Explore Life Coaching, Patti Phillips

To Resist or Assist Dying

My dog is going to die. Chobe’s been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. The tumor on her spleen is already bleeding and there’s a probability that it will rupture at some point soon, which means she would die from internal bleeding.

The diagnosis came just 6 days ago and only 12 hours after hearing from the same vet that my sixteen year old cat, Sedona, also has a tumor. What are the chances of that? Two beloved pets with a similar diagnosis on back-to-back days.

Because Chobe’s situation is much more serious than Sedona’s at this point (and if I’m being completely honest, because Chobe’s a dog), I’ve been almost exclusively focused on her.

It’s so hard to fathom the gravity of what’s going on because she’s presenting as a healthy, happy dog. We’ve continued to go for our daily walks and she trots along with a big smile on her face, sniffing away.

Her appetite is fine and I think she thinks she’s hit the jackpot when it comes to food. I’ve been mixing special meals for her. I’ve baked her doggie cupcakes with ingredients of her favourite things; apples, carrots, peanut butter. And I concocted tuna fudge! (I’ve tasted the cupcakes which are fine but I’m not willing to try the fudge).

As much as my eyes tells me she’s totally fine, my brain knows she could basically die at any moment. As much as my brain knows that it’s for the best that I euthanize her to avoid trauma for all of us, my heart is breaking. My heart wants to believe my eyes. My heart wants to think that the vet has made a mistake. My heart wants Chobe to keep living, forever, if possible.

I feel ripped off because my previous dog Foster lived to be 14. Chobe is only 11 and she should have three more years to be a part of our little family.

It’s hard to see Amy so sad and try to hold space for her at the same time I carry my own sadness. Sedona and our other dog, Clover, seem to know something is up and that Chobe is sick. I think non-human animals are much better at seeing things just as they are; the real truth of the matter.

I’m very appreciative of the focus I’ve put on understanding grief over the last few years. Not because I’ve learned any techniques for avoiding heart break and managing the devastating sadness of anticipating the end of a loving relationship, but because I’ve learned that everything I am feeling is completely normal.

I’ve learned to prepare myself for the things that people will say to try to make me feel better, knowing that NOTHING ANYONE SAYS CAN TAKE AWAY ANY OF MY SADNESS. I know their intentions are good, but NOTHING HELPS. And I have little energy to pretend that what anyone has said has helped. I have no energy and no ideas for how to answer the question of what can be done to help. I don’t know what to do with the offers to talk because as much as it feels good to have people listen, inevitable most people end up talking about their own stuff and I have no capacity to listen right now.

As I carry the sadness, I also notice a sense of being grateful for having the knowledge that the end is near. Not because it gives me time to fit in all the things I wished I’d done with Chobe that I didn’t get around to before. I carry no regrets of things left undone, walks not taken, adventures not experienced, joys not celebrated, or love not expressed. I am grateful because knowing allows me to fully celebrate and be present when we do those things we’ve loved doing together throughout our entire relationship, one last time.

We got to go for one last walk and picnic in Bird’s Hill Park.

We got to go for one last hike in Pinawa. Chobe leading the way, as always being the guide and knowing exactly which way to go. Chasing Clover when she emerged from her off trail exploring. Having one more joyful lie down in the river to cool off and have a sloppy drink.

We went on one more adventure this morning and I introduced her to my sit spot.

We are sharing out last cuddles, kisses, and special treats.

Chobe was with me before I ever met her. In 2007 when Amy and I were traveling the world, I was making a list of names for when we returned home for good once our travel was done. “Chobe” is the name of a river and national park in Botswana and it was the name of our safari bus when we toured in Africa. That name was going to be my dog.

I dreamed of my dog for 6 months and the dog I imagined was going to be a boy. But the day after we got home from Asia and our travels were complete, I dragged Amy to the Humane Society and there she was, “Ruby”. She adjusted to her new name easily and she couldn’t have been a better companion for me. Even as a pup, Chobe was a beautiful balance between calm and adventurous. She tolerated me trying to get her folded ears to stand up likes a German Shepard’s. She convinced me that lip kisses from a dog were so much better and more endearing than full on, sloppy tongue licks.

She still has her uncanny spatial awareness in which she can flop down beside me (or anyone), never actually landing on me, but being lined up with the perfect amount of body contact for us to both feel the comfort of our connection.

Chobe has been my therapy dog. She supported me with three of my most significant life losses. The deaths of my dad and mom and leaving my career. How will I manage the loss of her, without her to support me?

As I sit at my computer writing this, Chobe is at my side, sleeping on the floor close enough to touch my feet. That’s no different than any other day that I’ve worked from home. She sat at a coaching client’s feet earlier in the week, making sure she was taking care of them, as she has always done.

It’s hard to accept I have made the decision to assist her dying. She had an appointment for 4 pm tomorrow. Just 24 hours away.

If I was writing this with pen and paper, it would be tear stained and maybe unreadable. But I typed in on my computer thinking that I want to share it. I don’t want condolences. I simply want my grief experience to be witnessed and to describe my special relationship with my dear Chobe so maybe it can be understood.

That’s another thing I’ve learned about grief. One of the only things the lessens the pain, just a bit, it to be deeply listened to with compassion, acceptance, and no expectations that I feel anything different than what I am feeling.

I love Chobe so much, I will assist, not resist her dying.

I will not resist Chobe dying for one more walk. It will not make me love her any more than I already do or grieve her any less.

I will not resist Chobe dying to see her wrestle with Clover one more time. It will not make me love her any more than I already do or grieve her any less.

I will not resist Chobe dying to share our bed with her one more night. It will not make me love her any more than I already do or grieve her any less.

I will not resist Chobe dying for one of her special lip kisses. It will not make me love her any more than I already do or grieve her any less.

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Comments (24)

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    Brenda Chin

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    I’m so sorry, Patti. I just recently had the same thing–I lost a dog in April, and a cat in May. In the last three years, I’ve lost three dogs and three cats. It’s horrible, but when they’re all the same age, it’s reality. But they’ll always be a part of you. Hugs.

    Reply

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      Patti Phillips

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      Thanks Brenda. Hugs received and sent back to you.

      Reply

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      Sarah Jayne

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      Patti My Lab has been with me since before I was married….I feel he is by far the best thing I’ve ever had. He is older now. I guess what I’m trying to say is….The unconditional love and moments we have with our four legged children are so spiritual….for they only see love. You sound like the greatest dog mom!! Tuna fudge!! 😁 My heart is with you. And your sweet Chobe. Lots of love. Sarah-Jayne

      Reply

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        Patti Phillips

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        Sarah-Jayne, thank you for sharing your heart. I totally agree that our relationships with the four legged are spiritual. Not only do they only see love, they bring love together. Even though you and I don’t know each other, the love of dogs has allowed us to share love with each other. Lots of love to you and your boy.

        Reply

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    Susie Strachan

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    Sending you love, hugs, healing and light x

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      Patti Phillips

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      Thank you Susie.

      Reply

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    Gisele Clark

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    My dog Sasha was diagnosed with diabetes. It was at a horrible time when my husband was diagnosed with ALS. I was overwhelmed. The kids were upset. I was going to get a neighbor to put her down but the kids were horrified. I made the appointment at the vets. I brought Sasha and stayed with her long after she had passed. I cried for the life she used to have on the farm, running care free until she had to move to town with us, tied up or in the garage. This is where she developed diabetes. As I write the tears are flowing.

    Reply

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      Patti Phillips

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      Thanks you for sharing your tears Gisele.

      Reply

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    Patricia Baker

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    Follow your heart. Holding you close.

    Reply

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      Patti Phillips

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      Thank you Patricia.

      Reply

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    Brigitte Garbald

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    Dear family

    I’m so sad for you!
    Hugs!
    Brigitte

    Reply

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      Patti Phillips

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      Thanks Brigitte. I’m glad you got to met Chobe and play with her at our winter camp.

      Reply

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    Lynne Garden

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    Thank you for sharing. I totally resonate. Dogs are angels. God bless you and Chobe xxx

    Reply

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      Patti Phillips

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      So true! Dogs are angels. Thanks Lynne.

      Reply

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    Alli

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    Thank you for bravely sharing this vulnerable experience, that I may also feel acceptance of my own grief, and of you in yours. It is an honor to see you. I witness you in this grief, just as much as in your memories of joy and deep connection in your special connection with dear Chobe.

    Reply

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      Patti Phillips

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      This witnessing is very powerful and I appreciate your words Alli. I’m being proven wrong…some words really do help. I’m so grateful for you and others taking the time to comment and reply.

      I wish for everyone who is carrying a heavy heart to find safe spaces where they can ask for their grief to be honoured and held.

      Reply

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      Lesleigh Tolin

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      Oh Patti!

      Your beautiful writing for your precious
      Chobe touched my heart.

      I am a dog lover for many years and there are no words to describe the loss of my spiritually connected, unconditional love
      with both of our Aussies,
      Boomer and Frankie, during the past decade. I get
      it!

      My hugs are with you and your family for your love of Chobe. Thank you so very much for sharing your stories w all of us and for being so transparent and
      open…

      From my heart to yours,

      Lesleigh

      Reply

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        Patti Phillips

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        I really appreciate your understanding Lesleigh. I hope and trust that sharing my stories will help in my healing. And maybe, just maybe opens up the idea for others to share, and also listen to, stories of grief.

        Reply

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    Brigitte Garbald

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    Dear family
    In my thoughts, I’m with you today!
    Rest In Peace beloved Chobe!
    If we love so much, we have to let go when the time comes… that is true LOVE!
    Brigitte

    Reply

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      Patti Phillips

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      Love to you Brigitte.

      Reply

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    Nancy McCulloch

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    Oh Patti and Amy!
    My heart is also sad reading this because I have been witness (and felt) your bond with Chobe. I also had a sense that Clover, in her own special way (which I adore) also sensed the beauty of your relationship. Nothing can change your sorrow, but just know that I will be sitting with you, sharing your grief. Sending you both my love and hugs.
    Nancy

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      Patti Phillips

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      Dear Nancy,
      Thank you for being witness…to it all. Our bond with Chobe, the “specialness” of Clover, and our grief. I’m feeling the weight of sadness lighten as so many generous people have been brave enough to hold the grief with us.
      We can tell that Clover is also grieving and will soon lose her other buddy, Sedona. I promise we will take care of her as I know she found a very special place in your heart.

      Reply

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    Ruth Hadden

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    SO sorry to hear this Patti. Sending love and holding you in my thoughts.
    Ruth

    Reply

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      Patti Phillips

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      Thank you Ruth.

      Reply

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