My brother Dave and Sara’s big beautiful Mastiff James died this summer.  He was one of my very favorite dogs.  He is the James of this veterinary blog that my brother set up for me years ago – Riley and James.  More importantly, he was James of the Nelson family and James who was loved by everyone who met him.

James Nelson December 2003 - July 2012


James developed Addison’s disease, and though we diagnosed him and treated him and even got him to the emergency clinic for the weekend during his first Addisonian crisis where he received stellar care, his blood pressure did not remain high enough for long enough to keep him going.  He fought hard for three days.  We didn’t think he should have to keep fighting so hard when he kept getting sicker, and his family let him go early Monday morning, July 23, 2012.

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I was able to spend one of his last days with him – the first day of his hospitalization while he was at Gentle Doctor.  As his friend, it was strangely nice and will always be one of my most precious memories.

And yet, he had a treatable disease that was treated well and a family doing everything they could to get him through.  As a sister and veterinarian, being unable to save the dog I love so much and spare the family I love so much that pain and loss is very hard.


James did not want me to go around the corner to the doctors' office and he did not fit comfortably in a "dog" sized kennel, so we hung out together in the treatment room - as it should be.

I am sorry I could not save you James.  I really tried, Buddy.  I love your family, and I sure love you too.

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It takes a village to save a Mastiff…and if he is not saved…the village is no less awesome for having shown up.  Thank you Friends.

Adam was petsitting James, and first noticed that James was sick.

Dr. Ryan helped me diagnose James and get him comfortable and set up for treatment.

She, Jen and Kelly took care of James with me ALL day and even did the most intense of the James-care in the afternoon so I could spend two hours sitting on my parents’ deck with my other brother Bill before he left town again.  That two hours in the midst of everything is now, in hindsight, a reprieve that is still getting me through.

Dr. Stokes, Dr. Bashara, Dr. Krapfl and Omaha’s Internal Medicine and Critical Care specialist Dr. Byers all weighed in to help with James’ care.

Dr. Porter got James set up at Animal Emergency Clinic, and she and her team took care of him all weekend.

Dr. Buhr at Animal Emergency Clinic met with Sara and her Mom and me and just sat with us a while, even though I am sure he was tired and busy and had a bunch of patients who needed him as much as James did.

Mom and Dad and Russ took care of me, even when they were taking care of Dave and Sara.

Mom and Sara’s Mom took care of everyone and Olive so Dave and Sara could be with James.

Dave and Russ and Dad and Bill left for a long-planned  fishing trip the day James became critically ill.  At the time, I thought James would make it and told Dave he should go.  Guys from the fishing lodge drove Dave to a place where friends from Omaha met him and drove him home.  He made it home and was with James – and Sara – when they needed him.

The ER team let me be with James and Dave and Sara at the end.

Becky got James’ family a very sweet card.

EVERYONE (yeah you!) showed up to say “Wow, this sucks.” and “I am so sorry” and “James sure was an incredible dog.”

He sure was.

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Thank you all.  You are the best.



4 Responses to “James”

  1. Ken Finch says:

    Shawn, I am so sorry for your and your family’s loss. Some people I know say they don’t know what the big emotional hurdle is about losing a pet.

    I completely disagree with them. Reading your brief chronicle about James’ last days brought a tear to me eyes.

    God bless you!

  2. Jodi says:

    Oh James, even though I only met you a couple of times, I will always remember you as the sweetest big boy ever. I love the pictures of you and Baby Olive. I love that she had your massiveness as her guardian and protector. I love that you had the best dog-family anyone could ask for. Best of all, I love that you were in the hands of one amazing, compassionate vet who loved you, and helped you be as comfortable as you could, up to the very end. <3

  3. Sandy Wray says:

    It makes no difference if the “family” member has two legs or four, the love of a family member is the strongest when help is needed. James had the best family!!!

  4. Thank you guys! Love you!

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