Goodbye, My Golden Shadow…

Back in August, our beautiful Golden Retriever, Blazer, had a couple of off days and one day was obviously in pain, so I took him to visit the vet.  After some blood work and x-rays, we could see he had arthritis in his spine, so he was sent home with the doggie version of ibuprofen and a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement.  A few days later, we took him with us on a 2000-mile trip to visit relatives and Blazer got to do his favorite thing in the whole world: swim in the lake.
While on our trip, however, Blazer collapsed one morning and couldn’t walk.  I wasn’t sure he was going to make it through the day.  But during the night, he ate a little and the next morning, he was on his feet and wanting to go outside to "water the bushes."  He gradually rallied until he was well enough to swim again before we made the long trip back home.  (The kids teased him about getting into the ‘shrooms and having a bad trip.)
A few days after arriving home, however, he was unsteady on his feet, so I took him back to the vet.  After more tests, we found he had a high temp and maybe an infection, so he was sent home with antibiotics.  When those didn’t lower his fever, we put him on another kind, too.  Eventually, we did an ultrasound and more blood work and found he was close to going hypoglycemic and was anemic.  There were also abnormalities in his spleen and one kidney and the vet thought he had an insulin-secreting tumor, which is almost always fatal and spreads quickly.
We didn’t want to do surgery (Blazer had just celebrated his 11th birthday and it wouldn’t buy him much time anyway), so the vet wanted to put him to sleep.  But I insisted on taking him home.  We gave him Prednisone, hoping it would help him keep his BGLs up.  He still had a good appetite most of the time, though he skipped breakfast now and then.  Overall, he was doing well. 
Almost 2 weeks ago, Blazer had a great morning.  He chewed me out as I came down the stairs for being late with his breakfast (which he hadn’t done in a long time) and greeted his kids enthusiastically when they came to visit.  My prayer that he would have some good days before he ran out of time was answered.
But that evening, when I came home from taking Hubby to a doctor’s visit, Blazer didn’t greet me and I found his tummy was swollen.  His vet had already left for the night, so I took him to the Emergency Vet Clinic.  The ER vet said he was going into shock and that his tummy was filling with blood.  She didn’t think he would make it through the night and wanted to put him to sleep.  But again, he wasn’t in pain, so I took him home.
Blazer rallied again and had a few decent days before becoming very weak and developing a cough, which I believe was congestive heart failure.  The past couple of days, he could barely walk with help and eventually stopped eating.  I spent 3 nights on the futon downstairs next to him.  Our sons and DIL had already told Blazer goodbye several times, but when my middle son told him goodbye on Sunday and the others on Monday, he was so weak, they knew it was probably for the last time.
Blazer had trouble staying comfortable throughout last (Monday) night, but every time he stirred and coughed, I could reach over to pet and talk quietly to him until he went back to sleep.  He slept pretty well from 4 a.m. until around 7:45 a.m. when I petted his head gently and he woke up.  He stretched out slowly, then died as I petted him and told him what a good boy he was.  My 2nd prayer was that Blazer would go peacefully at home where I could be with him and not in a vet’s office where I would have to decide when his time was up and he would be traumatized just by being there.  That prayer was answered, too.
I had to wait until my youngest son finished with his college class to help me put Blazer in our van and take him to be cremated (he’s too big to bury in our backyard).  So for 5 hours, I patted his head every time I walked by him, just as I always have and almost expected him to stretch and look up at me or follow me from room to room just as he always has.  He looked like he was peacefully sleeping.  Now I find myself looking for him every time I get out of my chair or enter a room, wanting to ask him who’s here when someone comes in the house, or telling him I’ll be right back when I’m leaving the room for a few minutes.
After 11 years of having my Golden Shadow with me, it will be very difficult to adjust to not having him.  And since our youngest son just moved out, my nest is now truly empty.  Sometimes I am calm, but other times I am so overwhelmed with grief, I can hardly breathe.  I know it will take a long time to get past the grief and that I will never stop looking for Blazer when I come downstairs in the morning or in the door when I’ve been out of the house.  
Goodbye, my beautiful Golden Shadow…  I think you knew how much I love you.  I know you loved me, too, and I will greatly miss your loving foot-washings (even though you had to wait for Dad to leave before you could give me one).  There is a huge hole in my heart and life now and my only comfort is knowing that you are no longer suffering.  I hope dogs go to Heaven and we will be reunited one day.  I will always love you, Buppie!
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