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Sudden Death Pining

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Hi all,

It's been about 5 days since my buddy Mags passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in my arms and I find myself really struggling with the blur in which it happened and the unfairness of life.

I know I'm not the first to lose a pet unexpectedly but it's new and raw to me.  My dog prior to Mags was a beautiful Golden Retriever named Annie that lived an extremely long life of 16 1/2 years, finally requiring my compassionate decision to let her go.  That was much easier than what happened with Mags because it made sense;  Nothing makes sense right now as to why Mags passed so quickly.  I hope you will understand my pain and suffer my babbling as I try to reach out and share in order to heal. 

Mags was born at a disadvantage rescued from being tossed into a river with his litter mates.  He has always had nothing but love in his heart though his early energies were misdirected and was considered somewhat of a goof until I had the serendipitous opportunity to enter his life.  It was shortly after my Golden Annie had passed and I was not looking for a replacement but instead he found me.  Belonging to my now ex, he instantly ignored her and became attached to me.  So much so, that during his obedience class lessons with her, he would ignore others and commands to stare directly at me from across the large indoor arena.  When my relationship ended with my ex, it was a foregone conclusion that he would come with me.  Since then he developed into a well-behaved, well-loved character. 

Being a buddy and not a trial dog he still followed hand signals and knew to stop as a car passed by on our daily walks.  Basic commands such as heeling were remedial to him and he enjoyed more advanced skills such as running circles around me in a game of tag initiated by a look or gesture from me or him.  People were always amazed how well trained he was but to me it was just a common respect we had for one another that made him want to follow direction.  He was showing off.  Having fun. 

One of the best memories I'll carry with me is how he would 'sneak'  away to visit his girlfriend Border Collie down the road named Haika thinking I didn't notice.  He would always limit the trip to his destination and return on his own after he was done visiting.  Once in a while I would stop him as he was about to slip onto his secret trail through the woods.  I would say 'you better stay here young man'.  Most times he would change his direction of travel as if that's what he planned.  Once, he considered my threat and then bolt away anyway!  Obstinate and endearing would be a good way to describe his personality.  Asking for forgiveness was easier to him than asking for permission and I loved him for it. :)

I work alone out of the house designing architecture.  I'm on some land and fairly isolated from the world so his presence, energy and companionship was quite important to me.  We became fairly codependent upon one another.  Structure and routine was important to him and he kept me on my toes reminding me if I was late with his feedings or hadn't taken him on his daily walk.  He would be willing to allow me to work for only so long and then he reminded me that he was also in the house and needed some attention.  He gave my life purpose and responsibility.  I don't like not feeling that anymore. 

Late on the 4th we came back from riding in the truck and he was panting heavily.  He was unaffected by fireworks so I thought it was just the heat and his age.  He plopped inside the door by his water bowl but didn't drink which is unusual for him.  He eventually drank some water but the breathing continued.  I talked to him, pet his favorite spots and eventually the breathing slowed some.  By bedtime he was better and I went to bed.  In the morning I found him responsive but breathing heavily again.  He moved from spot to spot but didn't seem to be comfortable.  I went on the internet searching for possible causes, etc.  He was always healthy with no ailments so I wasn't sure what to look for.  When I went to be with him again, he seemed different.  He was somewhat distant in his stare and wasn't blinking as often.  I tried to help him up but realized I needed to pick him up instead.  I held him.  I kissed him.  I told him how much I loved him and everything would be alright.  I stroked him and he pushed his head closer to my neck and shoulder.  Then he was just gone.  Placing him on the floor in disbelief, he gasped two times briefly, reflexively.  I broke down and wept over his body, holding him tightly and apologizing to him over and over, feeling responsible somehow for what had just transpired.  I plead with him to not leave me.  There was nothing that could be done.  It all transpired in around just 2 hours. 

I took him to be cremated, not wishing to put him (or me) through an expensive necropsy knowing it probably doesn't matter.  He was nearly 14.  His poor heart had just worn out.  Now I struggle with the silence and lack of energy that have replaced his spirit.  He's not here crowding me out of bed or laying his head on my foot as I work at my desk or watch TV.  I don't have to check on him during the day to see how he's doing or check to see if he needs to go outside.  His food sits in it's bag.  His bowls which were a fixture on my floor now sit clean and unused on the counter, stacked together.  It's all wrong.  It doesn't make any sense.  Why did this happen to him?  It wasn't his time.  He was going to outlive Annie's time.  He ate carrots and fresh vegetables and no table food.  His food was grain free and salmon so he didn't get hot spots.  He had so many friends that are suffering nearly as much as I.  Why does it hurt so much? 

If you made it this far, I thank you for listening.  There is no one here to talk with.  That was Mag's role.  He was a great listener.  He was a great everything.







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It's wrong and nothing makes sense, I know. Been there. Hold on to the good memories, all the love that has been does help now.

I know many people that swear they'll never have another dog after a beloved one dies, because they can't stand the pain. But I suspect you, like me, will come across another friend when the time is right. A bit of Annie and a bit of Mags will be in him but mostly he will be his own self, and awesome. And he will also help. Hugs.

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Thanks to everyone who has written such nice comments.  They all mean so much to me!

I have been doing what I normally wouldn't in the past which is to reach out to others rather than isolating.  I have learned only recently the power that sharing one's pain and suffering can do for the healing process.  I think it is certainly helping me get through the days and nights. 

This morning was the first I woke with not feeling immediate dread thinking of life without my buddy.  It helps that it is very hot and humid here in Minnesota as I know Mags would NOT like that weather at all.  He would be confined to staying indoors in the air conditioning missing out on being in his preferred outdoors.  I'll take little nuggets like this for now as they help me get through the moments.  Another is picturing Mags and Annie together sharing their favorite stories, best memories, similar experiences with me.  Perhaps they're forming their own relationship and happier than ever knowing they share a common bond.  :rolleyes:

Humble appreciation to all.



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I understand that deep sense of emptiness that surrounds you when a treasured friend is no longer beside you.  When The look they give you, tail wags, and quiet companionship is gone there is a hole.  I sit inside typing  8 Border Collies surrounding me all snoozing.  Simply their presence is reassuring.  Even with a group such as mine I miss every one that is no longer here.  Some move to new homes to become great partners with others, I miss them but get to hear of their adventures which makes me smile.  Some pass on due to age.  It is tough to watch them slow down and slip away a bit every day but we try to prepare ourselves for what we know will come. Some pass suddenly, the hole seems to last a bit longer. Can't let that stop you from enjoying today , for today is all we know we have. 

Don't let your sorrow keep you from sharing your days with another great dog.  They can heal tons of pain and loss.

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Thanks for the words. 

Are you close to Minnesota?  I can watch one of those  guys for you! :)  Of course, I'm just kidding but I appreciate the visual. 

Someday I will be able to focus my love elsewhere.  I'm not the kind that looks for an immediate replacement just because I'm in pain.  I'd rather arrive at a place in my heart after doing my due diligence, so to speak.  I also know love is infinite and expansive.  Our love capacity is unlimited.  Plenty to go around for other dogs and people.

Now, back to those pups.  Any pics you'd like to share?

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I am so sorry your lovely Mags died, and can imagine how terrible it was for you that it happened so suddenly. He was a beautiful dog and it sounds as though you gave him a good life. I hope that in time you will be able to give your love to another dog because there are so many who need someone like you, and having another dog is the best  medicine to ease your way through the pain. It doesn't get better, but it will in time get different.


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13 hours ago, DSG said:

I have been doing what I normally wouldn't in the past which is to reach out to others rather than isolating. 

Yep, that's right, definitely reach out rather than isolate. That's a source of energy for you. I'm prone toward debilitating depression--even when nothing is wrong--and to keep that monster at bay I have to continually push myself to interact with others in meaningful ways. If I'm isolated for a few days, my mood goes all to heck and I can't think straight, let alone be productive. Getting out of bed can take 4 hours. But if I get to have a good time with somebody, be it human or animal, it pulls me back into the light and then I'm me again--a really cheerful person that gets enthused about everything.

Being busy helps me a lot too. Sometimes I feel like I have nothing to do and all day to do it in. But if I'm doing lots of activities then I don't time for being depressed. So, I look forward to being kept busy by a Border Collie. (I don't have one as of yet.)

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I'm so sorry for your loss. Losing a pet unexpectedly has to be the worst feeling in the world.

Years ago I was on a message board and someone had suddenly lost their dog and another person gave a lovely reply. I can't remember exactly what the quote was but here is the gist of it: this is the beauty of dogs. We bring them into our lives knowing full well they are going to break our hearts, yet we do it anyway. Most of us do it again and again with the knowledge of the outcome; their beauty, joy and love will forever outlast the heartbreak. No matter how many times we say "never again" the pull for unconditional love draws us right back.

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This morning will be 1 week since saying goodbye.  I am so glad I reached out and connected with all of you generous people.  I was fearing this time coming but feel fairly positive and accepting of the situation after reading all the caring words.

It has been nothing but sunny, hot and humid here for about a week or more and this morning it's dark and cloudy.  To me it feels like a sign of mourning and acknowledgement of his passing.  If the predicted rain falls it will feel like tears.  We need the rain so it will be welcomed, as will the symbolic tears.  The positive memories have began far out-weighing the negative passing experience.  I have had the chance to share some favorite Mags' stories with my neighbors and family members.  It has been quite cathartic focusing on why we share our lives and hearts with these incredible beings. 

Anya.  I also found a similar, helpful passage on-line: 

"When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.  
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."

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I am redoing the web site but you should be able to find it and way to many photos at clearfieldstockdogs.com when it is up, hopefully next week.  Until then I have blog if you search clearfieldstockdogs you should run across it if you need a bc fix :)

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As a follow-up, I just picked up Mags' remains from the veterinarian's office. I am pleasantly surprised how cathartic it is to have him back home.  I didn't expect to have that or any other particular feeling and so it's really a good thing;  Part of the healing process I guess. 

I realize it's more symbolic than anything but my caretaker role feels like it's been somewhat restored.  Now when I talk to him during the day I only feel slightly crazy.  ;)

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Grief is definitely not a linear process.  It can and does circle back onto itself seemingly without reason.  For me, the depth and frequency of the pain has lessened though the sorrow remains and will, I'm sure, forever.  Yesterday, for example, I went outside to work in the garage and the silence was, as they say, deafening. He was always out there with me exploring, patrolling, watching me.  I was a little unprepared.  I have been somewhat sequestered inside with the hot, humid weather and work so I have adjusted to the quietness there.  Being outside together was just another part of the life we had built that I took for granted. 

The one thing I haven't done yet which I have been dreading is going for a walk without him.  That was the highlight of every day for him.  He had his spots, his dog and people buddies, his routes that he preferred.  I read somewhere about how one's identity can be lost as neighbors typically identify us first by the dog we're walking with.  They are the first topic of conversation or comment.  I was also proud of walking him as he behaved so well.  Not unlike a proud Dad, I liked to hear people praise his behavior.  It will be very difficult when I decide to resume my walks.  That's why I have delayed it for so long. 

Thanks again for all the thoughtfulness everyone. 

Couldn't help post these two very first pics of him.  He's the only Border Collie I've seen that the black mask on top of his head doesn't connect.  Instead, he had a lone spot which made him uniquely who he was.



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  • 2 weeks later...

I thought I would give an update as all of you have been so compassionate and helpful with your replies.  I know that it takes effort to reply to this post and I appreciate the fact that so many have done so.

As Starry777 conveyed, I have been in and out of the healing process.  I feel like I had made great strides but sometimes the impact of the loss hits me right between the eyes and knocks me down emotionally.  I feel particularly bad because I think I should have recognized the severity of his situation though he remained stoic until the very end.  I find myself reliving the horrible end of his life and trying to understand why I didn't know it was as bad as it was.  I find no solace.  I hadn't had him to the vet for a routine checkup in 3 years as he was 'healthy as a horse' from all accounts.  He ate both of his meals the day before as he always had.  His stool was normal, he was engaged and participating his normal activities, etc., etc. etc.......  Now I'm starting to feel like I killed him because I took his health for granted.  I have a niece, whom is a vet that tells me it's not quite that simple or straightforward.  She say's he could have just passed because his poor little heart just gave out.  I'm having a hard time accepting that.  I feel like he was suffering from a cancer or heart worm condition that could have been prevented.  Has anyone else felt this kind of guilt before? 

People have referred to me as a 'Dog Whisperer' because of my ability to connect and relate to a wide variety of breeds with a myriad of emotional conditions.  Now I'm starting to feel like I'm like the cobbler who's own children don't have shoes.  Was I ignorant to Mag's physical health?  It all hurts.  I'm in and out of acute pain.  I feel like I should NEVER have a dog again as I was a horrible owner.  Has anyone else had these types of feelings?  If so, what did you do to come to terms with them?  Any input would be appreciated.

My Golden, Annie, live so long and I thought Mags would certainly outlive her.  Maybe I'm hung up on the 'one up-manship' thinking I've carried.  I just don't know..... 

This is a picture of her when she was within the last year of her life at Split Rock Lighthouse in the Arrowhead of Minnesota.

Thanks for listening to my continued babble. 

2003-07-00 - Annie Split Rock Lighthouse.jpg

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