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Now We Know


Thanks for all the kind comments on my Tuesday post regarding the health of our dog, Rocky. I haven’t been able to bring myself to reply to each of the comments individually, but I do want you to know I’ve read every single one and appreciate all the love and positivity you’ve shown us. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Yesterday I spent 4 hours at a vet specialist having additional tests run. Our first vet feared the worst, but said there was a (slim) chance Rocky’s issues could be resolved with dietary and lifestyle changes, so we were certainly hoping for the best.

Six Hundred Thirty Dollars later (in addition to the original $275 for labs spent on Monday), we have no shadow of a doubt. Rocky is dying.

He’s got lymphoma that’s spread to his liver and kidneys. The vet’s estimate gives him 3-6 weeks longer to live. I ended up paying for an ultrasound and an aspirate of his lymph nodes for examination/testing. I felt kind of dumb agreeing to the aspirate after the ultrasound was performed because the vet said it was likely lymphoma and I knew we wouldn’t agree to chemotherapy/treatment, so the second procedure seemed a bit like a waste of money. But on the other hand, as one commenter put it (“I hope you can make a decision you find peace with”), I felt like I needed to know in order to have peace. The ultrasound didn’t show any outright tumors that would have been 100% definitive (though it did show enlargement, grayness, and “lack of uniformity” that’s indicative of problems), so it took an examination of the lymph node fluids to know for sure.

We talked about the options. I knew chemotherapy wasn’t going to work and, with as advanced as his cancer already is (they placed him in Stage 4), the vet wasn’t optimistic that it would buy much more time anyway.

She said we could schedule an appointment to euthanize him, but I wasn’t emotionally able to handle that at the appointment. So the option we chose was one of palliative care. We’ve got some meds to make him feel better (they don’t treat the lymphoma, but will give him a little energy, increase his appetite, and make him feel a bit more like himself). Then when it’s clear that he’s no longer happy, we’ll schedule the appointment. It could be a matter of days or weeks…likely not longer than that.

I tried to hold it together at the vets (tears streamed down my face, but no outright sobbing), but I fell apart walking out to the car. And Rocky’s reaction? He leans over and starts licking my arms, trying to make me feel better. Sweet dog. I’ll be so, so sad to no longer have him in my life.

About the financials:

The exact amount in our “pet expenses” account was $335. That was the first pot of money that I used. I paid for the specialists’ bill on a credit card so no money has actually left our account yet to pay for the remaining balance. I’m going to pay it off as soon as the bill comes, but it buys us a little more time. First, I’ll try to make some funds available out of our normal budget by shifting things around. It might be tough though because this was already going to be a relatively “lean” month due to not receiving a paycheck from my part-time job this month. So if we can’t cover the rest of it from our budget, we’ll draw any remaining amount due from the emergency fund we’ve just started to build back up. It will be a bit of a blow, but it won’t be catastrophic, and at least we aren’t taking on any debt. Honestly, I know it’s an egregious amount ($905 currently; Add in prescription pet meds. And I don’t know how much it costs to euthanize him, but add that to the mix, too). Despite the cost, I really do feel at peace with our decision now that we have the full scope of information. If we hadn’t gone ahead with the diagnostics I’d always be wondering (plus, knowing what he has impacted our vet’s decision regarding the kind of meds she’s prescribing, so it was important for that).

Rocky boy is my first real dog. We had one family pet growing up, but we got him when I was already one-foot-out-the-door to college, so I never really bonded with him and he passed away long after I was gone from the house. Rocky, though, is my boy. Officially speaking, hubs and I got him together in our first apartment together. But everyone knew Rocky was “my” dog. Still to this day, I (and I alone) am his favorite human.

It’s tough already, but I know it will get tougher soon. As a heads up (and we totally don’t have money for this in the budget either), I immediately called a photographer and asked if she’d be able to make a last-minute house call to get some final family photos as a family of 5 (before we lose our doggy member and reduce back down to a family of 4). Rocky has never been included in “family pictures” and although I’ve got photos of him from throughout the years, they’re terrible quality and none are actual posed photos with the whole family. I know this is something I’ll cherish long after he’s gone and, again, it brought an aspect of peace to this process for me. Unfortunately, the soonest the photographer can come out is not until Tuesday. I’m pretty worried that might be too late, as Rocky refused to eat all day yesterday and has already thrown up twice today (as of 6:30am). But he just barely started his medicine so – fingers crossed – it buys us enough time for him to truly feel better, spend some more time together, and get the photos my heart is yearning for. I don’t yet know the price, but our last photos were $150. I did tell the photographer I’d pay extra to come to our house since we live a good hour away from where she’s located. Honestly, I kind of don’t care. I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, but even if the price were doubled ($300), it’s $300 well spent. And just about the last $300 we’d ever be spending on this animal, so that’s something to think about in terms of (lack of) future costs.

In some ways, I’m truly thankful things will happen quickly. He won’t have a long, drawn-out period of misery and slow deterioration (like my Dad is experiencing with his disease). I’m also thankful this is happening during summer so I’m not away for long hours at a time. My plan is to still work at the office MWF, but this entire week I’ve stayed home with him. I do have to go in for several meetings on Friday, but hubs will be able to be around. This is important, as Rocky will increasingly need quick access to outside and we don’t have a doggy door. Plus, someone needs to be around to be able to monitor how he’s doing.

I hope to have a couple more weeks with him to fully love on him, pamper him a bit, and (selfishly), give ourselves a chance to wrap our minds around the inevitable. But as soon as its clear that he’s no longer enjoying life, we’ll be sure to do the most humane thing for him. I know the time is coming soon.

Everyone has their own struggles. Peace and hugs to all of you as you navigate yours.

“Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” ~Wendy Mass


  • Reply Judi |

    I cried when I read this post. I am so sorry for your family and for you. We all have that one dog that is truly ours and it hurts to see them go. I’m glad you went forward with the tests, I hope this will provide you some peace knowing there was nothing you could do. I am sending some love and hugs your way. This has been a tough few years for you guys!
    Also, plain yogurt (no added sugar) is a life saver for helping dogs stomachs. If he continues to throw up try giving him half a cup wait half a day and then give him another half a cup.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thank you for this tip! I was able to get him to eat some scrambled eggs this morning (after the throwing up) and got his first pill down successfully so I’m really hoping he’ll start to perk up a bit. It’s crazy because we literally had NO IDEA something was wrong with him. Our Monday vet appointment was just a routine annual check-up. But now that we know (and hindsight is 20/20), I’m realizing that a lot of things I thought were “old man laziness” were actually symptoms of his disease. Breaks my heart and I don’t want him suffering, so I’ve got my fingers crossed he’ll come around for a bit so we can have at least one more good week together.

  • Reply Joanna |

    My heart goes out to you! I’m sitting here sobbing at my desk while reading this beautiful post. I think the photographer idea is brilliant! At this point, you would regret NOT doing it, especially if the only concern is the money. I don’t have (human) children and don’t plan on it, so my pups ARE my kids. I can’t imagine what you’re going through but I am sending you good thoughts and wishing you strength through this hard time! And I hope Rocky starts to feel a little better so he can enjoy time with his family.

  • Reply Megan |

    I am so sorry to hear that you guys are going through this but comforted to hear that you have found a way that can help give you some peace. I think the photos sound like a beautiful idea.

  • Reply Jen From Boston |


    I don’t blame you for wanting to know. I would have done the exact same thing you’ve done. I’m so sorry you and Rocky and your family have to go through this. Cry as much as you want. Invest in a few boxed of the Kleenex 3-ply with extra lotion. And spoil Rocky – give him extra treats, let him do things he likes to do but normally isn’t allowed to do.

    My mom lost her cat a little over a year ago. It was devastating to her. She still misses her. She had her cat cremated and has some of the ashes in a windchime on her deck. Whenever the chime makes a noise Mom thinks of the cat as talking to her. Maybe you could do something similar? Perhaps when you buy your home you can plant a tree with Rocky’s ashes as a way to make a long-lasting memorial to him? (Btw, sorry if this last paragraph is upsetting to you because it’s making things too real. Grief is difficult and tosses our feelings into a big upheaval.)

    • Reply Ashley |

      I love the idea of a Rocky tree! I’ve seen jewelry made with some of the pets’ ashes, but that’s never really appealed to me. The thought crossed my mind of getting a paw-print tattoo. I think I’ll get him to do a paw-print on some paper just-in-case, but I’ll shelve the idea awhile to mull it all over (since tattoos are so permanent I never rush into them – I’ve got two currently and I mulled over each of them for probably a solid year or more prior to committing).

      • Reply Jen From Boston |

        Friends of mine have a clay impression of their late cat’s paw. The vet made the impression and the clay set – I’m assuming it was some sort of standard art clay so it’ll keep. That’s another possibility.

  • Reply carina |

    I am so sorry. This made me cry. I lost both of my best friends not long ago. I was an only child with divorced parents so they were really all I had growing up. It was more than hard to say by but they were ready.

    There’s some difficult days ahead but you’ve given him a good life so just remember and cherish those memories.

  • Reply Cheryl |

    You know some sometimes money isn’t even thought of. At least you know and Rocky will not suffer and you are at peace. My dh who never wanted a cat, cried when we put my Rosie to sleep and that is only the second time in 25 years of marriage. You know when it is time. I am sorry for the outcome. Cheryl

  • Reply Walnut |

    The week we found out my beloved dog was dying, we each promptly took days off to enjoy every minute. We did all of her favorite things – car rides, walks, an Arby’s order all to herself, bank drive through, the works. We snuggled on the floor, the couch, the lawn and we cried until the tears ran dry. We looked through all of the old photos and ordered fresh prints of our favorites.

    Losing her was, to date, the worst thing I’ve experienced. Some people don’t understand and think that statement is silly, but she was my soul dog. Treat yourself gently these next couple weeks. I’m so sorry.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I’m 100% with you on the “soul dog.” Rocky is mine. I’d say he’s my “person” but…he’s not a human, lol.
      Our first vet had given us a sample of some prescription dog food and the second vet said just to throw it away. His time is so limited (the first vet didn’t know the full scope of his disease), that the prescription food will do nothing for him. The specialist said “Let him eat cheeseburgers!” I got a good chuckle from your note about the Arby’s order. Definitely need to do something similar!

  • Reply SAK |

    I am so so sorry but you have done all the right things. Love on him and be kind to yourself and your family during this time.

  • Reply Alexandra |

    Oh man. I am so sorry! Losing a beloved pet is one of the hardest traumas to endure in life. I totally understand your course of action and would probably do all the things you have done and are planning. It is worth it to know that you did what you could for Rocky, and the pictures will always be a wonderful reminder of how special he is! Will be keeping you in my thoughts these coming weeks…

  • Reply Maureen |

    So sorry for the bad news. I can completely relate an degree with a lot of the comments here. I am a DINK (dual income no kids), but Bella, the English Bulldog, is my child. Bulldogs are notorious for high vet bills. I have spent easily in excess of $10-$15K over the last 8+ years (that includes two ACL repairs to both hind legs). My “baby” is just that. She has arthritis and allergies, but is otherwise generally in good health. However, she is almost 9 (bulldogs life expectancy is 8-11 years on average). I had an incident a few weeks ago though where I came home from work and she was lethargic, droopy eye, etc. I thought she had had a stroke. 🙁 OMG-I cried the ugly cry all the way to the vet. It turned out to probably related to a pinch nerve and her arthritis. She is all good now (after a cortisone shot and meds). Her quality of life is still very good. However, your situation hit home greatly. I know, likely, not in the too distant future, I am going to have to wrestle with these types of decisions. I dread the day! May Rocky live out his final days full of happiness and as comfortable as possible!

  • Reply Sarah |

    This is what an emergency fund is for. Do what you need to do so you have no regrets. Don’t worry about the money. Suze Orman says “People first, the money, then things”. I would count your dog as people because what happens affects your whole family.

    So sorry to hear this but I am glad it won’t be a long drawn out ordeal. I don’t want you or your puppy to suffer!

  • Reply Susan |

    I am so sorry to hear this. It certainly sounds like Rocky is very special and you are both very lucky to have had each other in your lives.

    Spoil the heck out of him during his remaining time with you.

  • Reply Char |

    Take care be gentle on your soul,rocky loves you and knows no difference other than not feeling his spritely self

  • Reply AY |

    I am so sorry you’re going through this! I’m so glad you have the financial reserve to be able to do these things for Rocky. I know what it’s like to have a dog be like a member of the family! It’s a bit ironic for me really because I’ve always said I wasn’t a dog person. A coworker recently asked me why that is and I told him that when I was ten we had three golden retrievers who were poisoned and killed by neighborhood gang and I’d never wanted to get another dog since. As I was telling the story out of nowhere I burst into sobs which was completely embarrassing bc I maintained that I’m “not a dog person” and this happened almost 20 years ago! Well we had a good laugh about my denial and since we are both counsellors talked about how I maybe repressed some things there! Anyway, I am so sorry you’re going through this. I know there’s a process of grief you will go through and don’t let anyone who “isn’t a dog person” make you feel bad for grieving Rocky!

  • Reply revdrmd |

    I am sorry to read about Rocky’s illness. I am a cat person but do know the pain of deciding to do what is best when the time comes. My first cat was ill for some time before I had to make the hard decision. I finally decided on a date and loved on her the last month of her life, and I was able to pick a wonderful place to bury her. My second cat became ill very suddenly, and I had to make the decision in less than one day. Both were hard; but the second was a little bit harder since I was totally unprepared for the loss. I am thankful that you and your family have time to love Rocky and celebrate what a joy he has been to your family. My vets planted some trees in honor of the second cat which I think is a great way to remember her. Praying for you and your family.

  • Reply Jackie |

    I am so sorry to hear about Rocky. I had to put our dog to sleep 7 years ago and I am crying as I type this. She had her back go out–our wonderful vet gave her a cortisone shot and some pain pills, and she had a good life for several years after that. We always said we would put her down when her quality of life was affected, and as another poster said, you will know when it is time. The vet said the same thing, and I didn’t believe it, but you really do know. Our vet was great; he waited until I could get home from work and the whole family went. We were able to hold her as she peacefully died. We told her it was OK, that she could go. Enjoy every minute you have left with Rocky; you have given him a wonderful life full of love. Even though I miss her still, I wouldn’t have missed one single minute with her.

  • Reply Abby King |

    Add me to the list of people who cried reading this post…..both of my dogs are 12, and I dread the day when we will have to make similar decisions. Pets are members of the family and I would have absolutely done the same thing – love the idea of the photographer! I am so sorry about what you, your family and Rocky are doing through – sending best wishes for the time you have left together to be as quality as possible

  • Reply The Zoo |

    We’re so sorry to hear of this. We are glad you’re being there for Rocky. We had a cat Rocky pass away in November at age 16. Weve been thru this many times and it never gets easier. My dad had one of his cats diagnosed with cancer years ago and is still going, with only palliative care. We even cry during that Subareau commercial about the dogs bucket list.

  • Reply Jenna |

    ( hug )

    My heart hurts for you. Having been down a very similar path (I love the term “soul dog”, it’s so very true), I will just give you the advice that you will know in your heart when it is the right time to make that phone call and just love every moment you have with him in the meantime time.

    I know you like your crafts – one simple one that I did was the baby handprint/footprint kits that you frame and hang on the wall. The vet’s will often do a paw print for you but I was never sure what to do with a chunk of clay. This way you have that little art piece of them just as you pass by each day. I attached the link of the one I used. I’m positive you can purchase for less – I think I paid about $25. But it is a nice quality frame.


  • Reply Laura |

    I am so sorry you’re going through this. We had a four year old boxer that was diagnosed with lymphoma. Because of his age, we decided to do chemo. We’re so grateful for the extra nine months we got with him. So many friends thought we were nuts to spend the money, but he was part of our family. We figured it was his college fund, so the chemo was his associates degree! I would spend it again to have that time with him. You’ll make more money and it won’t slow your goals at all – get the pictures and enjoy the time with him!

  • Reply Kerstin |

    oh hugs Ashley. This is such a hard and heart wrenching thing to do and I’m guessing your girls are old enough to wonder what’s going on and wonder where Rocky goes when he does pass. I think you should do what you need to do to find “peace.” It IS only money, and the emotional peace you will have with knowing you are ok with the decision is a sound one in my opinion. You are so rationale with so many of your other decisions it’s ok to let you emotions come into play occasionally here and use them to make a different kind of choice. I sure hope you get your photos. I think those will be so wonderful to have. Hugs again to you and scratch Rocky’s ear for me.

  • Reply SCM |

    I am so sorry, Ashley. I have been anxious for you today. You rarely miss posting and I am really hoping you are just “regular busy”. Hugs to you and your whole family, Rocky included.

    On a sort of bright note, can you imagine if this had happened before you reorganized your finances and paid off so much debt? How wonderful it is that you had the financial ability to do what you needed to do for your beloved dog.


So, what do you think ?