DSM-5_CoverI know I’ve sounded calm, even accepting, about my departure plans for Frankie. And much of the time I am. Operation Spoil Frankie has been a nice diversion.

But then there are the times when the facade breaks open and I realize that a) I’m still in a form of denial and b) I have gone down some crazy lanes.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

It hadn’t occurred to me that saying goodbye to Frankie would also involve saying good-bye to his vet, Dr. E — maybe not forever, but it’s an end to a particular relationship that was very meaningful.

Worse, it was done by voice mail. And I’m convinced that T-Mobile, which has been playing fast and loose with my messages, will delete this series.

I’d finally gotten up the nerve to call Dr. E and ask him whether he thought Frankie could be helpful in medical research; it’s something I wanted to know yet dreaded asking. After a couple of rounds of phone tag, I got a message from Dr. E that said, in essence, that he knows of no medical programs. The message also included these words of farewell: “You’ve taken such good care of Frankie. Say good-bye to him for me.”

I lost it  — and still sob, every time I think of it, including now.

I felt like I was losing a dear friend, a vital and gentle guide to the ways of Frankie, my first dog. I have no doubt that the farewell was heartfelt, that Dr. E genuinely cares for his long-time patients. (And yes, I will write him a note when the deed is done and tell him how much he meant to me.)

But it wasn’t only that. Once your beloved vet says good-bye to your pet, and approves of your decision to let go, there’s no turning back.

I suppose there’s one part of my decision to postpone the inevitable until November 1 that has denial as its source. Maybe the hospice vet was wrong, I’ve been thinking. She saw Frankie at his worst, having woken him up from a deep sleep in mid-morning. He’s far perkier in the evening these days.

And Frankie’s junk food diet —  the cat food and franks I’ve been giving him to spoil him instead of organic no-grain kibble and plain chicken — seems to have made him more alert. Maybe it was his boring low fat diet that got him depressed, giving him no reason to get up in the morning?

Oh, so you expected rational?

“You’ve Taken Such Good Care of Frankie”

That praise, coming from Dr. E, means a lot to me.

Dr. E. is the third medical professional who has said words to that effect. The first was the eye specialist who said that Frankie’s vision was surprisingly good considering how long he’s had diabetes; she attributed it to my care. The second was the hospice vet who said that it was unusual to find a diabetic dog who was still relatively healthy after five years of living with the condition.

Friends, real and virtual — yes, that means you, gentle readers — have said similar things.

It’s too bad I don’t believe it.

None of you have a clue about what goes on behind the scenes… the times I’ve forgotten to refill Frankie’s water bowl for at least an hour, when I’ve made him ride with me in the car without soothing music, stood too long chatting on the trail with friends who have a dog that made Frankie nervous…

But the prime exhibit of my lack of  caretaking skills: I’m convinced that if  I hadn’t allowed Frankie to take steroids for two weeks when he injured his back 5 years ago, he wouldn’t have gotten diabetes in the first place. And if I was really a good caretaker, I wouldn’t have allowed him on the couch or on my bed, so he wouldn’t have injured his back jumping off high places to begin with.

In other words, if only I had second guessed Dr. E.,  who prescribed the steroids, or prevented Frankie from behaving like a dog, I might have deserved the kudos I’m now getting.

Bottom line:  If I was a really good caretaker, I wouldn’t be saying good-bye to Frankie. I would be able keep him alive — and of sound body and mind — indefinitely.

Delusions of grandeur alternating with deep feelings of inadequacy: Is there a formal name for Dog Departure Derangement Syndrome in the DSM-5?

Update: You all are the nicest, most supportive readers a blogger could hope for — I thank you for all these comments. But as I explain in my next post, although I have moments of doubt (and derangement), I was exaggerating here for effect. Most of the time I know I’ve done the best that I can for Frankie, that I don’t have super powers.

18 thoughts on “Dog Departure Derangement Syndrome”

  1. Oh Edie … I somehow feel this long goodbye with Frankie may be harder on you than if things had progressed quickly and beyond your control. Hindsight is always 20/20 and it’s easy to look back over Frankie’s lifetime and second guess your decisions. Please, give yourself a break. At each point in Frankie’s life, you made the best decision you could given the information you had. You’ve been so dedicated to him – always taking care to thoroughly research the conditions that have popped up and figure out the best course of action. And, surely, Frankie is holding no grudge. Try to looking at yourself through Frankie’s eyes and I think you’ll have a change of heart. Hugs to you, my friend.

  2. Repeat after me – now it is my turn – I am a most excellent caretaker of Frankie and he enjoyed life as long as he could, wanted and was able to, because of me.
    Second guessing yourself in “what if..” is only natural Edie, but it doesn’t change the fact your are the absolute very best thing to happen for Frankie in his life.

  3. Edie, you have been the best friend and advocate that Frankie could have had. You HAVE taken such good care of him. Sit with that.

    I think what you are going through is quite normal. I have done it myself… all of the “what ifs” and “I should haves” that come up frequently during this time you are in now. I think that these fall under the bargaining phase of the 5 stages of grief model. Even though I didn’t “bargain” as much as just wish things were different or that I had done or seen something earlier to change the present time.

    Keep trying to pull your focus back to the first thought: “you HAVE taken such good care of him”and the fact that he has had a most wonderful life in your care. Lucky dog. Lucky you.


  4. I agree with Amy. With 20/20 hindsight glasses it is easy to see all of the other scenarios that could have been. However, I think we all make the best decisions we can at the time. If he had never gotten diabetes you would probably be proud of yourself for making the “right choice”. It is wonderful that you have the luxury to say goodbye to Frankie on your own terms but it comes with its own unique set of drawbacks. Please don’t use this precious time to beat up on yourself for the choices you made. I know Frankie wouldn’t be so ctitical of you.

    1. Here! Here! I’m with Vera. I have so many times beaten myself over the head for all the things I did that lead Mary Lou down her horrible (and too early) demise, but I also look back at all the fabulous times we had, the wonderful things I WAS able to do for my adorable, sweet, crazy little girl. Sweet, sweet Edie, your boy loves and adores you, and if he could grab your face with his paws, as you’ve most assuredly done with him countless times, he would undoubtedly speak the words written by Miss Vera here on this page.

      Much love from Padfoot, George and me. Your doubts may haunt you for a long time to come, but never will you be without the knowledge that you were loved and so was he.

  5. Gosh, haven’t we all been there… Essentially we blame ourselves for being human, imperfect, mortal beings who cannot cheat death for those we love. But I think it’s our humanity, our imperfectness, and our mortality that make us such excellent caretakers in the first place.

    It’s impossible to know what might have been different but at the same time, the current situation may even have been the best one. Had you been the kind of person to second guess your veterinarian or prevent Frankie from jumping, you may not have gotten a dog at all. And wouldn’t that be a tragic thing?

    I am so glad you and Frankie had each other. I hope… Well, I just hope. Take care.

  6. Just a gentle reminder, this is a “guilt-free zone for good dog owners.” Grief counseling is not my field, but from my lay perspective what you are experiencing is totally normal. Denial or no, it’s normal. All I have to offer is my own experience from when I was in the depths of the vortex of grief. I took my share of hallucinatory drugs in my youth and all I can say is that grieving is an altered state of consciousness. At least it was for me. I remember the mantra I repeated to myself the first time I partook. “Let go, let go, let go. Don’t resist.” Bad trips happen when you try to hold on, when you try to control the experience,” I told me self. Those very same words came to my aid when Sarah died during surgery and when Morgan “told me” she was done with this life and my vet, a dear friend, and I helped to softly exit. Sometimes I felt like grief grabbed me when I least expected it and shook me around like an old sock or wrung me out like a wet rag. Other times I would think to myself that I was feeling better only to have the ground yanked out from beneath my feet and a tumbling I would go. Just because what I’m about to say is a cliche doesn’t mean it isn’t true, at least it’s true for me – the way out is through. I hope I haven’t offended you with my comments. You know you are in my heart and thoughts.

  7. Oh, Edie; I’m crying with you. I have my first dogs, too, and nothing’s wrong with them, and still I feel guilty that I’m not somehow better for them or more intuitive or a damn dog, for heaven’s sake! That’s just such normal human response, I think.
    I suppose that none of us posting here can really make you feel better, but one of these days somewhere … well .
    Dogs don’t seem to know about the ‘coulda-woulda-shoulda’ stuff. Maybe you could take a look at yourself thru Frankie’s eyes? I’ll bet he’s not feeling those things.
    And, you’ve made this blog a “guilt-free zone for all of us. Any chance you can cut yourself some slack?

  8. Edie – it’s normal to second guess yourself at this point. I’ve lost enough pets to know that it just means you ARE a good pet parent. You want what’s best for Frankie – even if it’s the toughest thing you have ever done. Believe Dr. E. when he tells you that you did the best you could. xo

  9. Edie
    You have taken really good care of Frankie whether you believe it or not. You were there every 12 hours to give him his insulin shot and that’s a helluva commitment. We all have the would’ve, could’ve, should’ve syndrome; it’s human nature even about our own health.

    You gave Frankie an amazing life whether you believe it or not. Dogs die even though we believe they will live forever.

    I think every veterinarian practice should send a sympathy card; it’s good public relations. Painter’s vet did not. Lily who not only had one vet but also went to see a specialist received two cards. Maybe because her vet handled the cremation and I knew her vet on a personal level as we both worked on the Tucson Dog Protection ballot, the vet made a donation to Morris Animal Foundation in Lily’s name. That was touching. Then she had also gone to SAVEC but we had stopped going probably about 6 months prior. Nevertheless I had spent hundreds of dollars there and I don’t know how they knew because I never told them — also sent a sympathy card.

  10. Of course, you know that nothing is indefinite and all things come to an end, no matter how hard one tries.

    What really helped me was an animal communicator. Let me know if you want her contact.

  11. Oy, hard times.
    Of course, if we knew then what we know now… applies to so much in life. Just think, the guilt would be so much more intense if we would have had children. I try to live like my dogs do, in the moment. Mostly I fail at it but I think it is still a good goal.

  12. And if wishes were horses then beggars would ride…We can all play the blame game and the woulda shoulda coulda game but to no avail…You were the very best caretaker of Frankie that you could be and Frankie knows it…I’ll join those saying please stop beating your self and enjoy these weeks with Frankie..create a few final memories and be at peace with yourself

  13. I completely understand your post. I have just moved out of the home with the man of my dreams and I am still partly in complete denial. Not only am I in denial but I am now second guessing every decision I made in relation to this relationship, what I said, what I did looking for somewhere I have made a mistake.

    I am sending you a massive hug and just letting you know that life sucks, and if you want you can join me in the foot stomping and complaints of it’s not fair. Hug!

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