I am so sorry that your beloved Rex crossed over at such a young age. I think your vet and your uncle are right, he was most likely born with a lethal heart defect which caused a massive arrhythmia that killed him instantly. German Shepherds are prone to a heart defect called subaortic stenosis. If this is what Rex had, there is nothing you or anyone could have done to prevent his sudden death. There are some heart defects that can be fixed surgically if they are diagnosed very early, but this is not one of them.
He did not suffer when he died, and he was eagerly awaiting your return. Anxiety did not cause his death. It was not your fault. He would have dropped dead even if you had been with him. He knew how much you loved him and he did not think you abandoned him.
My girlfriend and I found the following story from Suzanne Clothier helpful when we (like her) lost the best GSD ever at 8 months due to subaortic stenosis. Unlike you, we (and Clothier) knew it was coming. It was the reason we took him as a puppy, so he would have a wonderful life. And he did. It really hurt when he suddenly and painlessly dropped dead—as we knew he would—but we never regretted having him. He was such a joy, and he was so happy, and it was truly a privilege to take care of him. He died instantly while joyfully running and playing with his dog buddies.
And we just took in another wonderful GSD puppy with even worse subaortic stenosis. The cardiologist does not expect him to live more than a few more months, but they will be very happy months.
Here's the story from Clothier:
“There is an old Sufi tale of a merchant in Baghdad whose servant returns from the marketplace trembling and pale. The servant had been jostled in the marketplace, and when he turned to see who had bumped him, he saw Death, who looked at him and made a threatening gesture. The servant begs the merchant to loan him a horse so that he might go to the distant city of Samara, where Death will not be able to find him. The merchant agrees, and the servant gallops away. Later that day, the merchant also sees Death in the market, and asks him, ‘Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?’ ‘I did not threaten him,’ Death said. ‘That gesture was only my start of surprise. I was astonished to see him here in Baghdad, because I have an appointment with him tonight in Samara.’”
(From Suzanne Clothier’s Bones Would Rain from the Sky.)
Rex is not gone, only crossed over, and in time you will be reunited with him. You may catch glimpses of him or hear his paws on the floor. If you do, you are not going crazy--he is just letting you know that he is still with you.
Last edited by JonRob; 10-13-2019 at 03:21 PM.