Help me manage my guilt over leaving my sick dog. Seriously, help me!
May 8, 2014 10:21 PM   Subscribe

I haven't been out of town since my dog was diagnosed with cancer in January, 2013. I didn't think he'd still be alive at this point, and while I am immensely grateful that he is, I have to attend my sister's college graduation and I'm leaving him for a week. I feel like an awful person. Help me, please.

My elderly, cancer stricken dog is a fighter, survivor, and basically the energizer bunny contained in the body of a German Shepherd. He's my big, furry baby and I love him so much and I am going to be fucking devastated when it's time for him to go.

That having been said, I am also a human being with a family, a hometown across the country, and a sister graduating from college. I haven't seen my dad in a year and a half. I need to go home.

I'm paying for his regular dog sitter to come walk him twice a day, my roommate will be around when I'm gone, and I have a friend who will stop by periodically. But I worry that his condition will deteriorate or something awful will happen when I'm gone and I WILL NEVER FORGIVE MYSELF.

How do I put myself on a plane to Boston and leave my dog for a week and not freak out? I left him for four days when I had a gig in January, but for some reason, the extra four days are pushing me off the stress ledge, so to speak. Additional advice on how to prep my dog and things to get for him while I'm gone are welcome, too. I'm not boarding him because he generally doesn't like other dogs and likes being at home.
posted by ablazingsaddle to Pets & Animals (10 answers total)
Let him sleep with your unwashed shirts and call him every day. Some people would find it silly, but if it makes you feel better, do it.
posted by codswallop at 10:22 PM on May 8, 2014 [11 favorites]

I FaceTime my dog when I travel for work. Doesn't do much for him, but makes me feel better.
posted by justjess at 10:24 PM on May 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

Can you get someone to actually stay with him, rather than just walk him twice a day? Making sure your dog has actual companionship for the week might make you feel better.
posted by olinerd at 12:17 AM on May 9, 2014

(OP has a roommate who will be there.)
posted by Cheese Monster at 1:58 AM on May 9, 2014

My sweet, one-in-a-million girl passed away while I was away from home. She was 17 and I knew her day was coming, but I thought I had more time. She was staying at my parents' house and she died late one night in my mom's arms. I was heartbroken, and I felt guilty for a long time because I hadn't been there that week.

I took comfort in knowing that she knew she was loved and warm when she passed, and that for as long as I'd had her (I adopted her at 13) I'd given her a longer, happier life with a lot of naps on the fluffy blanket near the radiator and walks in the park and trips in the car and bits of cheeseburger. My dog had LOVED my mom, and my folks had given her happy days with lots of sunshine and treats and walks every day. While I hadn't been there on that specific day, but my little dog accepted love and comfort in her final hours in a place that was familiar to her and it was enough for her.

It changed my outlook a lot: I love the people who have always been there for me, but I find myself more deeply appreciative of passing kindnesses, of people who bring comfort and light in small, brilliant bursts like my mom did for my elderly girl. (My father passed away less than a year later, and losing my girl helped prepare me to handle losing my dad. And I think of the hospice people who we only saw a few times, but who gently massaged his arms and washed his feet. Small, brilliant bursts of kindness.)

Your dog will very likely be OK that week. But if he's not, you will be, too, because you were his champion and gave him the best life you could.
posted by mochapickle at 3:32 AM on May 9, 2014 [13 favorites]

Try to plan ahead so that you CAN forgive yourself if his health gets worse. You really can't control it. What about having a conversation with him in which you basically give him the responsibility for his prognosis over the next seven days and give him permission to do whatever is best for him, accepting that anything could happen? (Alternate version, give that same responsibility to god / the universe / everything via prayer or some intention-setting effort of your choice.) "Bub, I'm leaving for a week. I'll be back. Stay well. Just rest and stay healthy. Janet will come twice a day and Sue will be here every night. But Bub, if you do need to get sick, if you do need to go ahead and leave, it's alright. I want to be with you and help you when you get worse. But if you really do need to go while I'm gone, I understand."
posted by salvia at 4:16 AM on May 9, 2014 [11 favorites]

[extremely anthropomorphized] if he does get sick and pass while you're gone, maybe think of it as he was hanging on for you and once you stepped away for a bit he felt "free" to go; he knew you had your family to help you through it and didn't want you to be there (and see you sad) for his last moments.
posted by melissasaurus at 4:45 AM on May 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

I've watched this whole saga unfold from your very first "help me find a home for this dog" to "help me help my foster dog" to "help me help my dog" and on from there. You have been such a devoted, superwoman of a dog-mom under difficult circumstances. The things you are responsible for and should feel very proud of are: saving this dog's life and helping him every step of the way since then. The things you are not responsible for and should not feel guilty about: if his already deteriorated health worsens or the inevitable crash happens during your short time away.

Try to imagine who your dog would be and what he would want for you if he were an adult human person with human cognitive abilities: he would be a good person, with a good heart, and he would be appreciative of everything you've done for him. He would want you to be happy, he would want you to live your life fully, he would certainly not want you to feel guilty about going to your sister's graduation. If you said "I feel like an awful person for going" he would look you in the eye and say "We'll have no more of that."

So, let's have no more of that, ok? For your dog's sake. Because it's what he would want, if only his brain were big enough to formulate such thoughts.
posted by drlith at 6:15 AM on May 9, 2014 [19 favorites]

Dogs are great big balls of fur and love and happiness, right until the end. Your dog won't hold a grudge against you, he's not worried about your upcoming trip, he's not worried about his health.

I saw from your previous question that your roommate is good at keeping your dog company and your dog loves the dog walker--that's great! Your dog will get to spend time with people who are good to him, and will pet him and take him on walks and feed him treats.

Your dog isn't experiencing any of the guilt, anxiety or sadness you are right now.

I lost my dog to cancer a few years ago, and up until the very end when he was clearly in pain and could barely walk and unable to eat almost anything (except his favorite snacks), if I could read his thoughts I'm pretty sure they would have been something along the lines of "oh hey petting, pet pet pet, OH HEY BELLY RUBS WOW" "I hear snacks, are those snacks, better wag my tail 'cause I think there are sna--OH HEY SNACKS! DELIVERED! TO MY FACE!"
posted by inertia at 8:04 AM on May 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Plan his burial. Have everything set up so that if he does die while you are away, you won't have to make any decisions long distance. And then tell him goodbye before you go. If he dies while you are away then his suffering is at an end. If he doesn't, then, you still have your dog and you have a burial plan in place for when it does happen.
posted by myselfasme at 9:13 AM on May 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

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