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Remembering Bravo-Dawg, A Very Good Boy

by | Mar 6, 2021 | Dog Training & Care | 48 comments

We knew this day would come, but it still rocked us to our soul. Bravo died and earned his angel wings on March 4, 2021 at 4:30 pm, surrounded by his people and with my arms around his failing body. Euthanasia hurts those left behind more than the beloved pet. Bravo wagged until the end. He was three years and one month old.

I just realized that March 4 was Shadow-Pup’s first birthday. Awww damn… So any pictures on this post will be HAPPY pictures because that’s how we’ll remember him. Always grinning, head cocked to one side, tail waving, and loving on Karma-Kat and Shadow.

Bravo’s Cancer Journey

I hope the story of Bravo’s short life might help other dog lovers facing similar situations. There are a few things we would do differently if given the chance. I pray you never go through this.

A year ago, Bravo began favoring his front leg. His veterinarian thought a strain or sprain, and Rimadyl helped for a time. When the limp returned, X-rays revealed the horrible news: osteosarcoma. Y’all have followed along on his bone cancer journey ever since, offering prayers and support, cheers with the good news and virtual hugs with the bad.

Cancer Treatment Brings Hope

Through it all, Bravo remained brave, a happy boy eager to play keep-away with his “big ball” on a rope. And a joyous big brother when Shadow-Pup arrived as if in answer to the many prayers. His stoic attitude and quick recovery following amputation amazed us. Even his oncology team including Dr. Zachary Wright and Dr. Rachel Kovac at the Animal Diagnostic Center told how his kisses and happy wags brought the entire staff to give him the attention he loved. Bravo’s primary veterinarian Dr. Clay Morris and the staff at Brakebill Veterinary Hospital cheered him on and gave him (and his human family) wonderful support and care.

We knew cancer would take him eventually but wanted to give him months–or longer if possible–with no pain and a normal doggy life. Bravo did very well, too. He finished five rounds of chemotherapy and felt fine. Three months later, we held our breath over his follow-up lung X-ray (bone cancer typically metastasizes there), and his lungs remained healthy and clear. He celebrated his birthday and had his second lung X-ray on February 3rd–still no sign of cancer. Oh, we thought he’d beaten the odds!

Listen To Your Heart When They’re “Off”

But less than two weeks later, during the week of the horrific freezing weather, Bravo acted off. He tripped. Acted weak and unsteady. Slept constantly. Snarked at his best dog buddy Shadow-Pup. He hated the cold weather and barely moved off the patio to eliminate. All this we attributed to the ice and cold, but when it continued despite warmer weather, we called Dr. Clay. I’d noticed Bravo’s tummy looked swollen. And so, I searched my resources to find something, anything treatable that might have caused the change. Anything but a reoccurrence of cancer.

What I feared came true. On March 1st, Bravo’s blood tests showed severe anemia caused his weakness. Dr. Clay suspected internal bleeding filled his swollen abdomen probably because of hemangiosarcoma–a type of bleeding malignant cancer of the spleen. An ultrasound confirmed multiple tumors in Bravo’s abdomen.

But Bravo felt no pain, thank doG. And we learned dogs with hemangiosarcoma sometimes rally when bleeding temporarily stops. They do better for a while, and we elected to bring him home and spoil him for whatever time we had left.

When Cancer Returns

He rallied. Oh, not like before–he still struggled with weakness, but he felt better for two days. Meanwhile, I heard from friends and colleagues with dogs suffering from hemangiosarcoma. Several shared information about certain Chinese herbal medicine supplements that improved quality of life and, sometimes, longevity.

I’m a science nerd–and liked that the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School conducted the controlled studies on I’m-Yunity with such significant results. A second supplement called Yunnan Baiyao helps slow bleeding (available from Walmart). He felt so much better on Wednesday, I had to give Bravo the option–maybe slow the bleeding so he felt better, and (paws crossed) shrink the tumors for a few weeks more of happy wags.

If your beloved pet gets cancer, please remember that dogs and cats don’t know or care about scary a diagnosis. Bravo only cared how he felt each day. I wished now we’d not delayed having him X-rayed when he first limped back in March 2020–but Covid kept us leery of doing anything. An earlier diagnosis wouldn’t have changed much, since bone cancer suppresses metastasis, and only spreads once removed. But it would relieve my guilt over waiting. I’ll never wait-and-see again.

Expect The Unexpected

We were told to watch for lung signs–coughing or gagging, and he had none of those. I now know that bone cancer sometimes spreads to the liver and spleen. If I’d expected that, maybe the Chinese herbal supplements could have arrived in time to make a difference for Bravo. Maybe they will make a difference to your dog.

But the day after I ordered the supplements, Bravo asked me to help him one last time. Hell, it’s what we do for our best friends, no matter how much it hurts.

So I called my husband, and he drove home so we could be together. Bravo used up the last of his energy to greet my husband with happy woofs and wide tail wags. We alerted Dr. Clay, and together we gave good-dog Bravo the gift of a new life with four strong limbs and slow squirrels to chase, and a Seren-Kitty to tease. I hope he meets Magical-Dawg.

He was our unexpected gift of joy and packed a lifetime of love into three years. I will miss my sweet big red puppy-dawg for the rest of my life.

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48 Comments

  1. Leah

    Amy I am so sorry, I know it hurts to lose an animal friend. May you find peace and comfort in good memories of your Bravo.

    Reply
  2. Trish pooley

    Oh Amy…. I cried through this entire story of Bravo’s goodbye! Your words captured every emotion each of us feels when confronted with the inevitable loss of a precious pet. The hemangiosarcomas are so awful. My very first Border Collie, Drew, collapsed right in front of me one morning with no warning. I checked his gums, his vitals and his belly, realizing instantly that he was bleeding out but I was able to get him to the vet to verify there was nothing I could do. It’s heartbreaking. He had been playing the day before at full tilt. Bravo helped you and Mahmoud heal after Magic Dawg’s death and he helped train Shadow! You, in turn, gave Bravo so much love. That love travels with him as he chases slow squirrels and plays with the dogs he meets beyond the bridge. We survive these moments because we know how to love!!!!!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Oh Trish, I am so sorry you experienced this awful cancer, too. Thank you for your lovely post.

      Reply
  3. Robyn K

    Amy, Sending you and your husband big hugs.

    Reply
  4. Sweet Purrfections

    Thank you for sharing. Cancer is terrible for anyone, but especially for our fur babies. I wish I could see you to get you a big shoulder and a huge hug.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thank you so much–I know you’ve experienced the crushing loss, too. Looking forward to when we can share hugs again.

      Reply
  5. Carol Kraft

    I am so very sorry. I have tears in my eyes just reading about Bravo’s journey. I know what it is like to lose a much loved dog and I wish I could give you a big hug now.

    Reply
  6. Gail

    I am so sorry to hear about Bravo. I recently lost my wonderful dog Sunshine to a Shar Pei disease. I tried everything to save him; but, I couldn’t put him through more tests and I didn’t want him in pain. He was in my arms when he crossed the Rainbow Bridge and I promised him I would save another life and rescue another dog. Which I did. Noah is a Shishon (Shiz Tzu and Bischon). I can never “replace” Sunny; but, I have rescued another wonderful dog who fills my heart with love.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Oh Gail, I’m so sorry for your loss. Noah is a lucky dog to come into your life.

      Reply
  7. Beth

    I’m so sorry about Bravo. I know that even though his life was too short, he brought you so much joy and love.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks Beth, he was the happiest friendliest dog 🐩 ever!

      Reply
  8. Franklin Steele

    This is a heartbreaking, yet beautiful story. Right now, he’s got his head cocked to the side, and wearing a huge doggie grin…he’s pain free and happy. What a great doggie!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks Frank, I’m glad you got to meet him.

      Reply
  9. Linda Rehkopf

    Amy, you and M and Bravo have given your friends and readers such a gift. Thank you for sharing your heartbreak with us. Much love to all y’all ❤️🐾😔

    Reply
  10. ExclusivelyCats

    Bravo’s journey reminds me so much of Celica Blue’s: the initial diagnosis, good response and quality of life, — holding your breath all the while — and pulling out the stops at the end before the crash. The real heartbreaker is the young age — Celica Blue was only 2 years, 4 months and Bravo just 3. Both beautiful, sweet creatures who are much loved.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      I remember… so sad, like shooting stars.🐱💗😔

      Reply
  11. Cathy Keisha

    I’m here to pay my respects to Bravo and send comforting purrz to you and those he leaves behind. Cancer blows whether it’s in humans or our pets.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thank you so much. And I agree…. it blows.

      Reply
  12. Cheri

    I am so terribly sorry I lost a dog to cancer so I know how devastating it is.Bravo was a lovely boy and he had a wonderful if too short ife with you.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks so much. I’m so sorry you also experienced such pain.

      Reply
  13. mommakatandherbearcat

    I can’t even imagine your pain. I have struggled with that “wait and see” attitude and later guilt. I’ve elected to wait exactly two times (once with Kitty, once with Bear) and I regret both so much it hurts. It’s not really our fault – we can’t possibly know and our fur babies can’t tell us. We expect ourselves to know – but for every Bravo-like dog with a limp, probably 99% of those limps are caused by something NOT life threatening. Saying that is so easy – taking it to heart is hard.

    You ARE doing an amazing thing by sharing Bravo’s story. I’ve found that sharing things my cats went through – that I’d wish I’d done differently – helps my heart. I couldn’t save Kitty – but I hope my words have or will save someone else’s Kitty.

    Bravo sounds larger than life and I’d wish I’d met him. It’s obvious he brightened the days of everyone he met – and he loved like only a dog can. I’m so sorry, Amy. Bravo won’t be forgotten and I’d LOVE to hear Bravo stories whenever you are ready.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thank you so much. Those who have gone through this really understand–and it helps a lot to read your message. Writing about Bravo helped me to process the pain. And I know you sharing about Kitty and Bear helped you, too, as well as readers. I will share more Bravo stories down the road. *s*

      Reply
  14. Patricia H.

    Oh our sweet Bravo. I say OUR because y’all have been so kind and generous to share your family with all of us. From the beginning he was the cutest, most adorable baby. Who would of ever thought in his short little life he would have a recurrence of that hated C word? Amy, please don’t feel guilty about anything – y’all did absolutely everything you could for your boy. He’s now free, whole and not suffering but for those left behind – the grieving continues. I know someday there will be a glorious reunion of all our pet family who have gone on before us. Can you imagine how happy Magic, Queen Seren and Bravo are right now frolicking in Heaven? This separation is only temporary. Love y’all and praying for you 🙏🙏🙏♥️♥️♥️

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thank you so much for your comforting words. We appreciate the support and prayers.

      Reply
  15. Jackie

    I have always known that those of us who are joined in a family by our love of animals receive abundant love, support and prayers when a beloved pet crosses the rainbow bridge. Amy, we send your family, both human and fur, our support.

    Reply
  16. Jean M

    Amy, I couldn’t even write anything yesterday when I read that Bravo was gone. Thank you for always sharing your ‘furry critters’ with us and all your good times and the not so good times you’ve gone through with them. Cuddle with Shadow and Karma and cry into their fur. Our animals are such a comfort but we really can’t tell, even though we sometimes think we can, how much they too are grieving the loss of their friend. You’re all in my thoughts and prayers.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      I’ve spent the day with Karma and Shadow. Cuddles help a lot. Thanks for your lovely message.

      Reply
  17. Dakota/Caren/Cody

    Amy, my heart is just breaking. I waited to read this so I could read it on my laptop and not my phone, so that I could give a proper response. There was something so incredibly endearing about Bravo from the first moment I saw him. His beautiful build, his oh-so-handsome face, the kindness in his eyes. How I didn’t know he was so young is beyond me, and that aspect makes it even more gut-wrenching than it would be anyway. He deserved so much more life! But…..he had YOU. What a lucky dog in that sense that he was. What you wrote here: “But less than two weeks later, during the week of the horrific freezing weather, Bravo acted off. He tripped. Acted weak and unsteady.” ” resonated with me so much. The day Dakota was diagnosed with a tumor on his heart it was the same. He came home from just having been groomed and I immediately noticed a change. The Vet, my husband both pooh poohed (sp?) my observation and thought it was just me being a Nervous Nelly. When we are bonded with our dogs we KNOW these things. I urged my Vet to see him the next day and he had us immediately send him to the Emergency Vet. The awful diagnosis was that day. You brought me comfort when you wrote that dogs don’t know about their diagnosis, they just live each day. (not a direct quote obviously). I needed to read that. I pray for strength for you, you did everything you could, and so much more than most are even able to do. Bravo’s name was perfect for him. BRAVO on his being so incredibly brave. BRAVO for him being such a wonderful dog. I wish I could help ease the pain. Sending much love always and my most heartfelt sympathy. xoxoxoxo

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thank you for your lovely note, Caren. My husband noticed the change before me, actually–I didn’t want to see it. That haunts me. But I know an earlier vet visit wouldn’t have changed anything, and we had Bravo with us for a bit longer. I’m so sorry about Dakota–he was another very-good-boy. {{{hugs}}}

      Reply
  18. Bernadette

    I’m so sorry, Amy. I was actually a little shocked when I saw the headline this morning, but when cancer returns after remission it’s almost as if it had a mind of its own and a plan, and wastes no time. But for the afflicted and for we who love and remain, there is no long lingering, no wasting, no watching a loved one fail and eventually suffer, it’s quick and heartless. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed Bravo Dawg’s cancer journey, but I’m glad I could be one of the many who witnessed the decision-making and love that gave him just that much more time to enjoy this world as only a dog can, and sent you all love and healing along the way. You have another angel to flutter around your lives forever.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thank you Bernadette–yes, we have several furry angels now. I’d rather have the real pet here with me, though. *sigh*

      Reply
  19. Franklin Steele

    Nicely told. I wish every dog could have this level of love.

    Reply
  20. Terry Zarsky

    Amy, I am so sorry for your loss but so happy you have so many happy memories to hold on to. Thank you for sharing your journey so others may benefit.

    Reply
  21. Jane Geiger

    Amy,

    I’m in tears and my heart hurts for your pain. I’ve never had a furbaby with cancer (thank doG!), but have dealt with senior furbabies with kidney issues, hip dysplasia, blood and/or liver disorders, and just plain old old age. A few years ago I had open heart surgery, lost my beloved husband, one cat, and 4 dogs within 10 months, and recently said goodbye to that cat’s 19 year-old sister. I have 22 furbabies in my backyard.

    I know how hard it is to say farewell to a beloved furbaby, but the best was to cope is remembering all the wonderful times you had. I’ve followed Bravo Dawg’s journey with you, and I know he had an absolutely wonderful life with you.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, Shadow-pup, Karma-kat, and your 2-legged family.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Oh Jane, What a heartbreaking journey you’ve traveled, I am so very sorry. Thank you for your kind words of support. It helps enormously to know that others understand.

      Reply
  22. Linda Collister

    Sorry for your loss, I too had to let my beloved 15 1/2 y/o lab go when she had a stroke during the night and we awoke to find her paralyzed. She was well beyond the normal life span but it still was hard to accept. Keep him in your memory.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thank you Linda–the years we share with them never last long enough.

      Reply
  23. Krista Gimeno

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I hear whispers of all my own dearly departed hearts in your story. We always know that one of the trades we make for loving animals is that they’ll leave us before we’re ready, but I’m particularly sorry that Bravo had such a short time with you, and you with him.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Thank you for your kind words, Krista.

      Reply
  24. Carol

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Remember the good times and the love you shared.

    Reply

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