A dog’s last day on earth

July 15, 2014 • 10:23 am

Today we’ll leave the asterisk out of “dog,” for I just saw a pictorial post on BuzzFeed that made me weep. It’s called “I died today,” by Duke Roberts. Duke Roberts was a dog with terminal cancer, and the sequence of pictures shows his last day on earth, including his final injection.But he had a great day, and didn’t seem to be in much pain. They even gave him a last meal: a whole plate of cheeseburgers:


Now DO NOT READ THE ARTICLE if you don’t want to burst into tears, for if you have a sentient bone in your body, you will. It’s not the sadness alone, but the love that the people showed to their dog. Like cats, they’re family, too, and though I wouldn’t own one, I understand perfectly how Duke’s owners felt.


87 thoughts on “A dog’s last day on earth

  1. It is, of course, the ultimate responsibility of anyone who has a pet which is suffering intolerably, is to ensure that their leaving this planet is as gentle and as kind as can be. Pity that the same privilege is denied humans.

    1. Excellent point.
      Now why would that be?

      Is it because grandma has some worldly goods that might make her a ‘target’ for euthanasia, while pets have not? The ‘slippery slope’ argument?

      Or is it the influence of our good old obnoxious friend religion (“it is only God’s to decide”)? After all, pets have no souls.
      [Btw. As a child, that alone was one of the reasons Heavens did not really strike me as an attractive place to go, even though I still was a staunch believer at tender age].

      Some other reason?

      1. Ha! Great minds! I just wrote about the pets don’t go to heaven thing elsewhere in this thread and also the euthanasia for humans. I think it is religion personally. It is one of the nasty leftovers we haven’t gotten rid of yet.

  2. I lost two dogs 6 months apart in 2012…both from cancer. I can honestly say it was the two worst days of my life and I was depressed for some time afterwards. Damn…here come the tears. I won’t be able to watch this, just the one picture had me choked up.

  3. Of the cats we have lost, 12-year old Natasha who returned from her annual vet visit, hissed at me and ran off into the forest never to be seen again; unknown-year old Smokey who was simply found dead one morning; and 14-year old Boris, who had several cancers and operations – of all those great cats, the friendly gentle giant Boris is the one who haunts me because I took him in to be put down.

    Worst day of my life (so far) and I’ve had a few. Although he was in pain and couldn’t move his back legs, he still fought for life in those final moments and I would like to say that it took me a long time to recover, but I can’t say that just yet.

    1. The decisions are so hard to make. You keep second-guessing yourself…I still feel worst about 8-yr old Sassy, who started peeing everywhere, including my bed. No somatic cause could be found. I now have a 14-yr old cat and a 12- yr old dog, so the time’s gonna come before too long. Sob, sob

      1. It is awful because a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of that sad day with my current dog. She is so smart (knows the names of all her toys) and has such a personality – she is an extreme extrovert who loves all humans (though other dogs can go either way).

        1. Old Sandy is nearly 22 and on his last legs, although we said that LAST year! He’s just OLD. Dotters around, sleeps, eats and still recognizes his litter box. Now he’s on a cat version of chocolate and whiskey diet of chicken broth, cheese, cream and anything he’ll lap up. We’re just going to coddle him and see him out like a revered old member of our family – which he is!

  4. Wow. That was so well done. It’s all the more wonderful to realize that Dukey was apparently acquired as an older rescue dog, the type that are very hard to place despite all they have to offer.

    I cried of course.

    1. RSI from too much belly rubbing? One of my cats is like that; Chairman Meow has never had enough belly rubs, he just falls blissfully asleep and expects you to continue regardless.

  5. Sadly reminds me of the last days of a rescue dog companion of my family. She was a kind soul and the most empathetic creature I have yet met. We gave her a grand send off for a couple of days at home then she went to sleep in my arms held close. It was a good death.

  6. Thank you for this – I have always been a bit bothered by your spelling of d*g, but over the years I have come to accept it. We have two dogs; a 13 year old,110 lb Great Pyrenees x Black Lab who has been with us since he was a puppy & an 11 year old Short-haired Pointer, whom we adopted six months ago after his “mum” died. We also have two cats,an eighteen-year old Tabby,whom we’ve had since he was a kitten and and a 2 year-old Tortie female whom we adopted from a local shelter almost 2 years ago. This was a very touching story, especially since 3 of our 4 pets are now, like me,getting on in years.

  7. I can’t even look at it because just reading this post chokes me up.

    I put my dog down a few years ago when she got cancer (and she looked a lot like that dog in the photo); she developed it suddenly. We took photos with her and she was having a hard time eating but they give you stuff that helps the dog eat. It was such an awful day and I kept it together so well until I told the vet that she needed to be euthanized. Then I just was a blubbering mess and I never cry in public!

  8. Beautiful. It is funny how our 4 legged friends so effortlessly bring out the best in all of us.
    And I urge everyone who is dog or cat inclined to adopt from your local shelter.

  9. Maybe later. I went through this with my girl Ginny just last month. Also cancer, but we didn’t know that until after. No cheeseburgers, though – she wasn’t eating *anything* there at the end.

  10. Aw, crap. Yep, it got me. I really shouldn’t have clicked it.

    We lost our cat, Godiva, last year after she suddenly became ill and we had to put her to sleep. I certainly feel the pain of Duke’s family, and scrolling through this story opened up a lot of old wounds for me. OK, now I’m a wreck for the day.

  11. Yeah. Tears rolling down my cheeks as I write this. We lost our little Jack Russell X to cancer this year. He was 16 years old, but it still hurts. We still have his sister, from the same litter that we got as rescue dogs.
    Also lost a cat at 17 years of age, and an 8 months old rescued kitten that was run over in our road. We only had him 6 months, but we loved him to bits. It’s been a bad year for our rescued animals in my house. It hurts.

  12. Went through this just 6 months ago with my old 13 year-old mix, “Alyeska.” A wonderful dog. Before her went “Tazlina,” and before that “Sport,” hit by a car and buried on the very spot he landed, and before that “Wiz,” who had the good sense to die of a massive heart attack in my car. Before that, my Vietnam War dog, “Mike”, who I had to leave behind.

    In retirement, we now have “Vinny,” a shelter dog who, at 1 year, we can barely keep up with. Point being: it was, and is, all good, as the kids say.

  13. Shouldn’t have looked. I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut now.

    Kudos to the family that gave Duke such a loving home.

  14. My mother was 89 years old when she died and our 18-year-old cat, Smudge, died 15 days later. I wasn’t with either of them, but I am much sadder at not being with my cat when she died than not being with my mother. I find this interesting: we generally recognise that one of the curses of being human is the knowledge that we will die. Yet for those of us who love animals, it is their unawareness of their forthcoming deaths that is hard to bear. Smudge’s son Hannibal had to be killed, because of kidney failure. Until the vet inserted the needle,he kept on trying to do what he usually did, chasing birds, stretching on his scratching post,even though he could only drag himself a few steps at a time. Again, I found that watching this in the knowledge that the executioner was on her way, almost unbearable. All this suggests that we somehow see the awareness of our own death as some sort of advantage, rather than a curse, or alternatively that animal death reminds us most rawly of our own mortality.

    1. I think a big part of the sadness stems from the knowledge that we are killing our animals; even though we know it’s for the best, we can’t help but feel awful about it.

      I’ve been known to wish that our geriatric animals would just go run in front of a bus. (I’d never let them, of course.)

      1. It is also coming to terms with that vis a vis our own loss. I came to make the euthanization decision because not doing so would condemn my dog to internal bleeding and painful organ failure and the only reason I had to keep her alive was because I’d miss her when she was gone.

        Euthanization is the most selfless thing we can do for our pets (and our other human loved ones if religion didn’t stop us in many countries).

  15. Having to put down any pet, especially one with a high degree of intelligence and empathy like a dog or cat, is a terrible emotional strain.

    In 2007 I had to put down my dog because his arthritis had gotten too bad to treat. He had lived a happy 14 years, my long time companion. I hugged him, said “I’m sorry” and cried as the vet administered the drugs.

    My heart goes out to anyone that has to go through this.

    The pain is acute, but the grief is short lived (though I still miss my dog). The years of love and companionship are still worth it IMHO.

  16. “Now DO NOT READ THE ARTICLE if you don’t want to burst into tears”

    Dohhhh I really should have heeded your advice ;_;

  17. Ah, yup, won’t be watching that. I have a 13 year-old beagle who needed spinal surgery last year and narrowly escaped her own big sleep. She has a few more years of sleeping 16 hours a day ahead of her 🙂

  18. Ah, yup, won’t be watching that. I have a 13 year-old beagle who needed spinal surgery last year and narrowly escaped her own big sleep. She has a few more years of sleeping 16 hours a day ahead of her 🙂

  19. Ah, yup, won’t be watching that. I have a 13 year-old beagle who needed spinal surgery last year and narrowly escaped her own big sleep. She has a few more years of sleeping 16 hours a day ahead of her 🙂

  20. Ah, yup, won’t be watching that. I have a 13 year-old beagle who needed spinal surgery last year and narrowly escaped her own big sleep. She has a few more years of sleeping 16 hours a day ahead of her 🙂

  21. Ah, yup, won’t be watching that. I have a 13 year-old beagle who needed spinal surgery last year and narrowly escaped her own big sleep. She has a few more years of sleeping 16 hours a day ahead of her 🙂

  22. Lovely picture but I can’t afford to cry right now. I already have sinusitis and any more clogging in that area is unacceptable. I’m glad both dog and owner had such a good time together.

  23. My daughter has a little rescue dog she found at the Humane Society. She (my daughter) lives upstairs from us and Mabel (the dog) comes to visit pretty much daily. She’s a nice little old lady of a thing. You can tell how much she loves her new human just watching her. I don’t know how many years Mabel has left, but it breaks my heart just thinking about the day that will come in time.

    I haven’t owned a dog or a cat myself for about forty years. I watch that little fuzzball and wonder what the world is like for a pet mammal.

    (I do keep some African Cichlids, but amazing as they are, they aren’t quite the same. One dies and it doesn’t hurt quite so much. I can leave it as food for the local raccoons without much stress.)

  24. Didn’t read the linked article ; unlikely to tell me something new. If I’d been driving, I’d have checked the rear-view mirror. Reverse if necessary.
    How did Wobblypike (Shakespeare) put it? “If it were to be done, ‘t were best done quickly.”

  25. I once thought our doggies or kitties would get old and slowly fail and just not wake up someday. But that hasn’t been the case for any of ours. Heartbreakingly sad to have to make that decision. I love how these people made Duke Roberts last day so fun.

  26. I had a chocolate lab named Chocco and he died early in the morning on his “last day”, about 11 years ago. I struggled with the decision to have him put to rest and had only made the decision the night before when he couldn’t even keep down liverwurst. I awoke to him yelping in his dog-loo and found him still when I went out to see what was wrong. I often wish I would have hesitated a day less so he could have gone with someone by his side.

  27. Had to look, had to cry.

    We euthanized our dog 6 months ago when she was only 6 years old because she developed hemolytic anemia and was losing the battle. So hard, especially since she was so healthy. To see the sadness reflected in my 11 year old son’s eyes as she passed away (his choice) was devastating to me. Life is a series of delicious moments rudely interrupted by interludes of loss of friends and family that we so dearly love.

    1. As a 6 yr old, I gave our black lab puppy a last kiss good bye as my mom took him to be euthanized because he developed PRA & was completely blind. It was when I learned the art of suppression and compartmentalization that makes me appear more resilient than I am. It came in handy a few years later when I witnessed a van driver change lanes to hit my dog and kill him instantly.

      My mom told me later that me kissing the puppy good bye really upset her though she didn’t show it. Of course I was upset too though to anyone else I appeared normal. The inner lives of children are as complex as adults.

  28. Very sad – and uplifting.

    Just a pity we can’t treat our fellow humans with such compassion at their time of death.

  29. OK, my turn as Grinch today.

    Shameless anthropomorphism. What really happened:

    “I listened to the WOOF in the distance. And thought WOOF”

    “And I thought about WOOF”

    “I said WOOF to my WOOF friend WOOF.”

    “Well, I didn’t say goodbye. I said WOOF.”

    Come on! “‘Til we meet again”? That’s projecting human belief in life after death on to D*GS! “Dogs go to Heaven” is not a claim I ever thought I’d seriously see assented to here, of all places.

    And yes I did so cry too. Of course.

    1. No-one is affirming the anthropomorphising or the wishful thinking about an after-life.
      But we understand the love and sadness of saying good-bye to a beloved member of the family. These people were honoring that in the kindest and most caring way they could think of, and that is what people are assenting to.

      1. The pictures and what they’re about, yes, heartbreaking.

        But “No-one is affirming the anthropomorphising or the wishful thinking about an after-life.”?

        The words that are put into the dog’s mouth in the first person (first dog?) and past tense, including “I died today” and “I said ’til we meet again.” clearly imply advanced canine cognition and a canine afterlife.

        1. I didn’t say there was no anthropomorphising in the original article. I mean on this website. No-one here is affirming that sort of thinking.

          People aren’t touched by the wishful thinking in the piece, they are touched by the love and the dignity this family gave their pet on his last day.

    2. I used to tell believers that I had no interest in what they had to say since they believe animals do not go to heaven. It threw them right off but it is illustrative of the clash between modern secular values and antiquated religious ones. I don’t see other animals as inferior to humans and I also recognize that they feel pain, they have emotional lives (where they feel joy, fear, anger, love) and that they also have inner lives. That’s not anthropomorphisizing, it is just science, empathy and compassion.

      1. I don’t disagree with any of that. It was the first-[person] words that stuck in my throat.

        The sharp separation between “animals” and “humans” continues largely because religionists will not accept evolution. It’s now a commonplace in the thoughtful community that birds are dinosaurs, and that’s only been certain within the last few decades, but the animal/human divide persists though Darwin broke it down in 1871 with “The Descent of Man”.

    1. A few months ago a guy greeted my dog Munson on the street, gave him a big hug, and then stood up with tears in his eyes and said “you should never have a dog because they destroy you when they’re gone” and strode off. 🙁

      1. Awww. My old Auntie is like that. She won’t get another dog because of the heart break but she loves them.

  30. When my parents had our first dog put down at age 5 to spare him from a painful uncurable condition, it was like a huge wound opened up. Silence around the dinner table for months. Things were never the same again.

    It was 25 years before I got another dog, a life-changing experience. I had to put him to sleep at age 10 after a cancer relapse. This was the longest relationship of my adult life. I made this short tribute film a little while later.

      1. I’m jealous! Like a schmuck I took no vacations other than supplementing long weekends. I complain about it at work but it’s all my fault.

    1. Nice tribute. I’m curious about the quarantine – what are the facilities like & how does it all work? I always thought it would be very stressful for the dog but perhaps the facilities are much nicer than I imagine.

      1. Quarantine facilities are pretty stark unfortunately, but the worst bit undoubtedly is leaving your dog there after a visit. I wanted to go into the other holding pens and give each
        dog a hug.

        The only time Bondi had to do quarantine in three continents was entering Australia. Until this year that was 30 days, but it’s come down to about 10 days.

        1. I’m glad the time period seems to have shortened. It used to be 6 months in NZ and now I see they too have shortened it to 10 days.

            1. Well over a decade ago. I brought my first dog into the UK in 2005 and he was processed through the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow in a few hours.

              It’s only animals who are being brought from regions without sufficient disease controls that might do quarantine, and they’re not likely to even get an import certificate that would allow them to be put on a plane. People who try to smuggle their pets through other means are likely to face the animal being put down on the spot.

              1. I was talking about the 60s when it was 6 months and why we had to put ten- year-old Till Eulenspiegel to sleep. We kids thought he was given to a nice lady at a farm and dudn’t figure it out until years later. My parents felt that 6 months in a kennel would be much crueler to Till…

    2. That was beautifully done, Mike. What a gorgeous Malamute–with a great smile!

      Yes, very sad, but at times I did laugh out loud–well-written script. You and Bondi were both very lucky to have each other.

      1. Thank you. I’m also very lucky to have had lightning strike again with another wonderful malamute, Munson. He’s not quite so well-travelled as Bondi, but he did spend three years living in the French countryside with me. We’re back in Sydney again which is a far far less dog-friendly place than Europe or North America.

        1. Sounds as if you make your own luck, knowing how to raise a dog; and also as if the breed is amiable and adaptable.

          Munson is far better-travelled than any of my pets! 🙂

          (My first shelter dog did live with me in New York, then Texas, then Massachusetts, then Michigan. But not quite the same…)

          I’m surprised that Australia is not so dog friendly!

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