Confessions from a Personal Trainer: I thought my dog would live forever

Where every Tuesday: I confess.

Confession: I thought my dog would live forever.

Turns out I was wrong.

Rio was my soulmate. Truly. I wrote about her in my confession “I was never going to have a dog”  What they say is true – dogs really come into your life when you need them the most. She was the best.


On March 5th we found out she had an inoperable tumor and on April 5th she decided it was her time to go. And I will be forever grateful.

The blessing of her diagnosis was she would still be happy, playful, fun, energetic, outgoing and very much the dog I knew. The crappy part was because her tumor was on her urethra she had trouble going to the bathroom and would eventually either stop going pee completely or all her internal organs would sort of squish around. I promised her we wouldn’t let her suffer. She would go out on a high.

So we continued to play, take walks, snuggle, throw the ball, wrestle, eat lots of treats and enjoy life. And I cried a lot. It’s crazy to me that only a month passed between her diagnosis and her time. I felt so heavy with dread and anticipation of the worst. But mostly fear.

  • How would I know it was time for her to go?

  • What would life be like without her?

  • How would I live without her?

  • What would my other dog Mia do? 

  • How could I wake up or come home and not have her tail wagging smile greet me?

  • Could I find a new dog that I connected with?

Initially when I got the news I really felt ripped off. Why does this have to happen to my dog at 10 years old? Other people’s dogs live to be 15, 16, 18. Not cool Universe, not cool.

But let’s bring it back to reality. Rio had an amazing 10 years of life and I had an incredible decade of dog devotion and love. Many dogs don’t get that kind of life and many humans never experience that kind of love.

Last Monday night (late) Rio decided she was ready. She had made a drastic turn for the worst and we all knew. She wouldn’t come in the house after her night time bathroom excursion. In fact, she wouldn’t even look at me. We all knew.

So I gathered up her favorite toy – her cheeseburger – and off we went tears streaming down my face. But oddly, these were different tears than the ones I had cried in the month after her diagnosis.

At the emergency vet, I had the blessing of a friend of mine being the vet on duty that night. She was incredible and made everyone feel comfortable and at ease.

I left the vet sad, devastated, and full of relief. Rio did exactly what I had asked of her. She was the most devoted dog for her whole life and in the end, she told me it was time and that it would be ok. She didn’t suffer for any prolonged length of time and neither did I.

The next day Tuesday (did anyone notice there was no confession last Tues?) I got up in the morning took a walk with Mia and then went and worked out. Moving my body was the best thing I could have ever done (followed up with my favorite latte). But I felt like I was suddenly on the other side. The last month had been a balancing act of being so happy she was still alive and so fearful of when the end was coming. Now, I was dealing with the sadness and preparing for life after Rio.

The fear and balancing act comes up in life so many times.

  • What would life be like if I got a different job?

  • If I moved?

  • If I went back to school?

  • If I had another child?

  • If I got a divorce?

  • If I went on that vacation?

  • If my parents die?

  • If my dog dies?

  • If my business fails?

  • And on and on and on.

When you get to the other side, you can finally exhale. It’s still really hard. I miss her so much it hurts every day. But I smile at all the memories and I know I have so much love to give another dog that I look forward to that new experience.

If you’re facing something in your life with a tremendous amount of sadness and fear, just know, on the other side, you can finally breathe.




  1. Bill Wensel on April 12, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Beautiful story of your beautiful life together.

  2. Christine Slater on April 16, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    That is such a difficult decision, but I do think our pets care and share with us to the end, even telling us “It is time.” Dogs and cats add such a wonderfulness to our lives and because of that I take a real responsibility for the stewardship of those lives so connected with mine. What a lucky dog! And a very lucky you! It is such a tough loss that reminds me of a Vincent St. Millay quote my brother, sister and I used with the the death of our mother. “The presence of that absence is everywhere,” I always find a sort of peaceful recognition in that quote. I hope you do too.

  3. Deb on October 10, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    This was so helpful fo me. We had to put our 15 year old Bichon down two weeks ago. I had made two previous appointments but cancelled them. But this last time my girl told me it was time. Truly the hardest decision I have ever had to make, I miss her terribly but know I will see her again. ❤️

    • Lindsey Heiserman on October 22, 2019 at 6:57 pm

      It is so hard but I could feel how at peace she was and knew it was right. It’s always the hardest on the humans.

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