Mourning The Death of My Dog, Utah


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I spent the last few days holding my boy while he made his way into the stars. Although unexpected, he went as he should have, warm in his bed with his family by his side. He took a piece of my heart with him, leaving me without words. But for him, I will try to be strong. I will do my best to remember his joyous life and everything he’s taught me instead of consuming my mind with sad thoughts. I will forever miss my buddy, my sweet pea, my Utah.

I complied a short video piece to celebrate his life and share who he was. This creative outlet also usually helps me attempt to get rid of some of the sad thoughts that consume my mind in these kind of situations. In doing this, I can reflect on what Utah’s purpose was, what he taught me, and why his life ended when and how it did.

san diego pet photographer ali peterson on mourning the loss of a petAt the age of 9, I feel his life was cut short. But, I wouldn’t have changed the way he passed. Two days before, we took him to the ER because he wasn’t acting like himself. He seemed lethargic…dragging his nails when he walked, laying in beds that he normally didn’t lay in, not caring to bark at the mailman…just not being Utah. So we didn’t hesitate for a minute before deciding to take him to the ER. After a quick examination, it was absolutely clear to the doctor that he had Hemangiosarcoma. This extremely common tumor found in dogs had developed on Utah’s spleen and ruptured. Once ruptured, internal bleeding occurs, and it’s pretty much a death sentence.

We were given the option to do invasive surgery to remove the spleen, attempt to remove the contaminated blood, and hope it doesn’t come back. But the odds of that succeeding are slim to none, and even then he’d likely only survive for another 3-6 months. Our other option was to let it take his life. We opted for the latter. With a window of 1-4 days, we decided it’d be best for Utah to go home so he can die comfortably with his family by his side.

He grew weaker by the hour, struggling with every little move. His eyes began to tell me that he knew what was happening to him (the image here is the last one I took of him, just hours before he passed).
mourning the loss of your dogWe hunkered down for nearly 3 days, just trying to make sure he was comfortable. The lights were kept low, the Lavender oil was diffusing, the soothing sound of the rain creeped in through the window, the fireplace crackling, and “Planet Earth” playing softly on tv…it was as relaxed as it could be. We took our turns snuggling with him, knowing it would be our last time. And then, he went peacefully to sleep and let go.

The anticipation of knowing that your dog is going to die doesn’t make it any easier when it happens. I can say that I’m grateful we did know and that we were able to send him off peacefully. And that makes me happy for him. My heart aches when I think of all the things I love about him…his smile and the way his eyes got squinty when he smiled real big, his giant head that was way too big for his body when he was a pup, his soft fur, the way his ears flopped in the wind during car rides, the noises he made in his sleep, how he’s the only one in the house that never snored, the way he’d clench his butt cheeks when he knew I was going to pinch them, how much he loved his ball, how he could swim for hours, how excited he got about doing anything outside, and how he could always make me smile no matter what.

But, I need to be strong and choose to take what he’s given me and move forward. He’s taught me about being grateful, that things could be worse, to enjoy the little things in life, and that you shouldn’t take anyone you love for granted because you never know when their last day will come.

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