Bennie by Laurie / Beloved Bennie

Apparently, Bennie had an aggressive form of lung cancer, but we only know that because we pretty much ruled out everything else. By the time that happened, he was too ill to take outside the oxygen chamber to do ultrasounds and more blood work, and frankly, I couldn’t put him through anymore. His face just told me “I’m exhausted.” His suffering has ended, but mine has just began and I will have
to endure it for some time.

The worst part about Bennie is that two weeks before died he was fine. I took him to the vet when his breathing became rapid and shallow, and she thought it was something from a urinary tract infection. He was drinking a lot of water and going to the bathroom a lot, so it made sense to me. We had him on antibiotics, but after several days, he wasn’t responding. The blood work showed nothing. When they listened to his breathing, they heard nothing to suggest he had something
going on in his lungs.

It was only when I went to another vet because mine was closed for Thanksgiving that we did the x-rays. That was a week ago today. They did a tracheal wash and we put him on additional antibiotics. I even had them give him an injection and a nebulization to make sure he got a double dose in case it was pneumonia, which we figured it was, but by Sunday, his breathing was still rapid, still labored, and he just became exhausted even walking outside to go to the bathroom. I had to pick him up to carry him in. Monday I brought him into the hospital because I wanted him to have round the clock treatment. They bumped everything up, and we ran more tests, but it takes days for the tests to come back.

Tuesday, I ran his x-rays and test results to Georgia Vet. Specialists. I called Wednesday morning, but they said the specialists couldn’t say for sure without further testing, but from the x-rays they thought it was either cancer or a fungal infection of the lungs, both of which are rare. I’d insisted the vet give Bennie anti-fungal treatment starting on Tuesday, despite its toxicity, because at that point, I felt it could help more than harm. We gave it nearly 72 hours, but I knew that it wasn’t long enough, nor the treatment strong enough to reverse what was going on.

They took a second set of x-rays on Tuesday, and his lungs in four days time had gone from bad to worse, so clearly it wasn’t bacterial. The test to check for fungal infection has still not returned from the lab. This is what you’re dealing with when it comes to labs and your pet. They take their sweet ass time, and they don’t care if the results come before or after the dog is dead because they get paid regardless. Why vets don’t do their own lab work is beyond me.

Anyway, I thought Wednesday would be the day, and that’s why I canceled class. I went to the vet and sat with him. He was behind glass, so I couldn’t touch him. I talked to the doctors and convinced myself that he looked better, that he was responding to the anti-fungal medication. I couldn’t go through with it at that moment. They called me later that night asking for permission to let him go if he should go into cardiac or respiratory arrest. It occurred to me at that moment that I did not want Bennie to die like that, alone, in extreme distress,
without me holding him.

I woke-up the next morning, though, hopeful, that I’d call and hear Bennie had turned a corner, that he was responding to the medicine, but of course, that was wishful thinking. The exact opposite was true, and the vet who had worked with me and Bennie since his hospitalization told me to come in and look at Bennie, that he wasn’t responding and that he’d quit eating and drinking water all together. I felt so bad leaving him there for those last days, but I had no choice. He couldn’t breathe outside the chamber, so I had to leave him. I did go see him through the glass, but it was frustrating because he’d just get up and look at me like “get me out of here and take me home.” He was so miserable at the end that I just had to let go. It killed me, but it killed me worse to see him so depressed, so miserable, and so exhausted from his efforts to breathe even in a chamber with 55% oxygen.

They brought him into the examining room wrapped in a blanket and we put him on the table. I held him from behind, my arms around him and my head on his neck. When she put the need into the catheter, I literally felt a sigh of relief when they gave him the first injection. He just went limp but I could still hear his heart beating. With the second injection, and in a matter of seconds, the doctor said, “he’s gone.” And he was. I couldn’t feel his heart beating anymore. I had and continued to make quite the spectacle of myself, sobbing and crying how much I loved him, how much I’d missed him as if saying it over and
over would penetrate his mind.

I held him for about an hour after he was gone. I thought it probably looked morbid, sobbing and holding tightly a dead body. But I kept stroking his fur like he was still alive. I fingered his paws noted mindlessly that I needed to clip his nails. I rubbed his nose the way he liked because it itched him so. His body still felt warm and as I stroked him, it felt like a million other times that I’d held and petted him. I kept trying to leave, but I couldn’t let go of him. When signing the release forms, they’d asked me if I wanted to have him cremated.

I never thought I’d be the person to have her dog cremated and put in a box, but when they asked, my mind just went blank, and all I could say was “Ok.” They told me I could also take him home in a coffin, but I thought, “no. I’ll kill myself and someone else in grief,” and then, the police would find a open coffin with a dead dog in my car, and I’d forever be that crazy, lunatic lady mentioned on the nightly news. Worse yet, I felt it was a distinct possibility that were I to take him home, I’d get him there, take him out of the coffin, and hold him close until the house began to smell and the authorities were called in. As it stands, he’s in a box on the refrigerator appropriately enough along with his favorite squeaky ball, his tags and collar, and a few locks of hair I clipped from him after he was gone. I’m going to figure out something more appropriate for him when I’m up to it.

I took Bennie from the Fulton Co. Animal shelter three years ago this past October. He was four or five when I got him. He’d been picked up by a lady who saw him in the middle of an intersection about to be hit. She brought him to the shelter where they found him with a collar, so tightly embedded into his skin that they had to remove it with scissors. Whoever lived at the phone number on the tags were long since gone. I had gone to the shelter to pick out a puppy, which we had, but there he was, and I don’t know. He was simply too sweet to leave behind. They tested him and he had heart worms, but I took him anyway. They had to keep him in order to neuter him, so a few days later I picked him up, and he was five times worse than the last I’d seen him. He’d developed kennel cough, and the vet had botched his neutering job, leaving an open vessel bleeding. He was painfully thin and terribly ill. My old vet misdiagnosed him. They kept stapling his wound shut, but it kept bursting open with blood. Finally I took him to another vet who recognized the problem, redid the procedure and treated him aggressively for the various infections he’d acquired while in the good care of the shelter.

For months, I spent hours in the vets office, cooked him a special diet of chicken livers, rice and boiled chicken, and did whatever was necessary to bring him back to health. We had to wait months to get him healthy enough for the heart worm treatments. Finally, by the end of his last heart worm treatment, he was a beautiful, happy, healthy dog who loved to play with his ball, but loved to sleep with his head on my shoulder even more. His coat and eyes shined with good health. His gentle affection endeared him to all. An unusual mix of a golden retriever and Brittany Spaniel, Bennie received compliments from complete strangers who commented on what a beautiful dog he was.

I could not grieve more than if he had been a child. According to everything I’ve read thus far on pet bereavement, nothing I’m experiencing is particularly unique. Perhaps so, but I’ve never felt this way before, and I’ve experienced my fair share of grief. Bennie was still young and had many years that I would have liked to have given him happiness and security. I think I could have handled it better if he’d been ill a long time or if he’d been old, having led a full life. As it stands, I feel both of us were betrayed by life.


Taken too soon,