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10 lessons I am learning from my dying dog

August 2, 2017

About a month ago during what I thought would be a quick vet visit to tell us that one of my son’s two dogs (which somehow I have formally adopted) had a pulled leg muscle, arthritis, or a sore paw, became a moment when the vet compassionately came into the room, after examining the Xrays, and delivered the painful news that Bubbles had bone cancer. My husband and I were numb, both of our eyes tinkled a bit as we drove home. Since that day we have not only savored every moment, but appreciated every loving lesson that Bubbles has been teaching us as the number of her days dwindle. I have learned much from books, movies, the Bible, and from those who have lived far longer than I, however, the most impactful lessons in my life have come as I have walked through the last days with a beating heart that I have loved.


  • Trust and lean on those who love and care for you-

I watched Bubbles allow myself, and the vet, push and prod on her most painful leg and she patiently allowed us to do so. Before the pain medicine, or when it hasn’t kicked in, I have ached when she has come up to be and laid her head on my leg letting me know that it simply just hurts.


  • Learn to adapt

Bubbles has gone from an able bodied 75 pound 4 legged dog to a crippled 3 legged, hobbling, pain-filled being. The first couple of days I had to help her by carrying her, after that she had to learn to survive. She learned to get herself out the door and to the front lawn. She had to adapt to a restricted area of living in the house and outside, not able to access the back yard due to steps. She has done nothing but master, conquer, and kick butt on learning how to manage this life as it is now.


  • When the pain gets too great, don’t hesitate to rest

When she just cannot stand anymore she will rest. I know she would love to run, explore, and play but for now she understands that her limitations are greater than her desire to be who she was. She takes a break to rest for the next moment.


  • Don’t stop showing love to those who love you

She may not be able to run to the door or show the physical appreciation she used to, but by golly she surely communicates her love in every way. Upon seeing my husband or my son, every part of her body that can wiggle, wag, and lean does so in a wholehearted loving manner. No one can ever say she didn’t love through the pain.


  • Don’t worry

Bubbles cannot get to where she wants sometimes. She has yelped and panted; she has laid her head on my leg and communicated unequivocally that she is in pain, however she has never shown stress or worry. No sign of stress from this beautiful spirit showing me that I can toughen up a bit more.


  • Enjoy every moment

The other day we carried Bubbles down into the back yard to enjoy some time while we worked in the garden. She visited her dog friend to the north yard and her dog friend to the south yard. She enjoyed a visit from our neighbors. She laid down and rested when she tired of standing and she soaked in the yard that she used to rule. She completely lived in the moment.


  • Take time to soak it all in

I have watched Bubbles just stand in place and put her nose in the air to smell what is going on in our “hood”. She observes, smells, explores to her limits and soaks in every minute trying not to miss any gift from her creator.


  • Don’t avoid the opportunity to comfort one another

We have two dogs. One came a few years after Bubbles had already claimed dominance to the home, yet Chance slid into place as “sister”. During these past few weeks I have watched Chance slide into place right next to her “sister” in a position of support and comfort giving Bubbles nothing but love and compassion as only an unconditionally loving heart can.


  • When you need help, let someone help you

There are times myself, my husband, or my son, have had to pick up this large beast and gently carry her to where she needs or wants to be and she cooperates. She doesn’t battle us or wrestle, she concedes that she needs the help and gratefully accepts it. When I laid her down on the carpet one of these times she put her head down but kept her tail wagging in a grateful and sincere thank you.


  • No matter what the current situation is…unconditionally love ❤

Bubbles does not know that her days are numbered. She knows her body is different. She knows her surroundings have been limited. She understands pain more than she ever has. The desire to eat or play has diminished. She tolerates the meds through the day. She never snaps, growls, refuses to cooperate, or shows difficulty in behavior in any way, rather she expresses what she always has: an unconditional, unquestioning, puppy eyed love to all of us who are trying to make her last days as comfortable and full of compassion as we possibly can. We ache and we know, but she simply loves without hesitation and fear.


My hope is that the lessons she has been and is teaching me will remain with me for the rest of my days helping me to understand how to appreciate every day, and every person who loves me, and to love unequivocally and unconditionally no matter what the situation I find myself in. Until we part, I will enjoy my lessons that she is teaching me and the love she is sharing with me.

May we all be more like her and bring a bit of tail wagging, kisses, and unconditional love to each our homes no matter what the day and situation brings.

Wishing you peace,

Terri O’Neill-Borders


Hope and Friendship Foundation
721 Hickory St, Lemont, IL  60439

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Proverbs 31: 8-9


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One Comment
  1. Teresa Klechak permalink

    I can only imagine what you must be going through and feeling I have a little guy Herbie he is a Shih Tzu and he is 15 years old and it’s been him and I for the last 12 years I Read your entire story about bubbles in my prayers and thoughts are with you and your family and bubbles I have a hard time thinking about bubbles God bless you for your compassion

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