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22 Sep 2014
Last Wednesday, I had to put my 14-year-old beagle Duke down. For about five months, he had been "coughing" (or so we thought) intermittently. Then, he started "snotting"---blowing mucus out of his nose. At times, he would wake up gasping for air---almost like a reverse sneeze, but more of trying to get air. We saw three vets, tried various drugs, eliminated some guesses as to the cause (e.g., we initially thought it might be kennel cough, but that wasn't it). He actually had congestive heart failure and, according to the third vet, "multiple other issues," one of which might have been cancer based on what the vet could see. At that point, we didn't want to put Duke through any invasive tests; he hated going to the vet more than even most dogs do, and I could not see putting him through multiple tests. Even the vet advised against it, telling me, "I wouldn't put my dog through it at his age." We medicated my baby as much as we could to make him comfortable (hydrocodone, steroids, benadryl every 4 hours, Lasix, etc.), but ultimately, he was having a hard time breathing most of the day. That last day, he woke up with one of those gasping spells that lasted so much longer than usual, and it tore me apart. The idea that he could not catch his breath killed me. Even after the gasping spell was over, he was breathing heavily, really struggling for air. When I look back, I see why he couldn't seem to sit still for an extended time (he was always an anxious dog, but in the past month, he would not sit down, and now I realize it was because he could not get enough air while doing so). My husband and I had to make the most difficult decision of putting him down.

Duke was my first dog. I've never had to do this before. I never, in a million years, believed that it would hurt this much, although many times I've thought about the fact that he was getting old and would someday die. What kills me the most is that he still had a zest for life. That last day, my husband and I took him on the beach to sniff around for a few minutes before taking him to the vet. He LOVED it! But he was still struggling to breathe even while sniffing on the beach.

I feel a knot in my stomach and a deep hole in my heart. For the first few days, I could not stop crying. Even today, I've cried twice. What makes it so much worse is that we have another dog, and his confusion over where Duke is kills me. When I feed him or give him a treat, he looks down the hallway in confusion, trying to figure out where Duke is (Duke was always so ready to eat that it's as if my other dog cannot fathom where he is at breakfast and dinnertime). I am devastated, but I'm trying to keep my spirits up for my other little doggie. I've tried to play ball with him and take him for a few extra walks just to distract him from the fact that his pal isn't here anymore.

This hurts so much.
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