Sandy was a 10-year-old Pug who developed a variety of medical problems around age 6. It’s a complicated story but, like your Griffen, she lost so much function in her back legs that I had to carry her in and out of the house, up and down the stairs, into and out of bed. She was incontinent too and I changed her diapers hundreds of times over the last few years.

Caring for her was often like caring for an invalid relative; but she was amazing because, in spite of her challenges, she loved life and she demanded to be at the center of all household activity! If I was making dinner, she’d drag herself out to the kitchen and deposit herself right in the middle. If I was working at my desk, she’d make her way over and lie next to me. If I went upstairs, she barked with annoyance until I came back down to her. Sandy would NOT be ignored! She demanded attention; but I loved her spirit and her determination to live her life, no matter what.

In late July, it became very hot and humid in New Jersey and of course, that’s when my central air broke down. Pugs don’t like heat anyway, and when the house warmed up to 83 degrees, Sandy was panting. My other, younger, healthy Pug, Cocoa, panted too, but not as much as Sandy. It took a couple of days to get the air fixed (it needed a part); but other than panting, Sandy seemed fine, going outside, eating and drinking and interacting.

Late the second day without central air, I thought, “Let me just call the vet and see if this is OK, if there’s anything I should be doing for her.” I spoke to the vet and he said not to worry, that dogs sweat by panting, that I could put an ice pack on her or take her down to the basement or wipe her paws with alcohol. She didn’t feel hot, but I put ice packs under her bed so she’d have a cool place to lie down.

I was hot and tired myself from the lack of A/C, so I decided to lie down on the couch after dinner for a little cat nap. As I drifted off I noticed that finally, Sandy wasn’t panting; I thought she must be feeling more comfortable. In about 30 minutes I got up and went out to run a quick errand. When I came back, things were quiet. I thought Sandy was sleeping, but I decided to check on her. I looked at her and she looked so peaceful, like she was napping. But she wasn’t moving at all, not even breathing. I called my son and he looked at her too and I called my other Pug Cocoa and he wouldn’t go near her. Sandy was obviously dead. I scooped her up in a blanket and drove her to the emergency vet, crying all the way there; but there was nothing they could do.

To this day, when I think of Sandy, I’m still so sad. I think that there must have been something that I could have done to save her, that if I had just taken her to a cool house for a couple of days, she’d still be alive. I did so much for her in her last few years, but I’m afraid that I allowed her to die when I could have saved her. I feel that she would still be here if I had done the right thing for her. I can’t get over feeling partly responsible for her death, even though the vet told me the next day that she undoubtedly had underlying cardiac issues (she was also diabetic) that we didn’t know about.

Even though Sandy died “naturally,” I still feel that she’d be alive today if I’d done something differently for her; she depended on me, and I let her down. It still hurts.

— Fran from Cedar Grove, NJ