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Living with a terminally ill dog

March 30, 2016

First of all, I wanted to say thank you so much for all the emails, messages, and comments about our sweet Maddie girl. I’m happy to report that she is doing really well! She had a rough afternoon on Sunday but other than that, she’s been acting like her old self again. We feel incredibly lucky.

It’s been over a week now since we rushed our girl to the vet and learned that a mass on her spleen (most likely hemangiosarcoma) had ruptured. The days following that news were a blur as we grappled with the diagnosis and the tough decisions we had to make about her treatment (or lack thereof). For a while, I woke up every morning filled with dread, wondering if today would be the day. That’s no way to live. And I don’t feel like that anymore.

We’ve come to terms with what is happening, at least as much as one can. Life has mostly gotten back to normal. Assuming the vet was right in his diagnosis, her condition is terminal. There will come a day, and it’s probably not too far off, when she will start to decline or maybe a morning when she just doesn’t wake up at all. And it will be hard – really freaking hard – but we will get through it.

Figuring out how to manage her activity levels during this time has been a challenge. She feels good and because she feels good I want to do all the things with her. I want to take her hiking or snowshoeing or skiing. But that feels too risky. Even long walks seem like they may be too much. I want the remainder of her days to be as full as possible – but I don’t want to push her. So we are mostly sticking to short strolls around the neighborhood. We go up the street. We walk around the block. We say hi to all the people and dogs we meet. And we try not to wonder if this walk will be the last one.

Planning is hard and awkward. This is the time of year when we start looking forward to summer. It’s when we start penciling in dates on our calendars – camping trips, bike races, long weekends in the desert – and not knowing what our family will look like on these trips feels strange. Will we be taking one dog? Will we be taking two? Will one of those two dogs be someone besides Maddie? A dog that we haven’t met yet who will be going on their first camping trip and learning to love the mountains, just like she did so many years ago?

We’re staring into the unknown and trying to live life as normally as possible. Mostly we’re succeeding. At the very least, we’re doing the best we can.

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