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I thought my dog needed teeth removed, but he was dead within months

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Jack and his partner rescued Dudley from a shelter in 2022 (Picture: Jack Wynn)

‘Unfortunately, it’s what I expected – we should discuss chemotherapy treatment for Dudley moving forward.’

Hearing our vet say this over the phone, I couldn’t quite believe it was happening to us. 

My immediate shock turned into tears – it hit me that Dudley may not be around for much longer. 

For the past few days, my partner and I had anxiously awaited the call with results from Dudley’s biopsy, praying the large mass on his left tonsil was nothing more than an obstructive cyst. 

Our prayers were left unanswered.

We rescued Dudley from a shelter in South Wales in February 2022. I’d always wanted to rescue and give a dog another chance at living in a warm and loving home. 

We already had our dachshund, Henry, who was almost one when we welcomed Dudley. Henry needed a friend to play with, and we knew Dudley would benefit from a confident dog to bring him out of his shell; we hoped they would be a perfect match. 

The adoption officer carried him out because he was too terrified to walk on a lead. His fur was incredibly matted and the overpowering scent of a dog who has never had a bath left an unpleasant impression.

But looking into his scared little face and the way Henry was so excited to see him, we knew we had to take him home right away. 

However, bringing seven-year-old Dudley into our lives was a lot harder than we anticipated.

Dudley was finally making progress with his confidence (Picture: Jack Wynn)

At first, he would sit in the kitchen on a blanket too scared to be near us in the sitting room. His lack of toilet training rubbed off on his brother and it took over a year to get Dudley to walk on a lead. 

But after almost two years since Dudley came into our lives, we were finally making progress with his confidence.

However, this was short-lived.

Reluctant to eat certain foods, Dudley soon developed a screeching bark and he struggled to chew. 

Following a check-up after a week of symptoms, the vet was convinced it had to do with his teeth, which made sense. It’s highly unlikely that dental care would have been a priority for Dudley – who was a neglected breeding dog living in a shed.

After a few weeks of going through dental and pain relief prescriptions, it was decided that Dudley would have a few teeth removed.

Dudley and Henry made up the family unit (Picture: Jack Wynn)

We left the check-up feeling confident that tooth extraction would be the end of his pain and we could go back to living our lives as a happy family unit

One week later, a couple of hours after dropping him off, I received a call from the surgery.

The vet delivered the unexpected news. It looked like cancer

The first couple of days in particular were filled with dread. Our house was eerily quiet – we didn’t know what to say to each other, or how to approach the conversation about what would happen to Dudley. 

Not long after, the vet gave us an honest indication of what to expect: ‘with this type of cancer, the general life expectancy is between two to three months.’ 

The colour had faded from my face, in complete shock at what we’d just heard. Worst case scenario, we expected them to say one to two years. 

Leaving the vets with Dudley, it felt as if my heart had been ripped out of my chest.

Overnight Dudley changed into a dog I barely recognised

Perhaps it was naive, but I still thought even after his prognosis that Dudley had a fairly good chance of survival. I envisioned that we would have at least one last Christmas where he would run around with a bunch of new toys and enjoy a feast of roast turkey with all the trimmings.

However, the reality was even after five gruelling treatments and approximately £5,000 later, it would only prolong his life by another two months at best. 

Given his tumultuous start in life and the very slim glimmer of hope from the vet, it was only right for Dudley to enjoy the time he had left with limited discomfort.

So, after shedding my tears at the thought of having to carry on without our little boy, I somehow found the strength to put one foot in front of the other. I needed to be strong and give Dudley my undivided attention – to spoil him rotten with all of his favourite treats.  

I kept saying to myself that Dudley would beat the odds because he was so strong – he’d already been through so much in his short life – he was a survivor. We were filled with hope. 

Dudley’s life could only be prolonged by another two months at best (Picture: Jack Wynn)

He seemed to be doing so well after his surgery. But overnight Dudley changed into a dog I barely recognised. 

His head was regularly positioned down in pain, he no longer ran to the kitchen every breakfast and dinner time tapping his paws for food, and he couldn’t chew his favourite gravy bone biscuit treats, struggling even to take the treat from my hand. 

His cancer had progressed far quicker than we hoped, and the reality of putting him to sleep started to set in. 

The time had come to make the dreaded appointment. 

It was crushing to think I had to prepare his final dinner, carry him up to bed one last time and take him for one last walk along our usual route. 

The pain of having to spend one last evening looking into his eyes and savouring every tummy scratch was unbearable. 

Dudley’s final day was upon us and we decided to take him to the seafront. We sat on a bench, enjoying the fresh breeze while Dudley and Henry tucked into their puppuccinos. 

Dudley’s final day was spent at the seafront with his family (Picture: Jack Wynn)

Although he looked incredibly tired, I could tell he was enjoying the sea air sweeping through his white curly fur and soft floppy ears.

When we arrived in the waiting room, and the vet called Dudley’s name, I broke down. 

As we placed him on a blanket – he looked calm and peaceful for the first time in a while, as if he was at peace with what was about to happen.  

But I didn’t want to let go of his paws. I kept physical contact until the very end. 

I savoured every kiss and cuddle. 

From start to finish, putting Dudley to sleep took around 10 minutes. He was fighting the tiredness even after the first injection. But soon enough, the energy had completely left his body. 

I instantly cried – the realisation that I’d never see him again hit me. After a final few kisses and cuddles, it was time to leave him alone on the vets’ table. 

Walking out, I glimpsed at the reception desk – there was a lit candle to signify an animal had passed. It made it all very final.  

Sobbing uncontrollably all the way home, I hung up his lead one last time and retreated to the sofa, curled up with Henry who was probably wondering why his brother hadn’t come home with us.

Weeks later, the pain is still raw. His daytime bed and blanket are still in the living room, with his ashes sitting on the window sill above next to a tiny glass bottle preserving a lock of his fur. 

The emptiness of not having Dudley is unsettling. I feel terrible guilt for all the times I moaned about how much hard work he was. 

Nonetheless, I wouldn’t have changed anything about him. He was a complete joy, and loving, and although it was tough at times, we gladly centred our lives around him. 

I still expect him to rush around the corner every time I open the treat jar. Emptying the dishwasher in the morning, I find myself looking for his food bowl to prepare breakfast, and I always reach for two dental sticks in the evening.

The journey of adopting Dudley and having to say goodbye has been the hardest of my life. I know this is part of the deal when you get a dog, regardless of whether you buy a puppy or rescue from a shelter. 

But I wasn’t prepared for the devastating emptiness.  

Despite the heartache, this whole experience has only reinforced my love for dogs. I know soon we’ll end up rescuing again, but no one can ever replace Dudley and how he changed my life forever. 

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