Approximately two years ago, my dog, "JP," a then 12 year old pit bull, acutely seizured. I was devastated; I knew what the primary differential diagnoses were for a geriatric dog that acutely develops neurologic signs: a brain tumor or a vascular accident (e.g., a stroke).

As a veterinarian, I was finally on the opposite side of the table in the exam room, and abruptly learned how hard it is to hear the "cancer" word in the ER. With JP, I elected to treat him aggressively, pursuing both radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

With JP, I was lucky … I was able to get almost another 13 months of good quality life with him. However, deciding when to euthanize him was one of the hardest decisions of my adult life. JP was my first dog that I had owned as an adult, and I’ll fully attest that I was pathologically attached to him — he was my man!

As a veterinarian, I obviously knew how peaceful the euthanasia process was, but I struggled with balancing his quality of life and my desire to be with him. After 370 days, I finally elected to put JP to sleep — on July 4th of last year.

Well, it’s hard to believe I’ve been dog-less for the past one year. I’m a dog person, and I cherish the companionship, loyalty, and love of my dog (and my two cats, of course). Did I think I’d be dog-less for one full year? No. Do I ever think I’ll find that perfect dog again? Sadly, no. I do believe you get one special dog in your life that compares to no other. So I’m acutely aware that I’ll never have as bonded a relationship with a dog as I did with JP. That said, I’m eager to meet the "next dog" and to have another canine companion in my life.

So, how much time does one take before getting another dog? Well, it’s a personal decision. Some "bounce back" and get another dog right away, while some wait and chronically grieve (that was me). Personally, I don’t think it’s healthy to get a new dog too soon and generally suggest waiting at least several months before adding a new four-legged canine companion into your house. This allows you some time to grieve and process the loss of your beloved friend.

Well folks, it’s been one year, and while I still miss JP desperately, he’ll help guide me to my new companion from up in heaven (after all, all dogs do indeed go to heaven).

I'll be checking out some pit bull rescue puppies this Saturday. In the meantime ... help me with some names?


Dr. Justine Lee

Image: Dr. Lee and JP, July 4, 2011