What I learned from losing my dog

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Our wonderful Mikey dog passed away, way too soon from a sudden and terrible illness, on Sept. 1st, 2010. We had him in our lives for 8 months, adopting him from Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo, California. We and the vets think he was around 7, and he was in peak physical shape when he passed. I jogged with him most evenings, and we took him on an hour walk/run on the beach every morning, and to Fort Funston most weekends – he had a strong heart. That strength gave him a fighting chance – several vets noted how strong his heart was, how they couldn’t believe he could stand and walk while so anemic. He also had a great string of emergency and specialist vets who were well versed and very experienced fighting this disease. But despite this, auto-immune hemolytic anemia took him from us in three short, terrible days and all the while we don’t know what caused it. We just knew he had a very bad case of it. This is the story of losing my dog, Mikey.

Those three days were unreal, both in how stressful and unexpected they were. They still feel like this surreal nightmare. My husband and I shared our 10th anniversary the day before, and were taking Mikey on a week long vacation starting the following day – but that day he became “not quite right” (and our regular vet who saw him wasn’t yet concerned – it was that subtle). But that night, we had him at the emergency vet and we learned about his disease, his prognosis, and that he was so sick that he almost died a mere 12 hours after his initial “things are not too bad, you can still go on vacation if you want” vet exam. Thank goodness we decided to postpone our departure!

Those days while he was fighting the disease were so sad, so horrible. How unbelievable traumatic. Nightmarish. At the end of those three days were many more horrific, sad, stressful days where I felt like the wind was knocked out of me. And my chest just hurt from the stress – strong, physical pain to go with the emotional pain. Not to mention we couldn’t see him during those days, and my greatest fear was him dying alone.

But from the loss comes an understanding. I realized that I had to “do something” from the loss so it wasn’t in vain. And I want to share what I learned in case it helps others – and from that, our Mikey can leave some kind of legacy to others in addition to the strong legacy he leaves us who knew him.

It’s amazing to me that we only had him in our lives for eight months. I can go on, and on, and on about all the wonderful things he brought into our lives. All the experiences we shared. And for that, I am incredibly grateful to that ‘medium-sized senior black dog’ we adopted, who was abandoned at the shelter for many weeks until we found him on December 23rd, 2009. An incredibly terrific day in my life.

And this is what losing my dog Mikey taught me:

1) Live every day to the fullest

Dogs live for the now, we need to as well. And we shouldn’t cop out on doing activities with these dogs – we’re all winners if we go on that walk, take that trip, buy them that bully stick and the ice-cream cone too. It’s the bestest thing EVER for them, and that look on their face “you got that for ME?” is a memory you’ll carry for a long, long time.

Some of the memories that I carry with me about Mikey are small ones: the way he looked at me one day, some reaction he had to some small event, some regular outing we made where he did something special. Mikey was a shy dog, and we had to work on his confidence so he could be happier in this world. So those small steps he made each day gave me the greatest joy (his first on-leash pee after two months was SUCH a great morning! and I almost cried with relief after he pottied after holding it for 36 hours that first day…), and I also knew I had to do a LOT of things with him to help him grow that confidence.

As such, we had a lot of work to do! But that work really filled those eight months with many great outings, and I can’t say “I wish we did more” because we did so many things! All I can say is I wish we had more time to do more. More months together, because I already had plans for this fall for therapy dog training, taking a canoe trip on the Russian River, and that trip to Oregon to run on super-clean beaches we were set to leave on the day he got sick. But even though we’re missing out on those things, we honestly had a packed eight months.

Every morning we woke up at about 6:30 to spend an hour going to Ocean Beach in San Francisco, so Mikey could run and see other dogs. We saw Frodo and Jasmina (and new pup Jasper that last morning), saw Lexi most mornings in passing, Billy a few times, and his most favorite schanuzer-mix nearly every morning but for some reason don’t know his name. But we were there, day in and day out. Rain, shine, fog. The only days we missed a walk was when there was a full-blown storm (and even those days we sometimes took a short 20 minute walk to the bottom of the street until we both realized how ridiculous it was). But we walked through thunder and lightening: Mikey didn’t care, so out we went anyway. He was all about going for a walk, and getting to smell those SMELLS. Life was all about getting to the next smell and then peeing on it.

Every evening we would go out again as soon as I got home from work, although we varied these walks depending on the amount of daylight and how tired I was!  Sometimes it was a jog, sometimes a brisk walk, sometimes out on the avenues, sometimes around Lands End trails. But it was always relaxing, nearly an hour, and I was so happy to be with my guy. Afterwards, every night we would eat dinner together and then relax on the couch, him splayed out between my knees or right across my body – lounging. Nothing better than ending a day like that.

But the best part of the day, every day, was getting home to see my dude… hearing that thump as the recliner hit the wall as he jumped out of it to come to the door as I was opening it and calling to him “Duuuuuuude!!!!”… his tail wagging and usually a little pine from his throat.

On weekends we would take him on other outings, farther away from the city or to Fort Funston since it was his favorite place in the world due to sand dunes. He adored running up and down the dunes.

We also took him to several open areas in North Bay for off-leash hikes (such as under Mt Tam), to East Bay to hike off leash on the hills around the cows and he could roll in cow pies (not to our delight, but he was immensely happy), and to various areas down the peninsula and Santa Cruz. We took him to eat lunch multiple times at Pasta Moon in Half Moon Bay, where they’d give him a bowl of water, kids would marvel at the weird people sitting in the hallway outside the restaurant, and he would make a wide berth around the odd-sounding heater they have in the lobby. And we took him on an adventure to Utah, via Yosemite. It was our first and last vacation, but he did wonderfully in the car, hotels, and rental unit.

It was only 8 months, but every day we spent all of our free time together, growing together. Me learning to de-stress and relax, him growing in confidence. We trusted each other, and learned boatloads in the meantime.

2) Remember the small things

I seem to remember small moments more than the overall “large picture”, and I’m not sure if that’s because we had Mikey for such a short period of time comparatively speaking. But so many things between us were so striking. I remember that first moment seeing him in his dark kennel at the shelter, walking up to the gate with that look in his eyes. I remember watching him for ages, and him probably wondering about that crazy woman at the other side of the gate. I remember frantically rushing back to adopt him, hoping no one had beat us (despite him being there for nearly 2 months!) Then we had to goto Pet Food Express and Costco, picking up “dog supplies” (we had no clue what size of dog we were getting… so now that we knew, we had to go pick that stuff up). He was so scared, so we hung around the grass outside as the smells relaxed him. That car was packed to the gills, but he was totally happy to squish in between it all with me!

But above all, I remember that moment of nervousness the second that leash was handed to me at the shelter – “oh my gosh, I’m a dog parent!” That was soon remedied with this feeling of joy, as Mikey ran into our living room after the stress of Costco and Pet Food Express — and he wagged his tail for the first time. He knew he was home. Then went over to my husbands floor-cushion, and turned it into a dog bed. So long ago, but I can feel those moments like they were yesterday.

The life-changing moment came weeks later, as Mikey lay between my legs on the bed as I read a book, and gazed up at me with a look of “I trust you now, you are my person”. I couldn’t believe he didn’t have a family. At that moment I knew I had to do more for dogs like him, and that’s when I knew I had to volunteer and do something better with my life. Dogs like him die in droves – older, black, larger, shelter dogs. And dogs like him are way too life-changing-awesome to die in the numbers they do. Listening to that small moment was important, that I learned.

But there are so many small, happy moments on a day-to-day basis. The sun on their face, a happy dog smile, a hop in their step, a wag of their tail when you call their name (this especially for the rehab shy dogs, at least!). The happiest memory came from our vacation together to Utah. We took Mikey out for ice-cream on a wonderful, warm summer night. We had never given him ice cream, or human food from a table for that matter. Peter bought us a cone to share, and on a whim I passed it down to Mikey. He looked at me as in “you made a mistake, you never give me people food”, but took a lick. And then another. And then started gulping down the ice cream as fast as his tongue would allow. I passed it back to Peter, then me, and then I glanced down at Mikey… he was standing there with the biggest sloppy dog grin I had EVER seen on his face, his tail wagging like crazy “My turn!!!”  We repeated passing it between the three of us until the ice cream was gone, and he was the happiest dog in Kanab that night I’m sure.  Eating that ice cream was possibly the happiest I had ever seen him, and that memory is etched into my head forever.

3) Take pictures (and video!)

I only have one video of Mikey on the dunes in Fort Funston, but I am forever glad that I took it. I also have a video of what he was like when I arrived home each day (or an approximation – he was a bit shocked to see the camera in front of my face that day!)  And tons of photos. But I wish I took more, in hindsight, being the sentimental sap that I am.

(I just made this one public… our house was such a mess!  But my gosh did I just bawl watching this…)

I think the biggest “mistake” I made was never taking photos of the two of us, until the bitter end. Sure we had a couple at a distance, but none of the photos were of the two of us looking at the camera. So the only such photo I have like that is when we took him from the emergency vets to the specialists. And it’s sad! I know it was the last time I held him, walked him, the final car ride. But… I’m so thankful I even thought to take the camera and get that photo at all, or I wouldn’t have had any.

So I have now learned to take lots and lots of photos to capture the good times.

4) Think about what they’ve inspired you to do, or can inspire you to do

As mentioned in section 2, Mikey inspired me to volunteer with dogs and promote adopting dogs in general. Mikey also inspired me to make some changes in my life after his death, highlighting what’s important in life (family, friends, some form of real support). And also that time is important, just not to waste time. Life is very short.

I’m also amazed at the wonderful effect Mikey had on kids. It was wonderful how patient and gentle he was with kids (and also how their parents just let their kids run up to him and touch him while at off-leash parks without asking if he was OK with children – thankfully we were responsible owners and he was a gentle dog!) Mikey would stand there and just let kids pet him, he would sit down if they sort of “kid-handled” him. One toddler slapped him on the back, and he just sat down and stayed there for a good five minutes. The most he would do is lick their hands or face (I always had to warn parents “He might give kisses!!”) He was such a testament to patience, he was a born therapy dog for children. He was naturally a shy dog, not really born to be a therapy dog for the elderly (he didn’t have that “happy to greet everyone” personality), but he had this quiet, zen patience that seemed to be a magnet for children. And be perfect for children who were nervous about dogs – and he wasn’t a small dog, either!  If you ever have a dog like this, consider therapy work. I’m crossing my fingers our recent adoptee may be like this. To teach children how to properly interact with dogs is one of the most important lessons you can teach, knowing the percentage of dog bites that involve children due to a lack of education.

So thinking about what he inspired during his lifetime, to volunteer and inspire future therapy work, and motivating me to spend more time with friends and family, is something that will change my life forever. Mikey’s lessons will be with me until the day I die, and I will forever thank him for that.

5) Remember what did they bring into your life, and you to theirs

Knowing the vast amount of positive change that Mikey brought into our life, in itself, made his passing not be in vain. Mikey gave me life, a life that was worth so much more than it did previous to having him. It gave me a clear sense of meaning and purpose, to look after this dog, and to help other dogs that are presently less fortunate than he is (now having a family).

We adopted Mikey because I had desperately wanted a dog for so long, and I was going through a sort of health crisis that left me feeling desperate for change. I also had a lot of work stress, and felt the urgent need for change. So we got our life in order, fixed our work-life balance, and were ready for a dog. So we searched Petfinder (after being rejected for an elderly greyound because our fence was too short), and made a shortlist of dogs to go visit.

Not long after Mikey entered our life, I found a new sense of calm and the stress just melted away. Not only did I notice, but others made random comments at the office about the change, without knowing it was because of a dog. Even my mom noticed. Yes, dogs can be miracles, and fix so much. You don’t just give them a chance at life, they give you a chance at life too.

But even when you do succumb to the stresses of life, Mikey was there to help. I remember one day that was simply horrible. I was angry for whatever reason, and just had to ‘leave’. I put Mikey on a leash, and we stormed into a grey, rainy, horrible day. We sat at the bottom of the block, him quietly at my side as I sat there steaming mad at whatever it was. It quickly lost all importance. We continued on a walk, and he slowly cheered me up. He fixed that day, just like he fixed my life.

But as much as he brought to my life, I do also accept that I brought some quality to his. Mikey was in the shelter for a long time before we adopted him – partly because he did fit a profile of a less-adoptable dog. He was shy too, and barely paid us any attention during our adoption counsel. But we took a chance, betting on him. We put some elbow grease into his rehabilitation – making him more confident, giving him a bunch of experiences. And together we all won.

(And by the way, in the above photo he is COVERED in cow pie. I think he thought he was sooooo clever to bring us that smell…)

6) Remember what they make you realize when they pass

Because Mikey got so sick, so fast, “time” was what I thought about the most, and still think about. We only had eight months together, which made every moment that much more precious. It also meant that I quickly realized how fleeting time is – how short our time can be together. And how we just can’t delay doing things.

I lost my “childhood” dog only 3 weeks before Mikey died, and I had been putting off going to see him. I meant to, but I kept delaying the trip. And then it was too late. Fate took my own dog only 3 weeks later, and very unexpectedly. I barely got to take a photo of us together, and I only had 8 months with my soul dog. Thus, time was the biggest take-away from losing both of them, and I began applying this to other areas of my life.

I also realized the importance of being close to good vets, emergency facilities, and specialists can also be very important.

Knowing your dog, and what is abnormal for them (breath rate, energy level, appetite) is incredibly important. And knowing to check their gums whenever something seems not-quite-right, and get their blood checked with immediate results, is of the utmost importance. Do not accept any compromises if you encounter lethargy (even the slightest) combined with anorexia (loss of appetite) and pale gums. Please please please get someone familiar with AIHA to check your dogs blood test results. But long story short: know your dog, and if something seems wrong, listen to your gut and have everything checked out if something seems wrong. Don’t worry that you’re overreacting.

Research everything. There is a lot of information online, so research what you can and take it up with your vet. Don’t necessarily be that “patient who googles”, but instead be the patient who researches so you can ask the right questions, and interpret the information your vet tells you. And if you aren’t happy with your vet, change offices or get a second opinion! Don’t settle – you pay a lot of money to visit the vet, and your companion is too valuable for settling.

Question drugs. Knowing what I do now about the horrible toxins we subject our animals to, I will never apply another dose of flea medication even if it is recommended. I gave a few doses to Mikey at the advice of a vet after he suddenly began scratching incessantly and the “most likely culprit” was flea dermatitis (even though he had no evidence of fleas).  I don’t know if the Frontline killed him, but knowing how many dogs it does kill, and that it probably causes AIHA in some, my dogs will never get another dose of those horrible toxins again. It doesn’t make sense to apply medications that I am not supposed to get onto my skin – that is simply way too frightening, given there are so many safer alternatives.

The same will go for other overly prescribed medications (steroids, worming medications, and so on) and vaccinations, and we are now going with holistic vets, titers, and home-cooked meals for our animals. The thing that angers me the most is I knew this long ago with my cat, and somehow lost my way. Mikey helped us get back on track – we are (again) considering everything that goes on or into our companions.

But most of all, Mikey’s passing taught us to take the difficulties of our lives and instead of letting it get us down, to let it propel us to something positive. I am taking what he gave me, and putting it to good use: improving the way I care for myself and for my companion animals.

7) Consider adoption, including needy dogs who need an extra helping hand.

As noted earlier, Mikey was a “less adoptable” dog – and proved to be the best possible dog-friend in the world. I couldn’t imagine not adopting, being as I am in the shelters on a regular basis and meeting so many wonderful dogs I want to take home with me. But it has made me only want to adopt dogs who need an extra helping hand, either “less perfect” temperaments or discriminated breeds. I tend to gravitate towards the shy dogs, which is why our current companion caught our eye (she had the “Mikey look” in more than one photo – but is actually much shier than he ever was and failed her temp test poor thing).

I don’t think this, by any means, should be “try to adopt the least desirable dog” or someone with major issues. Definitely not – it’s terribly tragic that healthy, adoptable, friendly dogs are put to death every day, there are many dogs in terrific shape who desperately need homes. And many dogs may simply be too much to handle unless you’re a trained professional (I’m certainly not by any means!) I simply feel that Mikey inspired us to look at dogs who are terrific that still get passed over on first inspection – such as “big black dogs”, older dogs, shyer dogs, some dog who isn’t quite as “cute” as the others. These guys make terrific pets, have many quality years (typically!), and shy dogs often just need a bit of patience and proper handling to turn into soulful, wonderful, loyal, and eternally grateful companions.

8) Love them every day like it may be their last.

The one thing you learn so quickly about AIHA is that it strikes swift and hard. The symptoms are so subtle that they’re easy to miss, and it can almost be “too late” when you finally pick up on something being wrong. There’s a chance you can be too late, with this and every other sudden form of death. And from that I learned to make the most of everything that you have, every day, with your loved ones both two-legged and four-legged.

Now go kiss your dog, and give them the best walk ever.

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About Author

Jen deHaan is graphic designer, small business owner, and dog person living in Bay Area, California. She likes to support local and national efforts for animal welfare and advocacy. Jen enjoys learning about dog training and behavior, and has taken several courses and seminars since 2010. It all started with a great dog called Mikey (aka "dude"), loved and lost but remembered forever. Jen also runs a freelance business focusing on graphic, web, and UI design at FoundPixel, and a small business creating hand crafted dog products at Stylish Canine.

  • koosk

    nice dog and a good dog and he make a fast run in the dunes haha
    greetings from holland europa

  • http://www.lamadesigns.com christine

    such a beautiful post. i wish you all the best getting through this most difficult time. Your dog was lucky to have you.

  • Julie

    Such a beautiful tribute. I lost my Scruffy to IMHA at 9 months of age. You have said it all.

  • Heidi

    Dear Jen,
    Thank you for this. I am so sorry for your loss. Our dogs are so special to us, they give us such immense amounts of love. I love the pictures. I am sorry Mikey is gone.

  • http://gearchic.com Joanne

    I’m so sorry for your loss. That video of Mikey and your cat was so sweet. Thanks for writing this. I think we all know that these things are true, but need a gentle reminder to follow through with them…

  • http://Kimls1@comcast.net Kim Snyder

    A beautiful story of unconditional love. Thank you for reminding me to live in the moment, treasure the beauty in the animal species and to respect the time we have on this planet.

  • Lauren

    I find it very admirable that in your time of grief, you are able to share Mikey’s amazing story and legacy with the world. I am so sorry for your loss. Several years ago I adopted a 12 year-old dog who ended up blessing us with his beautiful spirit for two years before he died suddenly in my arms on a walk. Chester still visits me from time to time in my dreams. I hope that you still feel Mikey’s presence with you.

    • Ddhilljl

      i too share my dreams with macey who i was blessed to share her life as her pet mom. i was blessed to have her for 21 1/2 years… thought i would die when i lost macey… but reading cold noses at the pear;y gates i know she is waiting for me and my husband at the bridge. my little chihuahua is now fighting IMHA when i saw her it was love at first sight… i got her from a no kill shelter she had been so abused and onl 7 months old.i have been blessed with 7 wonderful years as her pet mom and i will be ther to the end of this disease. from march the 9th until just yesterday she is running and playing being herself. i will take one day at a time and feel honored to have just one day more and be thankful.i know she knows she is loved and that is so important to me and i feel her sweet love for me and my husband she is our little sweet girl. i do know about feeling macey so close and dreams that are so real.macey was one of a kind as each are. and i hold the dreams so dear. i understand .

  • http://jpwall.blogspot.com Pattie Wall

    Jen, I am so sorry for your loss – Mikey was quite a guy! I sit here just crippled with grief as we lost our 10 year journey with our Herman today. I ‘googled’ “knowing a dog and losing a dog” and your blog entry surfaced to the top. Sharing what Mikey taught you, helped me start the process of putting a perspective on our loss. We live in a very rural/farm area..where you live is what you get for vet services. By the time we were able to get him there, it was a little too late. We were with him in the end though and I wouldn’t trade that moment of togetherness for anything. Thanks for your dear post. I hope to sort this out someday soon and you have shown me one can.

  • Jen

    @Pattie: I am so sorry for your loss of Herman. I read your post on your blog, and both your words and photos are a beautiful tribute. What you said about how important it was to be there at the end rang so true for me – that’s all I could think about for the three days of Mikey’s illness, would I be there if it happened (amazingly, I woke up with a jolt when he started having his final strokes, right before the vet called to get to the hospital). While so important to be there, it’s so emotional at the time and remembering it afterward – but I really believe they know you are present and they’re not alone. This journey, losing a dog, is so difficult. I know it doesn’t feel like the sadness can end when the wounds are so fresh and deep, but you will sort it out like you say. Hugs to you, and vibes to sweet Herman.

    @Everyone: Thank you so so much for your kind words – it means so much.

  • James

    Any physician’s distress at losing a patient must be ackknowledged, but I find it difficult to equate this with that of a veterinarian at such a loss.

  • Sue

    Thank you for this great site. We just lost our 10-year-old German Shepherd, Wilson, to this awful disease. He was diagnosed in early December, was put on the medication and we thought he was improving… he went downhill suddenly this past Saturday and by Sunday morning we had to make a heart-wrenching decision (for us but the best decision for him). Everything you said here is so true — from the living every day with them as if it’s their last, to enjoying every little “thump” sound they make because it will pull you through the tough times. I was able to look out at our deck and see his footprints until the snow covered them this morning — another tug at my tears. I will miss Wilson forever, he was my best friend and the pain is still so deep that my heart still hurts. I know it takes time… and we’ll get through it, too.

    My recommendation to anyone reading this whose dog has contracted AIHA/IMHA… research everything! Challenge the medication and/or go straight to a holistic vet after visiting your regular vet. Ours did everything they could to care for Wilson and I’m grateful. I just wish I would have had more information about the effects of the medications beforehand. I can only hope that experiences like ours, and sites like these, will provide the knowledge to those facing this dangerous disease early enough to save their beloved pet.

  • jake

    You captured some great photos of detail of your best friend. I didint because mine were just iphone, so the detail isnt there and there are certainly some looks from my dog I would have loved to have preserved that way.

    In my so many years I have not felt such a grief. I lost a dear human childhood friend 5 years ago and I did not stop crying for almost 8 months. But this with my dog is a different grief. It has been three months now and often my legs lose their physical strength under me, the lessness of walking.

  • http://jpwall.blogspot.com Pattie Wall

    I am so glad I subscribed to notice of future comments here, thanks Jen for allowing us to use your blog as a sounding board. Jake and Sue, I also feel your pain. It has been 4 long winter months now, since our beloved Herman passed and it isn’t any easier. Sometimes I put a photo of him on my computer desktop only to have to remove it as it is too sad to look at. With the season’s change and each activity that belongs to the new year without him is always a downer at the beginning. We try to keep telling each other that it will get easier and how lucky we were to have him and him us…but the pain is still larger than life at times. My mind often goes to those last few months he was alive and how alive he was and how happy we were. This grief has different layers…it does lessen with time, I truly believe that. I have to push myself to look on the happy side of his life..he was such a character! Remembering and laughing is much better than remembering and breaking down. Each needs to be visited…and felt ~ to ride out the process. Bless you as you go forward in this time.

  • Libby

    I lost my best friend Charlie Brown this past Tuesday to IMHA. I am so devastated. He was a little rescue pup who almost made it to three years old. He was diagnosed on a Tuesday, and put down the following Tuesday. Not even a week before this horrible disease took down my puppy. We tried three blood transfusions, a ton of pred, and cyclosporene. I am a single female who lives alone, so Charlie was my everything. I am not sure why, or what made this happen, but the grief is fierce. It has been comforting to read your stories and to share mine. I only wish mother nature would have given me a bit longer with my rescue friend who rescued me.

    • Veronica

      I love your quote “my rescue friend who rescued me”.

  • Sally

    I just lost my beautiful dog taisha to aiha on fri 13 may we only noticed serving was wrong on the wednesday and I can’t believe how suddenly it happened. I agree get your dog checked out asap if some thing seems wrong

  • Veronica

    What a beautiful story! My dog was diagnosed with IMHA last summer. She is in remission and everyday I live in fear that it might be her last day. Your story has given strength to continue this battle. To all other pet owners going fighting IMHA keep your head up.

  • Pam

    I have just lost my precious Maggie to IMHA three days ago. What a shock! She had been my loyal friend for the last 15 years. I was never much of an animal person but she wiggled her way into my life. After my kids grew up and moved on, it had just been Maggie and me. We walked together every night and she was the darling of the neighbor hood. My neighbor helped my daughter and I bury her in the garden after leaving the vets, and we all stood there and sobbed. The grief is overwhelming. I miss her.

  • Duncan

    I lost my Little Girl to IMHA last Thursday. She lasted a week and seemed to be getting better but in the end was so weak. I left her in the morning all rugged up to keep her warm and returned an hour later to check on her. She was gone.

    My partner came over and helped me bury her in a nice sunny spot in the garden. We planted a Kangaroo Paw over the top of her. I will miss our afternoon walks together.

    She was 12.

  • Jeannie

    Thank you for writing your story. We lost our happy, loving golden cocker, Sandy, age 4 years, on July 3 in a manner very like your Mikey. She didn’t seem right Friday morning – didn’t want to wake up, refused a treat…We called and the Vet gave us the last appointment before they closed for the Holiday weekend. When I put Sandy in the car I noticed some blood on my hand. By the time the Vet got to see her she was acting fairly normal – They couldn’t get a urine sample but she felt it was a bladder infection but didn’t want to start treatment without a test. She felt it was safe to wait until Tuesday and based on how Sandy was acting we weren’t to concerned. My one regret is when she asked if they should run the blood work anyway (she didn’t seem to think it was needed anymore) I said no. By Saturday afternoon we were at the emergency vet being told she had less than a 30% chance of survival. She held her own until early Sunday morning than quietly passed. The ER Vet has said the short time laspe made no difference except Sandy got to enjoy her final “with it” hours at home. It is still hard to believe how fast this can take a healthy dog. Again, Thanks for sharing, it helps to know that Sandy wasn’t unusual in the way it moved.

  • Kris

    Thank you so much for writing this story, I only wish that I had seen it before. I lost my beautiful german shepherd Indigo on June 18th to IMHA, not quite 3 weeks after she was diagnosed. On May 29 she just didn’t seem herself, she was a search and rescue dog and had energy and drive enough for 10 dogs, ready to come inside instead of playing and not wanting to eat. She had been diagnosed with IBD as a puppy so I attributed the not eating to that. By Monday morning she still wouldn’t eat so I took her to an er vet (we were on vacation so I was 5 hours from home). They told me she had IMHA and a PCV of 13% and her outlook was bleak. I asked them to help me just get her home and they treated her. She spent 8 days in ICU at the er vet near my home. She was on prednisone and azathioprine (she couldn’t stomach the cyclosporine), had 3 transfusions, since she was clotting like crazy she also had a stroke. Through all this she fought to live. I had her at home for a week and took her back in for a blood check that went up to 34%. Then she starting throwing up that night and within 2 hours she passed away. Everything you said you learned from Mikey I learned from Indigo. I also have very few pictures of us together. I miss her so much, it’s been 3 weeks and I still can’t believe she’s gone and how fast she went. I had never even heard of IMHA until her diagnosis.

  • Laura

    What a beautiful story and tribute for your beloved pet. My sweet little Dakota (a miniature poodle) got sick suddenly on June 23 (he was fine when I left for work that morning and was sick at 5:00 pm). I rushed him to my vet that night and they referred me to the emergency hospital. Dakota never came home again. I had to make that heart-wrenching decision on June 25 to end his suffering. He was the light of my life, my child, my heart. I miss him greeting me as I come home from work, playing catch, sleeping in my lap, and just being part of my daily life.

    As with others that have posted, I had never heard of IMHA or Evans Disease. I questioned all of the vets we saw as to what I did wrong. They assured me it was nothing I did…it just happened. Dakota had not taken any medicine or had any vaccinations. They were due, but I hadn’t made the appointment.

    I got a call from the clinic today. They made a print of his paw for me in clay. I am going to pick it up tomorrow.

    Making the decision that morning when the doctor called was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. I know it was the best, but my heart is still hurting and breaking. All for a disease I’d never heard of before.

  • Sam

    Thank you for sharing your story about your best friend. My little girl died suddenly on 18 July. She had acute pancreatitis, the day before we walked in Rock Creek Park, the next day she was sick and diagnosed with this disease. I had her for 13 years and because she got sick so fast, she then suffered a stroke on that Monday. I love her with all my heart, she means everything to me – everybody who met me, knew within a couple of minutes who Sam was too. She was always on my mind and I loved walking her and spending time with her as much as I could. She smelled of cookies and I used to nuzzle my face in her fur and tell her that. My little girl – I love you.

  • Loretta

    Your story is wonderful. I laughed and I cried right along with ( I’m sure ) everyone else that read Mikey’s story.
    Thank you for sharing.
    My dogs have taught me to love unconditionally, and I always imagine that God must love us like a dog does. No matter what we do wrong, they always forgive us.

    Many Blessings to you.

    Loretta

  • Steve

    That was a very touching and beautifully written story. I am truly sorry for your loss. You blessed him with a wonderful end of life! Eight days ago, we had our 8 1/2 year old Pekingese “Pepper” euthanized during emergency surgery for abdominal complications. Only a few days before, she and I were on our daily walks around the neighborhood doing all the dogs things she loved. If I didn’t tell someone, nobody would have thought 3 years before that she was paralyzed in her back end from a herniated slipped disc. Although we are not rich, we were able to provide for her major surgery to fix her back and God gave her the ability to walk again, and did Pepper and I put the miles on these past 3 years!! What I thought was a stomach bug going through her, was very serious and needed immediate surgery. The surgeons called us at 12:45am to confirm that her intestines would need to be shortened, resulting in chronic lifetime diaherra and the inability to get all the nutrients from her food she would need. My loving wife knew what was the right thing to do and put her in eternal peace. I was so upset and cried until there were no more tears to cry. She lived very well right up to the end and that was what I did not see through my tears. I miss and love you forever Pepper! God bless you too Mikey!! Peace be with your family……..Steve

  • Jen

    @Steve – such a touching story! It is the most agonizing decision to make, but I do believe our heart always helps us make the right one. Thank you for such a thoughtful post and touching words.
    Take care, and many kisses and tail wags sent from us to sweet Pepper.

    Jen.

  • Mc

    My precious golden retriever was diagnosed with autoimmune hemolytic anemia this past Monday, after treatment for what we thought was Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever was not helping his condition. (We do not know if he was initially misdiagnosed with the fever or if the fever caused the AIHA.) This has been an incredibly heartbreaking and emotional week for me and my husband, as we thought on Monday we were simply going to change medication for the Rocky Mountain Fever. ChancyBear is still with us right now, and his red blood cell count has stabilized at 19% for a second day now (down from 32% after a blood transfusion), but our vet has prepared us for the worst.

    I am struggling with the idea of letting him go with dignity or in such misery and despair as this disease has caused him. I do not want him to die a painful death at home with us, as I would rather him go in as peaceful a manner as possible given all that he has gone through in the past week. My husband is encouraged that he has “stabilized”; however, because of what I have read and heard from our vet, I am not as positive. At what point are you keeping your sweet sweet sweet loved one alive in vain? I anticipate losing a lot more sleep and shedding many more tears because of AIHA.

    Thank you for Mikey’s story–it helped me think about all of the wonderful times we had with him and for a moment, not dwell on what is currently happening to him.

  • Vikki

    I’m sitting here reading these stories, and crying…. My girl Gemma (a moodle) is suffering her 2nd bout of IMHA; she is nearly 5 (having her first episode when she was 2). She is at the point where we will begin to reduce her Prednisone, keep her on Imuran, and have just introduced Cyclosporine. She has had internal scans (which showed up with nothing). At this point, I am hoping & praying that we will get many more years with her. BUT I have learnt from this horrible ‘random’ disease to LOVE and enjoy her each day and know that each day could be her last. This really is a LIFE lesson. Thank you everyone here for sharing their knowledge and for just ‘sharing’….

  • Mike

    Thank you for sharing your story, it was touching and inspirational. We just said goodbye to our Sammie. Sammie was an amazing West Highland Terrier who we were fortunate to have in our lives for almost 15 years. The whole family is going through pain right now, but I feel so fortunate to have had her in our lives. The unconditional love she provided every day to us was amazing and I am glad people like you share your stories about your loving pets. I always thought about how hard it would be without her, but I had no idea! I charish the memories she gave us and she taught me alot about how I should live my life!

    Thank you so much.

  • Gene

    Less thank 24 hours ago I held my little man Zeus in my arms while he was put to sleep. He was the most amazing mini fox terrier cross. I had this brave little man since the week before my wedding and after only 2 and a half years he is gone. Last Tuesday I noticed he wasn’t feeling himself so I rushed him to my vet and after a horrible day of waiting he was diagnosed with IMHA (as we call it in Australia). He had had 6 days battling this disease. His levels got to as low as 10% at one point and after a blood transfusion his levels had risen back to 35%. Unfortunately the couple of days afterward saw the levels drop rapidly back to 17%. Everyone at the vet surgery thought he was going to pull through because as early as yesterday morning he was back eating on his own again. But the vet showed me his levels again and showed me how badly his liver was failing and I made the agonizing decision to let my little man be at peace.
    The vet told me I could take him home for a while if I wanted to, so i could say goodbye.
    I sat in our favourite spot in the lounge with him on my lap and my arms around him while he seemed to sleep. I told him I loved him and then I carried him around the backyard one last time to smells all his favourite things. I let his girlfriend Zena (our other gorgeous mini fox terrier and mother of his pups) say good bye with a few sniffs each then I took him back to the vet for the last time.
    I sat there in the waiting room with him and doubting what i was bout to do, to maybe wait one more day and see if he would turn that corner. the nurses cme out and saw us and told me that this was the happiest she had seen him since he had been brought in, just sitting there with me, his owner. It was then that I knew it was time. I wasn’t going to let my little man spend another lonely night in a kennel suffering away in silence as mini foxies do.
    It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I had him on my lap kissing him and telling him I would always remember him as he was put to sleep. The vet checked his heart, took his pulse and quietly whispered “Zeus has gone”.
    I have never cried so hard in all my life.
    A day later I am still a wreck, even as I sit at work and write this (sorry boss!).
    After I got home yesterday, after it had been done. I carved away a chunk of bark and tree flesh from the huge gum tree in my backyard. We had only the last week bough all of our animals some letters that spelt their names, I was intending to mount Zena and Zeus on their kennel. Instead I have mounted Zeus into the carved section of the tree.
    Zena and Zeus were my first ever dogs. We only ever had cats as kids, I never knew the level of love a dog could give. I do have regrets that maybe I wasn’t the perfect owner and could’ve spent more time with them both, but regretting things isn’t making this any easier. Instead I like to remember how they both used to try and push their heads through the cat flap in our back door (both at the same time) to see if we were going to invite them in to sit on our laps while we watched T.V. And then watching them both try to scramble through the cat flap when I said “come on then”. And also how Zeus liked to terrorise the neighbours dog behind our back fence. I’d often hear him barking and then see his little bum pocking way up in the air and his little tail wagging frantically like a glow stick.
    I only have my baby girl Zena left now, my last promise to Zeus was that I’d be a better parent to Zena and spend bundles of time with her. I know she is going to miss him just as much as my wife and I do.
    You are gone but always remembered my brave little man, i will see you again one day and please try not to piss all over the leg of Gods favourite chair.
    Rest easy my friend, be at peace.
    Love always, mum and dad

  • pugglebear

    I lost my almost 3 year old puggle, Lilly, on 11/21/2011 to IMHA. The disease struck fast and hard with her only symptoms being weakness and anorexia on Sunday night and by Monday morning I was making the decision to euthanize her. Her PCV upon arrival at the vet’s was 6% and her core body temp was down to 95 deg (typical for a puggle is 102 degrees). She was literally dying before my eyes. While we could have pursued aggressive treatment, the vet was not optimistic and given how bad off she was her prognosis was grim.

    The grief I have experienced is unreal and unexpected. While I knew I was attached to her, I never fully realized how integral she was to my everyday life. She was supposed to be the “kids’ dog,” but she quickly became “mom’s dog.” I am heartbroken. I feel guilt and anger and despair almost all the time. I just want her back. We have over 500 pictures of her (thanks to my photophilic daughter) and I’m fortunate to have several with her, but pictures are a poor substitute for her soft fur and wrinkled face.

    I appreciate all the comments here. I hope all of us get relief soon.

  • http://jpwall.blogspot.com Pattie Wall

    Hi all. I have had these comments sent to my email over the last year and am sad that so many have lost their beloved pets in such sudden ways. It has been over a year since we lost our Herman, and the pain is still so strong. I well up every time I see a photo of him, or we talk about all the good things Herman was. My heart goes out to each and every one of you.

    • Jen

      Definitely agree. Each one brings tears to my eyes – sometimes it takes me a bit to reply because of this! But it is so meaningful to read all the love out there people have for their wonderful canine companions.

  • Margaret

    Good afternoon,
    I lost my beautiful soul mate – Ricky my 8.5 year old Chihuahua on Saturday to this awful disease. It came out of nowhere. The week before I noticed he was 20% not himself but I thought maybe it was some sort of cold. On Monday he didn’t want to eat anything, and then Tuesday he also didn’t’ want to eat anything – and I also noticed that his urine was a dark orange(Brown). So I made a quick appt for my husband to take him to the vet on Wed. All the blood work was done but unfortunately you have to wait 24 hours for blood work. On Thursday afternoon, I called my vet and it seemed like Ricky’s Red Blood Count (BillyReuben) level was way off. So the vet asked that I rush him to the vet, I left work immediately took Ricky to the vet with my husband. The vet told us that Ricky was diagnose IMHA. She asked that we leave him in the animal hospital so he can get proper treatment, Steroids, IV, and some sort of antibiotic since he was running a small fever 40c.

    On Wed his red blood cells where in his 30s. However on Thursday since since she was giving him IV, they dropped down to 18. But she expected that since she was flushing his body out with IVs. She said that the steroids wont’ start working for a couple days but Ricky is stable and has a great outcome. Ricky was lethargic, he didn’t’ want to eat or drink, but he was fully alert and soo happy to see us.

    We went and visited him for 2 hours on Thursday afternoon/evening. Little did I know that was going to be the last day I see my precious angel.
    We cuddled and held him as he was hooked up to his IV. He was so happy to see us as he was panting and giving us small kisses.
    He just wanted to sleep with us.
    After 2 hours, I gave him a kiss goodbye and said “see you in the morning” He had these beautiful brown eyes and was like “mommy where you going, dont’ leave me”

    On Saturday morning, my husband and I woke up and started getting ready to go visit my sweet baby where we got that awful call. The vet said “I have some bad news, Ricky passed at night time – he probably had a thromboembolism (Blood clot) which is a huge risk during IMHA. Apparently when the vet came in the morning, he had his blanket still on top of him, so he died peacefully in his sleep. My husband and I are so grief striken and so upset by this. We dont’ understand how God could have taken our amazing angel away from us. We loved him so much and treated him like our precious baby – which he is.

    I have so many “What ifs” such as :
    – What if I took him to an 24 hour hospital where they had night care, could they have saved him. My vet says “probably No” Because a blood clot is impossible to cure when it happens.

    – What if I done something wrong? What if I gave my cold to my dog? And thats’ how he got this immune disease?

    – What if we got a blood transfusion. Which the vet thought Ricky was stable and didn’t’ require at the time.

    His little brother (Baily also a chihuahua) is so sad and deeply missing his brother.

    Our lives have turned upside down without our little angel.

    The only thing that is slowly letting me live, is that a lot of people say that when dogs die – they go to heaven because their souls are so pure and that they can see us and hear us, and they are happy and not sad.

    Does anyone know if there is a legit organization that is currently trying to cure IMHA? I would like to make a donation on behalf of my sweet angel Ricky.

    • Jen

      Margaret, I am so so sorry to hear about Ricky. It sounds so similar to what I went through, and sounds like our soul mates were around the same age. What a painful experience, but do know that Ricky most likely was not in pain, and knew the love you had for him. I too always have “what ifs”, but don’t beat yourself up over them. For example, I went to a 24 hour hospital as soon as I knew something was really wrong, and they could not save him. And we never knew what might have caused it (my “what if” is what if it was something on the beach we took him to — but then, that was his great joy in life….)

      I am sure your love for your soul mate gave him the best possible life- and that’s what matters to them. They live for the now, so however much time they have, if it’s good that’s all that matters. They don’t think about longevity like we do.

      There is a terrific fund at Morris Animal Foundation that is searching for a cure – I in fact sponsored a study for this year at Morris Animal Foundation (a large very legit organization that does a ton of work towards ending canine diseases including cancer). 100% of the donation to Meisha’s Fund goes towards research, not overhead. Please see this page for information about Meisha’s Fund: http://www.cloudnet.com/~jdickson/newhope.htm. You can also donate in the memory of Ricky.

      Hugs, Jen.

  • Cindy

    Thank you for such an amazing adventure that you shared. I just lost my dear Tashia on Dec 14th 2011. She was a black lab that was born the week after tropical storm Allison in Houston Tx. Her mother was a stray that lost her way and a co worker took her in because she was pregnant. Then the momma dog was killed by a car two weeks later. I went and picked Tashia out (she was the runt) and brought her home at 2 weeks old. I loved her so much from the get go. Unfortunately, we had noticed her hips were square and the vet told us she had severe hip dysplasia in both hips. By age 1 she had a hip surgery and by age 2 had the other hip done. To make a long story shorter, she was a mess with her health her whole life. Her immune system kept her sick all the time with one infection after another just to find out it was a thryoid issue. She was on medication it seemed like her whole life. She became my life in so many ways. She was then diagnosed with arthritis of the back. Last year they discovered that she had laryngle paralysis. I knew it was just a matter of time that I would have to let her go but was doing all I could to keep her with me but with quality of life. But on the evening of Dec 14th she was acting normal and all was good. She got up and went to lie down in her favorite spot and I went to do some work on my computer. All of a sudden she made a loud whining noise and I jumped up to see what was wrong and she was already gone. I was devastated. I am still to this day grieving for my loss but am thankful that I had her in my life for over 10 yrs. I never knew I could have a bond with her like I did. I miss her so much every day but I know in my heart that she feels that love. I would do anything to have her back but as we know, we can only keep them alive in our hearts. I have two other dogs to keep happy now. They keep me going and I will love them until the end as well. Here is a link to a slide show my husband made after my Tashia left us. Enjoy it!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAPlf-MZu1A&list=HL1324104385&feature=mh_lolz

    Thank you for letting me share!

    • Jen

      Cindy, thank you so much for sharing your story. I absolutely love the slideshow – Tashia is absolutely beautiful, and you can tell how much love there is between you in those photos. I notice all the photos where you are hugging her she has a giant smile on her face – what a wonderful life and family bond she had. I smiled so much watching your photos, and tears at the end. Thank you again for sharing, I truly enjoyed it. Also, she looks a little like Mikey – their faces are so similar :)

      Jen.

  • Charlie

    My dog was diagnosed with IMHA on Monday, I took her to the vet since sunday since she started peeing blood, she has been stable for these days, but it seems she is not getting better she is just hanging on, I am really sad because I have only spent 6 months with her, she slept with me and I took her everywhere I go, I have never loved any dog like I love her and it is breaking me that there is nothing I can do…

    • Jen

      Hi Charlie,
      Our thoughts are with you and your dog. I hope that she can beat this terrible disease. I understand what you mean by such a short time – we only had Mikey for 8 short months, it is simply amazing how quickly one can bond with that special dog. This site is a tremendous resource on IMHA: http://www.cloudnet.com/~jdickson/

  • http://neighborhoodrant@wordpress.com jonesey

    Hi Jen,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I got my beloved Roxie from a shelter and she was the light of my life for five years. Last valentines day, my neighbors in retaliation for my efforts to clean up my crime ridden street damaged my fence and stabbed her. Usually, she went everywhere with me, but that night my husband insisted that we go to dinner just the two of us. I didnt make it too long -after twenty minutes I wanted to go home, only to find her lying -dying in a pool of her blood. She died in my arms on the way to the vet.

    Your advice and story of Mikey are so helpful a year later. Im still so sad. There are very few pictures of us together but I have many videos (some of which I still have not seen, I cant bring myself to watch them) . Someday, I know I will be able to laugh seeing them instead of sobbing. Until then, they are like gifts, unopened.

    After six months we took in Lucky who was about to be put down at our high kill shelter in South Los Angeles, She has been a god send trying to cheer me up but my heart is broken. We got her after a perfectly healthy dog who turned up at our doorstep looking for food and water. I stupidly took him to the shelter where he immediately got sick and had to be put down before the holding period for the “owner” had passed. Lucky literally had twenty minutes to live when we took her home.

    My faith in humanity shaken. Yet life goes on. I try to think that now Roxie is free of being a staffie (OMG shes a pitbull RUN!! some comments of others) she is free of her bad leg. There is not a day that I dont think of her, my heart has a huge whole left by her passing. I try to think positive and perhaps her soul is now in the body of a small girl whose family is so grateful for their valentine miracle. its the only way I can go on.

    Thanks again for your words of wisdom, some of us really them. The picture of you and Mikey is so so sweet. God Bless you for taking in and helping senior dogs.

  • Ddhilljl

    i came home my little chihua wasn’t acting right she didn’t come to welcome me home.she jusy layed there i picked her up and i don’t know why i looked at her gums but i did they were white. i called her vet took her in and was told she had imha after many tests. and the vet had us to transport my hayley to theu00a0emergency clinic. where they started a transfusion. she is holding her own but so very hard with hayley at the hospital and me here at home . i had a call saying i can come to see her at midnight after the transfusion which lasts 4 hours… and, i am told she can still pass away. i am so scared because this is a never ending ordeal i have been told.she is so little most likely due to her last shots she had such a reaction.that we nearly lost her. i do not like shots the same size a 130 lb fur baby gets for my little 5 lb baby and i have a 2 lb baby that had a reaction. the list goes on and of people i know friends and family that their dog has had reactions after the shots.but i am new to this very awful ordeal of a diease for the dogs and cats that have this.as it has just happend and my little hayley is still having the transfuion as i type.the shock has hit i am just trying to find out everything i can when i found this sight.i only know this sweet little chihuahua that i adopted that had been so abused as a 7 month old puppy is now 8 years into my heart and thought i was doing right by her yearly shots only to hear this is what has given her this terrible diease.if i had known…. but i didn’t and never heard of imha until today.i feel i have let her down and i promised her i would never let another person or thing hurt her tiny little body again. i have let her down and my heart is hurting as i loved her at first sight…. for the wonderful short 8 years. as her fate is in the hands of her vet…i have no way but trust that she will have more years to be that funny silly little girl that i love. this is so very scarry.my whole world is so up side down. wish each and all best wishes. i am too new to this to add or say anything only hours into this.

    • jen_dehaan

      Please know that I am thinking of your little chi, and hope that she hangs on and survives this terrible disease. There are many success stories. Please know that you did not let her down – you love her, and you are fighting for her. This is simply a terrible disease where the actual cause is unknown. We do things like shots and medications where we give them with the intention of helping, so please don’t beat yourself up about that — *if* that was the cause, you could never have known. You have given that formerly abused puppy a wonderful life, and that is the important thing, and what counts. I am sending all my positive vibes for strength to your chi.nJen.u00a0

  • LeslieDGandy

    Thank you for this!! I’m in the middle of Sophie’s 2nd AIHA relapse and am having a very tough time dealing with the road I know lies ahead. May 3rd will be her 3rd birthday, and the one year anniversary of this nightmare’s beginning. I needed this reminder to not waste this time I have, because its very unpredictable!! Thank you again!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/dogthusiast Jen DeHaan

      My heart is with you and Sophie! I am sending you every last bit of strength to see you though this next ordeal. Sophie made it though with your love and strength before, she knows you’re there on her side!  And I want to thank you too – I haven’t read this post end to end, and your comment helped me read it through and rethink these lessons again! Sure needed it.  A few tears in my eyes. Again, many hugs to you both. xxoo to Sophie.

  • Heather Meroni

    Thank you for your story Jen. We had our dog put to sleep 2 days ago and it was the hardest thing either of us has to do. Partly because he was only 5 yrs old and he was our best friend. We adopted him when he was only 1.5 and only got about 3 yrs with him and it wasnt enough time. He started getting really sick about 2 yrs ago and we have taken him into the vet every 3-4 months for more work that would “solve his problem” well nothing worked. Each time he was getting worst and not himself so this last surgery he wasnt making it through the surgery and we had to put him down. It was the hardest thing ever!! We are so sadden that he was taken from us too soon. Reading your story makes me feel like there is an end to this sadness.  Im so sorry for your lost. Thank you for your story and strength.

  • http://four-legged-friends.com/ Julie Hume

    I came over to read this from Quora. I had not heard of AIHA before. It sounds truly horrific to have Mikey so heart-strong and seemingly healthy struck down so quickly. Your article about him is very moving and both passes on knowledge of AIHA and encourages people to adopt -the less adoptable.  It also is a great remeinder to us all to appreciate every moment we have with those we love – no matter how many legs they have.

    I lost my dog just before Christmas. I had about three weeks where I knew the end was inevitable and I am so grateful for that time.

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  • Andrew

    Thank you so much for writing this.  I found out a few weeks ago that my best buddy was in advanced renal failure.  By the time I caught the symptoms, it was too late.  We tried treatment but it only helped for a few days.  I watched him slowly starve and lose his ability to get around and knew this isn’t how my 6 year old wonder-mutt wanted to live.  With a heavy heart and lots of tears I made the decision to set him free this morning.
    Your story hits home.  Dogs will hide any pain and illness they can to be strong for you for as long as they can.  Love them everyday like it’s their last: because eventually you will have to say goodbye.

  • Paul

    We have just today lost our beloved English Springer Spaniel to her 1st relapse of AIHA – she was at a veterinary university since Monday, so she lasted fours days, and had all of the usual drugs plus transfusions and human immunoglobulins, she responded to treatment but was too old and weak to fight any more – only 10 days ago I was playing ball with her and she was like a dog half her age.  This condition is awful.  She was 13, so had a good long life but it doesn’t make it any easier.  Thanks for your post.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/M2RXNXD3NTDWXQYCOSIXPZVPM4 steph

    I came across this website looking for answers as we just lost our 6 year old Chipoo C.C. to AIHA 2 days ago. It was very sudden and we had no idea that anything was wrong with her. She just started to go downhill over a period of 3 days and I even called her vet and he told me it didn’t sound serious so I waited to take her in. I wish I had not. My Husband took her to the vet and then called me to come up there. The vet said she had less than 32 hours and then we had to make a choice to put her to sleep or let her live the last day. The vet said because of her condition she would likely have a bad seizure and I couldn’t make her go through that scared and confused. We decided to put her to sleep. She had just gotten a check up and blood work done a few weeks before due to seizures. I still don’t understand how the vet missed this. I don’t blame them but I just don’t understand. I do miss my little girl so much. 

  • JenA

    Hi Jen. I lost my beloved best friend almost a year ago to IMHA. She was a golden retriever, only 4 and her symptoms presented very fast. She displayed pale gums and rapid breathing, more panting and I rushed her to our local vet hospital. They gave her amazing care, blood transfusions but after 3 days, we were told her anemia was very severe and very little could be done. She died 3 days after symptoms presented in my arms. I miss her every minute of every day. We adopted a new dog from the humane society last spring and over the summer a new golden puppy joined our family. I adore both of our dogs but cry for Sandy often. I loved her like I love my children and my grief is overwhelming at times. Our new dogs help me so much but I still wish there was more I could have done for my Sandy. I will never forget her…she is and always will be a part of me. I am so sorry for your loss of Mikey. 8 months is way too soon to lose such a perfect, amazing dog. My heart goes out to you. I hope with research someday there will be a cure for these horrible diseases. Sandy taught my vet so much from her disease and my hope is that through her legacy other pups and dogs will be treated as early as possible to help them overcome the grim future we often have to face without them in our lives. My best to you and thank you for posting your story…

    • http://dogthusiast.com Jen deHaan

      JenA, thank you so much for posting about your Sandy, and I am so sorry to hear about losing her (in what sounds like a very similar way to Mikey dude). It sounds like Sandy will help future dogs who will fight this at your vets, who will have a better chance at remission because of her. Thanks again for sharing your story!

  • http://www.cobra74.com Tim

    Thank you. Just had to put down my Bailey yesterday from AIHA. Three days ago, she was running, playing, normal. Now she’s gone. And we were not prepared.

    • http://dogthusiast.com Jen deHaan

      Tim, I am so sorry to hear about your Bailey – this is such an abrupt and intense way to lose a dog that I’m not sure is possible to prepare for, no matter what we might try. My thoughts are with you and your family at this time.

  • addie

    On August 3, my dachshund died of AIHA. He was only 10 and it set in silent and deadly. He was eating and drinking but I noticed that his breathing wasn’t right and his heart was racing so into the vet we go on July 31.. The vet mentioned AIHA and we checked his gums and eyes and they were white so he was put on prednisone and seemed to be improving but then suddenly got so bad..swelled up and breathed like he was suffocating. He died suddenly, and I felt like I had been punched in the gut. He fought so hard, never complained or whined or cried; just kept looking at me with those big brown eyes. I didn’t want him to suffer anymore, so I leaned over and told him he could go that I would be okay and in just a few minutes he was gone. I didn’t have time to get him to the vet it was that damn fast.
    I get his ashes back tomorrow and I know that he will heal me because he was that kind of dog. My little baby boy, Daxie…I miss you so much and love you more.
    Thank you for Mikey’s story and everyone here who can relate to this dreaded disease.

  • Michael

    Thank you for sharing your life with Mikey. He sure was special; but then, aren’t they all so special !?! We lost our boy after 17 years; My Boy Harley, who was my life and soul. We had him since he was 6 weeks old. What a boy he was. Loved so very much. He was always with me; never once put him into a kennel. He shared everything; our food, our beds, sofa – everything. Old age and a final body breakdown said that it was time to let him go. And this tough man gasped a huge sob, could not breathe, and then just fell apart, as that darling boy took his last breath at the vets. I still cry, at various times, and I won’t ever get over it. But your article helped me and I saw that we have such feelings in common. I hope and pray that these good dogs do go to heaven, and that one day we will be together again. Life is too painful without love; especially the love of such an unconditional, live in the moment, extra special best friend and companion. Thank you and God bless !

  • bozobarr

    I think stopping my dog’s probiotics resulted in his death. He had been off and on probiotics for over a year. After he had been on them for two months I stopped. He was doing well for two weeks and then re-developed poor bowel movements- brown, greasy, occasionally with loads of mucous. I restarted the probiotics immediately when I saw this change. However, two weeks later my furbaby passed away at only 9.5 and after a four day battle at the emergency veterinarian where they never located the problem. I can only suspect it was his bad bacteria attacking him- all because I altered his diet for no good reason other than suspecting that his body had become able to produce it’s own good flora

  • Jack Davis

    Jen, thank you so much for sharing Mikey’s story. I can’t tell you how much it means to find this right now. My beautiful Aussie mix, Robin, died yesterday morning less than 48 hours after showing her first symptom. She was only 2 years old and–as the vet said–one of the healthiest, happiest dogs she’s ever seen.

    Robbie was her normal self on Monday morning–a spark plug, a firecracker, a ball of energy and love–woke me with a barrage of face-mushes, kisses and cuddles like every morning, bounded down the stairs barking and excited for a walk with her sister-dog at the beach, ran and chased and played for an hour, came home, danced for her food and gobbled it up, mooched some love and pets and had a nap. By Monday evening she just seemed not herself. A little lethargic, but still interacting with us and wanting affection. She even wanted to go for a walk but only made it a block before I could tell she wasn’t feeling up to it and wanted to go home. I just assumed she was sick to her stomach, as her sister had been the day before. I kept an eye on her all night and decided to take her to the vet in the morning if she still wasn’t herself.

    In the morning she was obviously weak and shaky but I coaxed her out for a morning pee before calling the vet and was absolutely horrified to see her pass dark red blood. I scooped her up and rushed her to the vet, but I think now that even then it was too late. I reluctantly left her at the vet’s while they gave her fluids and ran blood and urine test and by noon had arrived at a tentative diagnosis of AIHA and started her on prednisone. By dinner time they called to say that she was continuing to decline and that the prognosis was poor. I could’t believe it. I still can’t. I went and got her and brought her home and planned to bring her back in the morning if she improved. I stayed up with her all night and petted her and spoke to her, but by morning she was just barely hanging on. Just breathing but not really present anymore. No eye contact and reaction to my voice and then, in 5 final terrible minutes, she died while I held her and spoke into her lovely little ear.

    It’s so devastating. I can’t believe that she’s gone. She was my little light. The little dog with the lion’s heart. The safe where I kept my happiness. It’s so so sad and so hard to grasp.

    I too had never heard of AIHA and didn’t know what to look for, though the vet assures me there was nothing I could’ve done to save Robbie.

    Thank you, Jen, for sharing your love and life and lessons with Mikey. I needed to read this now. And all the heartbreaking stories in the comments too. It doesn’t dull the pain but sharing it is some consolation.

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  • Jane Franco

    My dear Edna died 1/26/13, a day after her 13 th birthday. I still,think about her & miss her every day. I am retiring at the end of this year & then it will be time to get another pup. All the stories I have read bring to mind how much it hurts to lose a pet. There are many days i can’t even talk about her without choking up. But I hope there is another dog I can adopt next spring to fill the hole in my heart.

  • http://www.thatmutt.com Lindsay

    Such a beautiful post, and so sad :( My family’s golden retriever died from the same disease in 2005 and she was 7 years old. She suddenly went from a healthy dog to a very sick dog in about two days :( It does worry me how our pets are exposed to so many chemicals in their food, medications, vaccinations and so on. I also try to limit what I can. This post is a good reminder for me.

    This is also such a good reminder to appreciate every single moment we have with our animals.

    • http://dogthusiast.com Jen d

      I’m so sorry to hear this is what happened to your family’s golden retriever too :( That is such a coincidence – same age, timing, and everything. I have to return to this post to keep reminding me from time to time to keep the stress at bay and enjoy each day :) Thanks so much for your comment, bringing me back too! Hugs.

  • http://www.atactilelife.com.au Ryan Holmes

    I lost my soul dog a few days ago – he’d had IMHA for about 18 months, but he finally succumbed to pancreatitus from the steroids that were suppressing his immune system (along with diabetes, a UTI and conunctavitus). His last few days he was so weak. I feel so weak now, I miss him so much. He was such a happy guy, we rescued him as well. We tried so hard, it was 18 months of weekly vet visits and blood tests and complications. Your article is beautiful, and I’ll probably have to re-read it a few times over the next few months I think!

    • http://dogthusiast.com Jen d

      Hi Ryan. I am so, so sorry to hear about losing your soul dog. Isn’t it the most painful, stressful thing to go through. I can’t imagine what 18 months would feel like of that kind of stress. I know it doesn’t help much at all now, but it does get easier eventually.

      Thank you so much for stopping by, and I’m so glad that you enjoyed the article. I’ll be thinking of you, and I do believe all of our dogs are waiting for us on the other side to meet again.

  • maura

    My Sunny Shih tzu is in the midst of a terrible case of AIHA. She’s had 2 transfusions and she is non regenerative. I can’t bear it. It was the vaccines on June 16 that set all the symptoms into motion. I will never ever recover.

    • maura

      she is my soul dog. I am broken hearted. Only another who has gone through this terrible disease could possibly understand the anguish. WHY is this happening to dogs. They are not getting updated care.

  • Frank

    Me and my family adopted a dog much similar to your Mort about 11 years ago. She was about 3 months old and was living off the streets eating nothing but orange peels…
    Sadly she died two weeks ago in a way much similar to what this article is talking about. I don’t know if it was AIHA but it was very fast. In about 2 weeks she lost a lot of weight, lost all apetite and became very lethargic. We took her to the vet several times and when she was in a really bad shape (she almost couldn’t stand up) we took her to the vet again in a last effort, and she had to stay there to get IV fluids to try to cure the dehydration.
    Sadly she died there without us. That really hurt me, knowing that I couldn’t be there for her when she passed away. The only thing I hope for is that we gave her many good memories to outweigh those last sad memories when whe was really sick, alone and hurting.

    Anyway, all I wanted to say is thank you for this story. That last sentence brought tears to my eyes (in a good way) and it’s good to know that we can turn a bad experience into something good. We really need to keep those memories of our pet friends healthy and happy in our minds and know that they lived like the little kings they were to us