We lost our boy of 8 years on Friday to hemangiosarcoma.
We found out about two weeks ago when he came in after going out to the yard. He laid down and was breathing a bit heavy and was a bit lethargic. We didn't think much at the time, just a concerned look over - he was responsive and played with his ball, so we figured all was alright for the night.
When we woke up the next morning, he refused to even budge to for breakfast - an event he was usually racing my wife down the stairs for. We called our vet, but the soonest appointment they had available was several hours away, so we took him into the emergency clinic. They did some chest x-rays and found he had a pericardial effusion and needed to drain the fluid out. We instantly agreed and waited in agony while it was done.
It's quite amazing how well they can go from feeling bad to being normal again after a pericardiocentesis and we were overjoyed to have him back with us again - but then came the bad news. The ER doctor informed us that while doing the procedure, he had noticed a large mass on Loki's heart - a common place for hemangiosarcoma. From then on, we knew that our time with our boy was limited. We came back that night to have the fluid checked again and there was none, so at least it wasn't rapidly filling.
We took him into a cardiologist the next day to have a real ultrasound done and to talk about our options. Unfortunately, she confirmed the diagnosis. There are treatments for it, but nothing that would extend his life by much and without considerable surgery and recovery times. A pericardial window was also out of the question.
So from then on, we knew we were going to live with this, day by day. I took the next week off from work and we spent every day doing the things he loved - car rides, playing with the ball, chasing the hose. Friends came over to say hello to him and were amazed - this did not look like a sick dog.
Unfortunately, about a week later, he started feeling bad again during the day and refused to eat a treat. By that time, we knew the signs. We took him in again and they confirmed the sac had re-filled. They drained it and we talked to our vet to schedule a time in a few days that we could say our goodbyes at home - we wanted it to be peaceful, not in some clinical hospital. That, sadly, was not to be - he woke us up late that night and was in a bad state - panting terribly and barely able to stand - the tumor had ruptured. We knew it was over. We rushed him to the ER and called them on the way, telling them to have the shots ready. We brought him in and thankfully they did it quickly.
I still have nightmares about that night and how it happened. Loki was my constant shadow for 8 years and I've broken down several times the past few days when I find him missing from our usual routines - going out to get the mail, taking out the trash, the games we used to play. We have another 12 year old GSD who is in good health - but she's not much in the way of cuddling and her ball chasing years are behind her. It still helps to have her around for comfort, as I'm not sure what I'd do with a completely dogless house.
I am thankful for the last week we had with each other - we took lots of photos and plenty of videos. Videos that have helped me when my mind wanders back to the night of his passing. Some people don't get the chance that we did and I try to stay positive about it as best I can. I still sometimes find myself wandering pointlessly around the house. My wife has caught me a few times, just staring out a window for minutes on end, as if expecting him to come running in from the yard any second.
Our breeder also gave us a good suggestion - she told us to write down every quirky or funny or memorable thing that he used to do, because you will quickly start to forget some of them and she was right. Not only did we start to think of things we had almost forgotten, but it was also a helpful healing experience to remember the things, even things like the time he accidentally peed on my face.
I thought we were going to have to deal with our old one leaving with us soon - the death of our youngest hit us like a freight train and we are still trying to recover. I'm not sure if I'll ever get another GSD again - while both our dogs are very good breeding and have been very, very healthy dogs over the years, the breed just has so many health issues. That and somehow, I feel if I got another GSD, I'd be try to replace him and truthfully, that can never be done.