The last few days have been really hard.
Sunday morning my fiancé and I said goodbye to our baby girl, Devin, an 8-year-old beagle we adopted 6 years ago.
It never gets easier to say goodbye to a pet. But Devin was more than just our pet. Nate and I don’t have any children; we just have our little family with our beagles. Two and half years ago we said goodbye to my childhood pet beagle, Bradley. He died of a bacterial infection and I remember it as one of the most painful feelings in the world. It felt like a piece of me had died. Our home was quiet and empty, even with Devin still there; we felt a hole in our lives. So we adopted another beagle (part-beagle) named Mash a few months later. Mash helped us heal. He channeled Bradley’s spirit and we became whole again. With Bradley still in our hearts of course.
Losing Devin was different. She never got sick. Devin was our little tank. She could eat anything, as most beagles do, and she’d be okay. So it was that much more unexpected when things escalated so quickly.
It was a Wednesday night and she threw up all over our bed. The next morning when she wouldn’t eat breakfast it was a huge red flag. So I took her to the vet and at first, I didn’t think it’d be that big of a deal. But the vet was concerned because she’d lost 4lbs in the last 6 months. This, for any dog, is a lot but even more for a 20lb dog. So we decided on blood work and anti-nausea medicine. I had to leave her there to get the stool sample for the fecal test. When I came back later she was still throwing up, and she wouldn’t eat her dinner.
That night she slept in the bed with us, something the dogs never do at night. Ever since the overeating and stomach pumping incident, they slept in an oversized cage together. But we wanted to keep a closer eye on her that night. She’d never been a big cuddler, so it wasn’t a big deal.
I knew something wasn’t right when she snuggled up next to me. In hindsight, it was probably for warmth. Then she snuggled up to Nate too. We just knew when she couldn’t sleep she still she wasn’t feeling right. The next morning her urine was brown and she had diarrhea. I had hoped that the blood work would come back and she’d needed medicine and she’d be okay. I wasn’t yet preparing myself for what was to come.
The next morning I had to carry Devin to the car and I just had this moment when something inside of me broke. I just looked down at her little body in my arms, eyes closed and face towards the sun, and I just lost it. Images of having to carry Bradley limp in my arms into the vet 20 minutes before he died flooded my mind. I wanted to have hope, but a part of me started preparing for the worst.
When I finally got to the vet, they told me her liver enzymes were higher than usual and she was experiencing muscle atrophy. This is why her urine was dark brown. They said the only way to begin to reverse whatever was happening to her was to get her on fluids through an IV right away. She spent the entire Friday on IV fluids and pain meds in hopes of flushing out her system. But it wasn’t over. She also needed at least 24-hour hospitalization and observation. That night we brought her to a 24-hour animal ER.
Having dogs my entire life and dealing with different vets, I have never had the amazing care that we had at this animal hospital. Dr. S. was the most caring and easy to talk to veterinarian we’ve ever dealt with. She was compassionate, understanding, and had the best bedside manner. She understood the distress we as pet parents were under as well as completely in tune with Devin’s suffering.
Before we left Devin for the night, they even let us go into the back and say goodbye. She looked so pathetic with her little cone on and a blanket wrapped around her.
The next day she wasn’t much better and it was time for the conversation. You know the awful conversation any pet parent in this situation has to have. How much can we afford? Can we afford to keep spending upwards of $500 a day on hospitalization plus whatever else they give her? Can we afford to give our girl a fighting chance? Or are we just dragging out her suffering?
Dr. S. told us that if Devin could keep something down and get her blood sugar up then there was hope for her yet.
By Saturday night she’d gotten so much worse. She’d become jaundice – with yellowing skin and eyes. Her blood was also not clotting correctly and she was bruising when she shouldn’t be. We went to visit her that night – I think both us knowing it could be the last night we saw her. By the morning we knew we had to make a decision if she wasn’t any better.
While she was somewhat alert when we came to visit, she was not herself. She just laid there looking at us and wouldn’t even perk up when we said the word “treat.”
That night I called the vet 4 times to check on her condition. Each time there was no change. In those moments I think we both knew it would take a miracle for her to recover.
I’ll never forget hearing Dr. S. on the phone the next morning telling us she’d passed. She was sleeping and her heart stopped. She didn’t feel any pain.
I keep having to tell myself that she’s not here. I keep looking for her and expecting to see her. It’s like a part of me is gone. She was my baby girl.
She was still so young and vibrant. It’s so hard to believe that she’s gone because every time something happened to her she always bounced back. She was our tank.
Mash doesn’t even know what happened to her. He just goes outside looking around for her. And you can’t tell him, he doesn’t understand that his best friend isn’t coming home.
I know I can take comfort in the fact that we did everything we could have for her. We gave her every chance to fight, but whatever it was, she just couldn’t pull through. We’ll never know what happened. Did she eat something? A mushroom could have caused her symptoms. Or was it something long-term that just spiraled out of control? It’s not like they do autopsies on dogs.
I’m just sad, really sad. My dogs meant everything me. They’re my family. A lot of people might think differently of their pets – definitely a conversation I’ve had over the last few days. But it doesn’t matter because this is what they mean to me. I can only hope that they’re in a place with endless squirrels to chase and all the food they could want. Maybe Bradley and Devin have been reunited.
Christina is a twenty-something living with her beagle, Mash, and husband, Nate in their van. She loves traveling, shopping, art, and photography. She’s also a vegetarian, pop-culture enthusiast, book-lover, and Dave Matthews Band fanatic. Catch her somewhere around the country in a converted camper van or at home in Florida for a visit.