Preparing For Goodbye- A Dog Story

I cradled his head as he rested it atop my growing belly, smooshing both slobbery cheeks together. I reached down and gave him a kiss on the lips. This wasn’t an uncommon show of affection for my dog at the time. I was 26. He was 5. He was my “baby.” My 180 lb baby. This time, though, I cried a little. I didn’t want to think of how his life would change when I had an actual human baby. I swore that it wouldn’t.


 This was typical. He spooned with me on the nights Scott worked.

 Of course, I was wrong. I hate that I was wrong, but let’s be real. Having a real baby means pet babies take a back seat, ESPECIALLY pet babies who were babied SO much to begin with.

He hasn’t had a bad life. Since we had kids, he (and our chocolate Labrador Callie) still get plenty of love, but, truthfully, not as much attention. They still live in a safe, warm/cool home with free access to all the couches. They are fed twice a day. They are up to date on vaccinations.


Bruno still gets 2 insulin injections daily, required to manage his Type 1 Diabetes. He was diagnosed with it at 5 months old.

When we got his diagnosis, we cried. It felt like a death sentence. A death sentence for a puppy we adopted just days after our first “baby,” a 2 year old yellow Labrador named Cleo, died after suffocating inside an empty chip bag she retrieved from the trash while we were out to dinner with friends.

We vowed that we would keep him alive for as long as possible, that we would find a way to manage the disease. And so we did. We learned all about how to check a dog’s blood sugar and chart it using a human glucose meter. We learned about insulin curves and researched the best diet for him. We aimed for 6 years old. That would be a really great life for him.


He’s 10.

We did good.

10 is getting up there for a healthy English Mastiff. Their average life expectancy is 10-12 years. We never thought we’d get him this far.

And now he’s old… and tired. He’s moving slower every day, and most of his hours are spent sleeping on the couch. The cataracts (from the diabetes, which have been gradually growing since he was 8 months old) now completely cover both eyes. He can’t see and he barely hears. He runs into walls, and his skin is sagging off of him. Once 180 lbs, he’s now maybe 120.


We know the end is coming.

I took these pictures of him in the bluebonnets yesterday, remembering how much I wanted professional pictures of him taken when he was a puppy. I’m so happy I’m finally able to capture these beautiful moments on my own.

Plans are in the works for a 10 Year Doggie Birthday Party this week or next for both the dogs. We used to celebrate their birthdays every year with a trip to the McDonalds drive through and some treats… before we had kids. Now the kids are old enough that I can’t wait to include them in it.


There is so much more I could write about this. I could talk for days about the guilt. The guilt that that promise I made to that sweet doggy on my lap – that things wouldn’t change- wasn’t fulfilled, the guilt that life did change. I could talk for days about how hard I try to reconcile that, knowing we have never stopped loving him, knowing we never gave up on him, knowing we’ve worked so hard to give him the fullest life possible.


But for now, we just love on him. No trips to the vet have been scheduled, no dates on the calendar, but we are facing reality… bracing ourselves… preparing for goodbye.


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  1. This weekend I am also putting a baby down. She is a 28 year old horse. Once a beautiful girl, now she looks horrible as a disease called cushings has attacked her body and left her Skin, bone, and tons of excess hair. It may sound stupid to some, but this horse has been a confidant, loyal companion, and best friend for over 10 years now. I know what you are feeling. it is hard

  2. I teared up reading this. We are in the same position right now. Our first pet together an orange tabby cat is 10 – he either has Lymphoma or an intestine disease. He used to weigh 18 pounds (FAT CAT) now he weighs 7! 🙁 Terrible. We havent made the appointmetn either but know it is coming. I feel your pain and your guilt. Yet like you, I know we gave Punkin the best life.
    I am so sorry you are having to say goodbye too.

  3. His life may have changed a bit after you had kids, but by the looks of it, he still has a fantastic, loving life. I am sure he loves you just as much as he did before you had kids – and he probably loves them even more.

  4. This had me in tears. We had to put our 9-year-old wolfdog to sleep last August. Cancer had been silently eating away at his brain for two years; by the time the vet caught it, it was too late. We spent those last three months giving him all the love and affection he could stand. I still cry, missing him. I’m wishing peace to your beautiful dog and to you and your family.

  5. Oh, he is beautiful and yes, you done good. I hope you have a wonderful party to celebrate his life!

    And gorgeous photos!! OH how I miss my bluebonnets…

  6. Oh love. My heart aches for/with you. Last summer our big slobbery 14 year old yellow lab was acting the same way and we KNEW it was coming, just not sure when. We kept saying when we are given the sign, we will do the best thing for him and let him go. I finally got the phone call from my husband one day and we laid our big ole furbaby to rest. He was such the gentle giant and I still miss him terribly. He was my childhood dog and it was rough. Sending you lots of virtual hugs to get you through the inevitable. Squeeze him long and hard and tell him you love him. They know. Somehow they just know. *hugs*

  7. I’m sitting here totally crying and feeling the same guilt for my first baby. The photo of him with both your children is just amazing and priceless. Makes me want to do the same while we can. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Oh dear. You made me cry. We had to let go of one of our sweet pugs last year and it was SO hard. I live with the guilt that I sent my “baby” away to live with my parents when things got too hard. She nipped and bit my kids so there was really nothing that could be done about it. I’m glad I still get to see her and she has an awesome backyard to run around and play in. But yes, I understand that guilt. I said that nothing would change. But it did.

  9. This was a beautiful post, Jill. I know how you feel. My Duke is now 5 (a black lab) and has hip dysplasia. We bought him the year after we moved into our house and he was my first baby. He was there through my first miscarriage and I just hugged him and cried. He was ecstatic when we brought home the new member of our “pack”. He loves playing with our daughter even though she tries to ride him like a horse (she’s 3). He doesn’t get as much attention as he deserves, but I know he is cared for and loved in return and that he loves our family with all his heart. There is nothing better than seeing him playing with my Fuss. I can only hope that the end is far away. It will be devastating when it is time. Hugs to you.

  10. Made me tear up 🙁 … my 14 month old saw the pictures and starting laughing and saying “woof woof!”… he loves dogs, especially big cuddly ones like Bruno. I love dogs too and can’t wait until we can get one for our kids to grow up with, but it already makes my heart ache to think of saying goodbye…

  11. Aw:( I’m 34 weeks pregnant with my second and we’re going through the same thing with our 13 year old doggie. It’s really hard to watch them get old. We just don’t know when we’ll have to make the call to take him in for the final goodbye. I wish they lived much longer. They break your heart.

  12. I’ve actually been meaning to write to you for months and months about my own experience with my 15-year-old dog and how I had to say good-bye just before Ella was born and how much my health & pregnancy improved once we did say good-bye. Running a doggie hospice takes a real toll on you – mentally, physically, emotionally. And you already have so much on your emotional plate. Life keeps getting in the way, though, and I never have gotten around to it, obviously.

    Instead I leave you with this, which I send to all my friends when facing this particular loss:

    From the book, “Bones Would Rain from the Sky,” and there’s this great passage:

    “There is a cycle of love and death that shapes the lives of those who choose to travel in the company of animals. It is a cycle unlike any other. To those who have never lived through its turnings or walked
    its rocky path, our willingness to give our hearts with full knowledge that they will be broken seems incomprehensible. Only we know how small a price we pay for what we receive; our grief, no matter how
    powerful it may be, is an insufficient measure of the joy we have been given.”

    Bruno feels your love every day.

  13. It is never easy and I don’t think you can ever fully prepare yourself for the day that you have to let our fur babies go. I put my trusting little fox terrier down on January 2 this year. Her health had declined to the point that I couldn’t watch her be in pain anymore. She loved me and I her until she drew her last breath. I got to be with her until the end and I sat and talked to her and kissed her and cradled her in my arms. She is in a better place with her big brother now and I know that we will all be together again in the end. I miss her. But I am comforted in knowing that very few dogs have ever been loved more or had a better life. The same goes for your big boy. He has been loved and has loved you and your family as it has grown. Love him and brace yourself for the day. Goodbyes are hard but the memories of good times are so sweet. My heart goes out to you and to Bruno.

  14. Our first ‘baby’ came into our lives, 2 years ago next month. And, in 7 months, we’ll be welcoming our first human baby… And, I know his life is going to change – but I’m hoping he won’t mind so much in a year or two when he’s got another human to love him and play with him and chase around the yard.
    Your post made me cry (and not just because I’m an emotional pregnant woman).. but because I dread that day.

  15. Rachar Layman- Ruczynski on

    This weekend I am also putting a baby down. She is a 28 year old horse. Once a beautiful girl, now she looks horrible as a disease called cushings has attacked her body and left her Skin, bone, and tons of excess hair. It may sound stupid to some, but this horse has been a confidant, loyal companion, and best friend for over 10 years now. I know what you are feeling. it is hard.

  16. This is the most heart wrenching post I have read in a long time. I hate it that our furbaby has taken a back seat, yet loves us all the same.

  17. Paul W Wilson on

    Having children does not subtract from a family dog’s life–it enhances it. Dogs take a special delight in teaching children the important things in life. Ours have always embraced and relished that role as they instructed our daughter and son in how to love unconditionally, how to breach social protocols with feigned innocence and how to bring the ball back to the one who threw it. That’s what Jolly and Emily and Luther and Hannah did for our kids. Now Jazzy and Ketch-A-Can do it for our grandkids. And a good dog understands that the introduction of a small human in the established pack is a responsibility, but a joyful one. It did good by him, Jill. Remember, reflect and rejoice.

  18. Bonnie Von Dohre on

    I’m so sorry you’re having to face this. It’s a reality I’ve had to accept with a couple of my horses, but it still hasn’t prepared me for it. I don’t think anything will. My 2 year old rides my 28 year old horse. Now I not only have to face losing her, but also explaining it to my son. I hope that day doesn’t come for a while yet. But I think in a lot of ways, life changes for the better for our pets when we have kids. I can see in Bruno’s face in the one picture that he loves those kids and they love him. All of my pets love to have humans in their lives. As far as they’re concerned, the more the merrier. 🙂

  19. Raphaëlle Thiriet Zilio on

    I’m not a dog person. I like dogs, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t own one, and don’t really get people who “baby” their pets. But this is a really nice post and brought tears to my eyes.

  20. Stacey Casebolt on

    This is the sweetest, most heartbreaking and real post I have read in a long time. I have a two year old Mastiff that I adore, and the thought of ever being without her is more than I want to think about. There is something about their velvety heads, wrinkly faces, and unconditional love that make them amazing.

  21. Sarah Lundberg Johns on

    I love this, and I know that watching a “baby” age is so difficult. I had to put my baby down in January.. She was 15, and I could no longer ignore that she was hurting, could no longer hear, and could hardly walk. The thought of having to leave her with someone else who may not be able to care for her the way I did so that we could travel to Pennsylvania for my own mother’s funeral was just crippling. She passed away in my arms January 2, and my dear mother passed the next day (needless to say, January was tough for us)… The most painful decision I have ever made was having to say goodbye to my sweet Emma dog, but in the long run it was necessary. She was my companion and protector, my best bud.. Not sure I can ever go through it again. You have my sympathy.

  22. Liza Henriquez on

    My Nelly is turning 8 this year..I can’t believe she’s not a puppy anymore, soon after getting her I got pregnant and I regret that I also didn’t keep my promise to her. She’s very much loved, adored, still.. but , let’s face it, she doesn’t get as much attention, her walks and games of ball throwing are far less frequent as she deserves, and she spends most of her day waiting for us to come home from work and school for a few petting moments, and short cuddles.. yet.. she always welcomes us with the same boundless enthusiasm and love.. I can’t believe she’s going to be 8.. I can’t believe time passed and our time left with her is shrinking and I feel I owe her so much more than what I’m giving her… She was there when I found out I was pregnant and was nervously going back and forth around my bed when I felt my first contractions the day my son was born.. 2 days later she met him and she’s loved him so tenderly since he was a little 6lb crier and happily lets his 6yr old self ride her like a pony, pull her ears and hug her so tightly he may hurt her.. yet she always is patient and loving.. Thanks for the reminder that I still have several years, and I must try each day to keep my promise to her, not to love her, because she’s deeply loved, but to give her time… that one on one time she’s been neglected of…. I hope your remaining days with your Bruno are sweet and you can continue to show him how special he is for you all.. He hasn’t loved you any less you know!

  23. Of course his life changed when your human babies came along, but, I suspect it was for the better. His ‘Pack’ got bigger and he had more people to love, and to love him. I’m actually weepy reading this, and that Jill is not something I do often. I grew up with dogs (on a farm) and I loved each one until I thought I’d burst, and cried for days each time we said goodbye to them. You’ve given him a wonderful life, and I’m sure the promise you broke made him happier.

  24. I just had a baby and also promised my dog things wouldn’t change, and they gave more than I ever knew possible.

  25. Christina Petrauskis Mars on

    We just put my 14 year old beagle down last night. He had a huge cancerous mass in his abdomen. We didn’t want him to suffer, but knew, over the weekend, that his time was near.

    I loved him and he was such a part of our family. Hugs to all of you.

  26. Lisa Humphries on

    Whew…brought me to tears! My Blazer will be 9 this June, and while that is not terribly old for a Jack Russell & Chihuahua mix (he’s my PepperJack), I dread the day that he leaves me. I got him shortly after my 1st marriage ended in a horrible way, and he was my only baby (and super spoiled) until my son was born 18 months ago. Blazer was even my deal-breaker when I started dating my now husband almost 5 years ago…either he had to be okay with Blazer being a big part of my life, or he (my now hubs) had to hit the road.

    I hope you get to enjoy Bruno for as long as he is comfortable. Hugs to you all!

  27. Oh, how sad, it’s so hard to say goodbye to pets. A little off topic, but I loved seeing that pacifier in Leyna’s mouth – my youngest is the same age and still a paci addict, even though every one we meet in public is so judgy-judgy about it!

  28. <3 <3 He has been a lucky dog to have you all for family. He'll never stop being talked about, long after he's gone. Enjoy the rest of your time with him, Jill, my heart goes out to you.

  29. I can’t even fathom the day we lose our dog. When we got him, he was the same size as my 6 month old. Now he’s 125 pounds and still rolls around with my toddler like they’re the same size. It’s amazing what a dog can do for a family and how they expect so little in return. Also, what’s in your dog food?

  30. I wish I could come give you a hug. My sweet girl, like your sweet boy, is diabetic. Insulin twice a day and blind in one eye and going in the next. Hugs to you and your sweet fur baby. <3

  31. Michelle Jones Nolan on

    Wahhhhhhhh!!! Bless his heart. And yours. And mine….my ‘original babies’ are almost 8, 9 and 10. I know the next few years are gonna be hard 🙁

  32. Paula Schillo LaManna on

    You did not break your promise. Go, check out a shelter, read the news of abused, abandoned pets… no, you did not break your promise. What you did was give your fur baby four more human hands to love him. Your family grew and your time was more divided, but they were a part of the family, fur and all. I lost my 14 year old pup when my daughter was 7 months old. I too felt guilty, like I could have done more. It’s been 5 years, 2 months and 2 days. The pictures of her still adorn the walls, my daughter talks about her although she doesn’t remember. I now realize, my pup gave me a gift in staying and leaving when she did. You did not break your promise, you fulfilled it by giving your pup a loving family that was more than just you. Enjoy McDonalds. I believe there is one in heaven and it has a doggie walk thru window. I’ll send a prayer to Cedar to look for Bruno when he arrives. She’ll take him to McDonalds and put it on my tab, which I’m sure is massive! HUGS!

  33. Brandi Stewart on

    This brought tears, Jill. I’m so sorry you’re having to face this, but just know that you’ve given this dog an amazing life. He may not have been spoiled as much as you would have liked, but he was LOVED, and for dogs, that’s really all they want. <3

  34. Kristin Runge on

    I’m not an animal person (normally.) But this is beautiful, and pulls at my hearts strings. 🙁 How terribly sad.

  35. Magnolia Mae Weaver on

    I started bawling before I even finished the first sentence. my first baby was my chihuahua and I had her from the time I was three till I had to leave for college. it was the hardest decision I had to make putting her down but I knew I couldn’t handle the phone call from home and I wanted to be there for her. she has a beautiful little iron cross and lavender growing where I buried her. the most beautiful thing was that next summer sunflowers started growing by her cross. we never planted them and they are my favorite flower. she knew I would love them and she used to in the sunflower fields with me and just get lost in that giant world. thank you for posting this story, so many of us needed it.

  36. Liesal Hoffman on

    It just sucks to have to say goodbye to animals. We just had to put down my family dog of 13 years. My mom is taking it so hard. He was her constant companion. I have nothing but sympathy because for you.

  37. We are in the same situation. Our 13-year old black lab, Cole, is getting old. He’s pretty much deaf and his sight is diminished. His nose still works great though. He was our first baby and has cheated death twice – parvo as a puppy and a rattlesnake bite about 5 years ago. We thought we might lose him to the rattlesnake, but if there’s one thing Cole has taught me is to have heart. He suffered through all the treatments like a champ, maybe because he knew we loved him so much. We’re waiting for the inevitable day and will be heartbroken, but remembering the joy and happiness (and his capers) will help us get through. Thanks for posting.

  38. {{ hugs }}

    We recently went thru this with our Tootsie (chocolate lab) and did end up having her put down this past December, once she lost the ability to walk. And we’re facing it again as our sweet Buddy (Anatolian mix) is showing signs that his age is catching up to him. It’s a rough road, but filled with love every step of the way.

    Hang in there. {{ hugs }}

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  42. “Their average life expectancy is 10-12 years.”

    I’m sorry, but you don’t understand what word average means. Average is not a range.

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