For most of my adult life, I’ve been resistant to getting a pet, despite the fact that I’m a major animal lover. This is primarily due to a traumatic experience from my early teen years, where my dog died suddenly and unexpectedly while under my care.
I was raised around animals, with my most memorable formative years spent with two dogs: a golden lab mix and an Australian blue heel. The golden lab and I never much cared for one another, as she was a surely and low energy dog that did not enjoy being commanded by the youngest member of the family. The Heeler, however, was a wonderful dog – perpetually energetic, loving, and always willing to play and reveling in following complicated commands and being rewarded.
The lab mix was significantly older than the blue heeler, as much as 4-5 years, but the blue heeler had been brought in as a puppy and grew up knowing nothing but days spent with the lab. They played together, slept together, and spent many lonely afternoons with the family gone at work or school together.
When I was finishing up my 7th year at school, the lab unfortunately suffered a stroke, or some other form of neurological injury. Her head was consistently tilted to the left, and she had difficulty turning or looking to the right. She carried on for another half a year before suffering from another stroke, at which point she could no longer walk and could not raise her head without debilitating tremors.
After sending her off tearfully, we continued on with our lives, but the blue heeler was never the same. She never again would happily jump in our arms when prompted, greet us excitedly at the door, or chase us around the pool in a vain attempt to herd us away from the water.
In short, she was heartbroken by the departure of her friend. It did not take long for her to join her in her journey to the unknown.
About a year later, I took the blue heeler on a walk in my neighborhood. At reaching the halfway point, the dog suddenly yelped and fell to the ground. I ran over to her, screaming and crying out her name and asking what was wrong. I watched her breathe her last few pained breaths before going still, the last bit of air in her lungs escaping in a quiet sigh. With that, she was gone. We buried her in our yard with the ashes of her friend.
Needless to say, this troubled me greatly as a young teen. We knew she had been greatly affected by the death of her friend, but we had no idea what effect this would have on her health.
So it is a fear of the unknown that has kept me from owning more pets as the years have passed by, but in that time, much has changed. Veterinary diagnostics has advanced at pace with the rest of our technology, and it may help prevent tragedies like the one I experienced, or at least give prior warning so that we may mentally prepare ourselves for it.
If you are concerned with your pet’s health, consider getting in contact with Carly Saelinger, the Cardiac Vet. She can provide expert veterinary care consultation services and provide the appropriate diagnosis early enough that you can avoid a situation like mine. She can be reached at: