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I Lost My First Child (Boston Terrier) To An Undetected Spinal Problem


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I've never participated in an online forum before... so forgive my acknowledgement to potential "mannerisms" I do not follow.

There is a support group for grieving pets that meets once per month, but unfortunately, I am always obligated to be somewhere else...either work, school, or my internship. My point is, I am having such a hard time coping with the loss of my baby boy... Dexter. I am so desperate to see if other people may have experienced similar symptoms I am experiencing... and if they are, how they cope or did cope... and even to possibly hear from those that can prove that things do eventually turn back to normal.

I talked to Dexter when he was still developing in his mamma's stomach. I was there right after he was born, and when his eyes opened, and took him home as soon as I was allowed to. I got him when I was 18 years old. My baby boy. He was so much more than a dog, as I'm sure most of you can relate. He was my companion, my confidant, and my rock. He traveled all over the country with me... I hardly ever left him at home while I traveled. I swear he traveled to more states than the average American. He has always been relatively healthy throughout his life, besides some seasonal allergies. The past 8 months have been a nightmare. It all started one day when I noticed he had difficulty looking up at me. Instead of bending his neck upwards, he attempted to strain his eyes to see me. I immediately took him to the doctor to see what was up. Long story short, he was diagnosed with Intervertabrae disc disease. I kept him on steroids as needed. A month later I noticed when he was going potty a large red bulge coming out from his rectal area... I immediately took him to the doctor thinking it was a hernia or something...well it turned out to be cancer. Long story short... the cancer hadn't metastasized or spread anywhere else throughout his body. We paid to have it removed -- luckily, given the area, they were able to remove the tumor without having invasive surgery and instead were able to remove it fully another way (ill save you the details). How happy was I, my baby boy was cancer free. He was running around again, jumping, and giving me lots and lots of kisses every time I walked through the door. He was 8 years old at this time. I thought the nightmare was over.

Early this past December I noticed he developed a head tilt. His primary vet diagnosed a tumor on his shoulder and suggested it had spread to his brain. I took him to an oncologist/neurologist and he immediately denied all suggestions. He stated it is simply due to how much pain he is experiencing in his neck/shoulders... after Dexter began to decline we decided to have a MRI.

The MRI results indicated something nobody expected.....No bulging disc, No interverterbrae disc disease...

but, that there was a significant amount of fluid that had built up in his spinal cord. If anyone is familiar with this.. then you understand that when any kind of pressure is put on the menegies (sp), the stuff that surrounds your spinal cord... it is SEVERELY painful...

Long story short. there was so much damage to the spinal cord already that it was a 50% chance he would be paralyzed from the neck down if we attempted to drain the fluid... worse than that, the reason the fluid was in there in the first place was because it was simply the way his spine developed as a baby. there was nothing anyone could do about it, and no way any one would have picked up on it without having an MRI done. Since it was a structural problem... the fluid would have just returned...

My baby boy was in severe pain... to the point where he needed to be carried to his water bowl, down the stairs, in different spots to pee, and anywhere he needed to go. he was not able to stand without falling, and would rather pee on himself than tell me he needed to go potty.

I made the raw and crucial choice to put him down that day. I have in my entire life experienced such an overwhelming surge of guilt, pain, depression, and anxiety all at once. But I knew as his mother I would never let him suffer, not one more day.

It has been just about one month since his passing...I am still having severe panic attacks...I still cry just by simply thinking about him... I feel a loss and a sense of abandonment. When my boyfriend goes out of town... I lose it.. I have to go stay the first night with a friend because I will start feeling panic and anxiety. I will burst out in tears and absolutely not be able to concentrate on anything.

I am still able to manage my personal commitment to my own clients, my school, and my job... but I can tell I lack motivation, I lack the ability to cope with every day stress.. I am barely able to calm myself down...

I got Dexter cremated and he sleeps by my bed. I thought I would be able to spread his ashes.. but this attachment is to strong.. and I Feel as if I cant let go.

Does this feeling ever go away? Am I crazy? or is this just a part of grief?

I feel lost.

Please help.


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My friend, I'm so very sorry to learn of the death of your precious Dexter a month ago, and I can only imagine how empty it must feel without the physical presence of this dear little one in your home and in your life. Since the two of you were together for so many years, I'm sure he must have been very, very special to you, and surely he knew how very much you loved him, even as you made the totally selfless decision to exchange his pain for your own. Now he is free, but you are left with your grief.

First, let me assure you that you are not crazy; what you describe are completely normal responses to the death of someone you loved dearly. If this is your first experience with significant loss, it is understandable that you’re reacting as you are.

I don't think we can ever be prepared for the agony of losing someone we love as dearly as you loved Dexter -- the pain of such a loss is simply unimaginable and immeasurable. You ask if this feeling ever goes away, and I can assure you that the sheer raw pain you’re feeling now definitely will diminish over time, but "getting over" the death of someone you loved so much is impossible. We never "get over" such losses. Instead, over time, we find ways to get through our grief and live in a world without the physical presence of our loved one in it. As you continue on this grief journey of yours, you might take some comfort in the knowledge that the bond you have with Dexter will remain with you always. He will be with you just as long as you strive to keep his memory alive in your heart and in your mind. It is the pain of losing Dexter that you will one day manage to "let go" of -- but you need never "let go" of the relationship you had with him. So often we torture ourselves thinking we need to let go of our loved ones who have died and say goodbye to them forevermore -- but when you loved your dog that much, why would you want to let go of him? Focus instead on letting go of your pain. Think of what Dexter would want for you as you live the rest of your life. Surely he would want you to miss him very much, as you do -- but do you really believe he would want to see you suffering and miserable forever more? Perhaps instead he would want you to go on to live a good life as a way of honoring his memory. Although you cannot be where Dexter is now, in a very real sense this dear little being is very much here with you, wherever you are, because his spirit and his memory live on in you. In many ways, you are more inseparable now than you were before, because you are not limited by space and time and distance.

Of course there is nothing I can say to ease the pain you are feeling now, except to assure you that what you are feeling is absolutely normal. Grief is not a pathological condition -- rather, it is a natural reaction to losing someone you love. Because certain other people may not understand your attachment to Dexter, you may find yourself reluctant to share your feelings of grief with anyone else, which can leave you feeling very isolated and alone. Unlike other losses we experience, losing a cherished pet may be regarded by others as somehow trivial or insignificant, and you may be faced with some pretty insensitive comments from certain folks. Yet only you can know how much this precious animal meant to you, and so only you can measure exactly how much you have lost. The grief you are feeling is a reflection of the depth of the bond you have with Dexter. Although many of our reactions in grief are similar, everyone's grief journey is different and unique, and this is a story you alone must write. There is no right or wrong way to do it -- there is only your way, and you must discover that for yourself, as you go along.

I want to suggest that you do some reading about grief, because it gives you a sense of what is normal and what you can expect in the days and weeks ahead. I hope you'll also find and read some of the many articles and books that others have written specifically about pet loss. See my Pet Loss Articles page for suggestions and links to some of these. Make sure that you are taking good care of yourself physically (eating regularly, getting enough rest and exercise, and letting your primary care doctor know what's going on with you). Do you have anyone you can to talk to about any of this? Sometimes it helps to talk to someone outside your own circle of family and friends, so you don't have to worry so much about taking care of them and reassuring them that you're going to be okay. You might try to find a pet loss support group in your community or contact a pet loss support telephone helpline. See my Helplines ~ Message Boards ~ Chatspage for resources, or try asking your vet, pet grooming specialist, animal shelter or pet cemetery representative if they know of any pet loss services in your community. Surrounding yourself with "animal people" at a time like this often helps, because most of them have loved and lost animal companions of their own and will have some empathy for what you're going through. Certainly that is the sort of support you will find right here, in this Pet Loss forum.

Time does not heal grief, my dear -- it's what we do with the time that matters, and there are many, many things you can do to help yourself get through this difficult time in your life. That may include reading, prayer or meditation, seeking the support of your church and your friends, writing stories about Dexter, or building a memorial to him in a corner of your home. Keep doing and building upon all those things -- and every day, make a point to notice signs of your own progress, no matter how small. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to do this, and that grief has no specific time frame.

Think of using the resources I've suggested as gifts you can give to yourself because you are worth it. Admitting you need help and cannot do this alone is not a sign of weakness; rather it is a sign of strength and courage and determination -- and willingness to take good care of yourself.

Beyond all of that, all I can say is that this is something you must do one day at a time, and no one else can do it for you. Some days will be more difficult than others. Grief is like an emotional roller coaster, with all its ups and downs. Know that since the dawn of time, people have survived the most devastating of losses, and somehow you will find a way to survive yours, too. Know also that grief is some of the hardest work you will ever have to do, but you need not do it all alone.

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I am so sorry you lost your baby, Dexter. I think what you did, by releasing him from his pain, was very selfless, how could you do any less? I know that probably doesn't make you feel any better, because our feelings don't always have bearing, sometimes they just "are". I know it's hard to adjust to a loss as deep as this one, and like Marty suggested, one day at a time...one hour at a time, or one minute at a time.

I am glad you found this place and hope you will continue to come here and write. I hope eventually it will work for you to be able to go to a grief support group, specifically one for those who've lost pets, it helps to know you are not alone in what you are going through.

My son's dog has a rectal tumor, and a slipped or missing disc. He's incontinent, and he also has a neurological problem in which he doesn't feel where his front paws are and he can't walk. My son made him a "walker" to put his front paws on, and walk with his back paws, but Skye isn't overly bright and isn't catching on very well. It'd be easier if it was his back paws instead of the front ones. They said the spinal problems would get him before the tumor would. He was given just months to live and that was a few months ago. He's getting worse. When the time comes, it's going to be very hard. He doesn't seem to be in pain, though, if he was, we'd have to let him go now rather than later.

I know how hard this is for you, and I wish I could alleviate the pain you're going through. I totally understand your wanting to hold onto his ashes...it's something tangible of him and it's just natural. If/when the time comes you want to scatter his ashes, you'll know where/when. Until then, no harm in keeping his urn by your bedside.

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