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When a Dear Old Dog Has Cancer

As some of you know, my family received the sad news last week that Elsie, our dear old dog, has cancer. And by the way, I sincerely appreciate all the kind comments left on Facebook, Instagram and elsewhere. It’s comforting to know so many of my dear readers, pet owners or not, understand how hard this is. Yes, Elsie is ‘just’ a dog. And yes, an old dog at that, but she is a family member no less.

So now what?

We will take things day by day.

Sounds familiar, right?

The cancer Elsie has is some type of leukemia. We’ve been advised it might be a slow progressing sort, or it may not be. We might get days, weeks, or even possibly months, though the latter is unlikely.

I’m glad all three of my kids have been home to see Elsie one more time, although it’s hard to watch them say good-bye now. They realize an important part of their youth is slipping away. There’s something very sad, but yet incredibly beautiful about that as well; the special memories part I mean.

No matter how much time we have left to spend with Elsie, we will fill that time doing things she has always loved to do most. She and I will keep blogging together. As I write this, she rests at my feet keeping on eye on things just as she has done every day since I began.

Dear Hubby and I will take her for walks, even if only up and down our driveway or for strolls around the yard. We will  go for rides. We will watch her lounge in her pool. We will have campfires. We will feed her hamburger, bread, hot dogs and mac and cheese because these are the things she is choosing to eat now and our wonderful vet advised, “Let her eat whatever she darn pleases now.” We will pause umpteen times a day to pat her on the head and tell her she is a good girl.

Mostly, we will love her.

I am grateful that my family is getting time to adjust to this news, to prepare for what is coming. Even though I know it’s not really true, it feels as if even now Elsie is thinking of her humans by giving us this time to get ready and to say goodbye.

And if and when that day arrives when we must make the tough decision to euthanize, we will do that as well.

Because as Jon Katz says in his wonderful book, Going Home:  Finding Peace When Pets Die: 

We have to let go. Hanging on is not love. Dogs and cats did not come into our lives to suffer, or to stay beyond their time…

Dear Hubby and I will listen and watch for when that invisible line has been crossed – that moment when we will decide it’s time. We have had the necessary discussions in our family and with our vet. We know what to do when that line is crossed.

Jon Katz goes on to share what he imagines any pet might say if she could talk at that moment in time:

Speak for me. Help me to make the decisions that I cannot make. Do not ask me to tell you when it’s time for me to go… I love you and trust you, and I have depended on you all of my life to make decisions for me. Now, when I need you the most, do not fail me. Whatever you decide, I know it will be your best decision, and I wish you peace with it.

Dear Hubby and I have had pets euthanized before. I have never been in the room because I just couldn’t bring myself to witness such a thing.

This time will be different for two reasons.

First of all, my kids are too far from home now and I cannot let Dear Hubby go through that alone. Also, I want to be there for Elsie. No, I must be there for her. After all, she has been my loyal grief and cancer witness and secret keeper.

I will not let Elsie down when she needs me most, though even if I did choose not to be there, I know that would be okay with her.

I will be there to look into her eyes once more and tell her she’s a good girl and that she is loved.

I will watch her take her last breath.

I will watch her find peace.

And then from that day on when I remember and reflect about Elsie’s years with us, I will focus not on the sadness, but rather on her legacy of love.

Do you have a special pet, or one that you remember?

Have you ever euthanized a beloved pet?

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when a dear old dog has cancer #dogs #cancer #pets



Kim Cranston

Friday 18th of June 2021

i am reading this because our almost 11year old will be probably get a confirmed cancer diagnose tomorrow.. this will be the 3rd dog i have lost to cancer in 10 years.. just trying to figure out a plan.. it is a mast cell tumor, looks aggressive, it appeared out of nowhere so not optimistic.. loosing these loved ones is so difficult, but no regrets.. we should always expect to out live our doggy children.

Jeffrey Neurman

Tuesday 16th of July 2019

I was so moved by this. I have had to endure this as well. My Golden, Maggie, died about 2 years ago of blood cancer just as I was depending on her to help me through my own diagnosis with same. I always say it was the absolute worst experience I have had — worse than my own diagnosis. I miss her every day more than I can say.


Wednesday 17th of July 2019

Jeffrey, I am sorry about your Maggie. Goldens are so special. Sorry to hear about your diagnosis too. Thank you for reading about our sweet Elsie and for taking time to comment too. Hope you're doing well.

Linda Boberg

Wednesday 10th of July 2019

I've had a cat and a dog die of cancer. The cat had some cancer that started - they think - at the injection site where he got all his inoculations. He started getting scabs which is how the doctor identified it. Upset, I took him for 4 radiation treatments at Michigan State University vet school, but looking back on it, it just gave him another year. He was so disoriented after the first treatment that I ended up taking him to an emergency vet that same night. poor cat. Our dog Onyx had lymphoma - they think. The vet could never really identify what he had. His head swelled one night, exploded (no other word for it), and then he died on the kitchen floor, after he'd seen all three of my kids. Very, very, very sad.


Thursday 11th of July 2019

Linda, Thank you for sharing about your pets. It's so hard when our sweet pets must deal with cancer too. As you know. Very sad stories you shared. I'm sorry your family had to go through that.

Marie Laure

Saturday 28th of July 2018

My German Shepherd died at 9 of bone cancer. She had started limping for a little while but it suddenly got worse and within a few days she was paralyzed. She had a tumor which was destroying her spine. The vet said she had to be put down pretty much asap. I had just given birth to my daughter a couple of weeks before and still feel guilty not to have paid more attention to my dog those last weeks. It did help to have her euthanized at home. It was very peaceful. My ex-husband had come over to say goodbye too, she had been our dog. She was the sweetest, loved kids and I had so been looking forward to have her and my daughter become best friends.

That's also the last time I saw my ex-husband because less than three years later, he too developed bone cancer. He died a few months after diagnosis at age 35. Around the same time I learned about his cancer, I too was feeling back and hip pain, which I assumed was due to carrying my toddler around all the time. Just like for my husband a couple of months before, an MRI showed that I had cancer in my bones. In my case, it was metastasized breast cancer. The pain had been excruciating because tumors were crushing my spine. I almost died the same way my dog did.

That was three years ago. I feel like I'm the last one standing. Even though we had divorced, I still cared about my husband. Our years together with our dog and two cats were the happiest of my life. My cats are gone too, the last one died while I was hospitalized. My oncologist doesn't believe there is any connection between my and my ex-husband's cancer. I don't think I ever told her about our dog though. The whole thing is just a very tragic coincidence, apparently.


Monday 30th of July 2018

Marie, I am so sorry about your ex-husband, your dear dog and your own mbc diagnosis. You have certainly been given a lot to handle. Tragic coincidence indeed. Thank you for sharing about it. Hoping you are doing alright. My best to you.


Saturday 28th of July 2018

My Westie, Roo, was THE dog of my heart, and I have had many dogs. In Nov. of last year, when he was almost 16-1/2 we had to make the difficult choice. I had never been with any of my other dogs when they died, but I HAD to be with Roo. He had been having seizures with iincreasing severity and frequency, so keeping him with me any longer would have been such a betrayal of the love and trust we had for so long. Our vet was wonderful, professional but not cold, explaining each step of the journey (he had been Roo's vet since Roo was a little guy. I think I even detected a sheen of tears in his eyes, too). I thought I would be frightened or freaked out, but I wasn't. Sad, yes, definitely. After Roo drew his last breath, his vet gave us all the time we needed to stay and say goodbye. I sometimes wonder how things (memories, grieving) might have been been different if I hadn't stayed with him. I think I would have felt guilt and denial. Even though it was so heartbreaking,it was the right thing to do.


Monday 30th of July 2018

Cheryl, Thank you so much for sharing about your sweet Roo. I'm sure you continue to miss him terribly, as we do Elsie.

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