what frustrated that none of the Vets told me that we should have a full body scan or suggested cancer as a possibility. Due to the health problems in this breed, I would have expected them to "double check" given that they would all know cancer can sometimes present with quite bizarre unexplainable symptoms.

I am struggling with the fact that if she had gone to the emergency vet that night, they could have removed her spleen and saved her. I feel as though she asked me for help and I sent her away and let her bleed to death by herself. My whole life revolved around her. Sometimes I feel like I am "ok", and then the enormity and finality of never seeing her again will suddenly swoop over me and I feel like I will never be rid of the guilt and terrible sadness. I miss her so much it hurts. She was such a loyal companion to me, and had such a beautiful sweet nature, she deserved so much better than what I gave her on her last night.

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It's hard because they ARE so deserving of everything good, but sometimes it's not in our power to save them no matter how much we wish it.  My three year old nephew died of a ruptured spleen, it was very quick (car accident).  Bless your heart, I know this is hard, I wish I could give you a hug.  :(

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