Dog Euthanasia: How to Say “Goodbye” to an Old Friend
“Ow… “ I felt that familiar sting in my chest as I drove along through town. I was headed to the vet with my beloved red heeler curled on her bed behind my seat. I was fighting to keep the tears from falling as I have so many times before.
For almost fifteen years Megan had been by my side helping me grow, train dogs, and work with people. The idea of her not there was all to painfully familiar. Her appointment was 2:30 pm.
Euthanasia is something people may or may not agree upon but it is something that I am very familiar with. A love and career with dogs has required I face it. Each time it comes up it still conquers emotions. I have dealt with it many ways and in many situations. So what is it we are really talking about here? Let’s face it we are talking about death and letting go. “Ouch” yes death I said it. Dog ownership requires us more than likely to face it. Only those whom go before their beloved dogs are immune to saying goodbye.
Megan came to me as my possessive and protective leader and left my protective and submissive follower. She taught me how to face things in my life head on. Sometimes ignoring, sometimes correcting, sometimes waiting, and sometimes observing she was ever present among others. She taught leadership and showed me how to follow.
These are lessons we all learn over and over again yet each time if we let them, they will strengthen our ability to help others. Only a few short days before I assisted an owner with a dog whom he encountered and chose to stand up for. He could have walked away and left the dog for someone else. He did not. At nine months old he said goodbye to a lovely dog whom unfortunately had a dangerous side.
Some people may disagree with his choice and that’s ok. I chose to support him because he chose to put the safety of others and the well being of his dog first over the pain of saying goodbye.
Like I said I deal with euthanasia in many ways and I’d like to share some things with you that will help when and if you are faced with this choice.
Dogs are put to sleep for many reasons and I hope you only ever have to make that choice when your beloved dog has a long, happy, and healthy life behind him or her.
- I’d start by utilizing your Veterinarian’s knowledge, support, and expertise. They will help you pinpoint the right time, by explaining the dog’s quality of life scale.
- Listen to your dog. Your dog may tell you by their body language, mood, and daily life habits.
- Trust your gut. Your instincts will tell you don’t ignore them. Often we keep our dogs around to avoid the pain of losing them ,however; we need to make sure our dogs are not suffering during this time. I know I have done that and I have lived to regret it.
- Have an attitude of gratitude. Yes you will feel loss and pain however think of your dog and make sure your dog is not suffering. Remembering the joy and companionship the dog has given me often helps me to think fairly and clearing at a time they need me to advocate for them.
During the actual appointment I personally choose to be with my dogs and allow myself to say goodbye. I find this helps me enter and process the grief and simply grow as a person by facing death. I love being there and supporting them and I am so grateful for the professionals in this industry whom always support and help me when I must face this decision.
Megan let me lift her our of the backseat and carry her into her vet. I no more sat down then knew it was gonna be a little harder than with her to say goodbye. Once in the examine room I spoke with her vet, signed the appropriate papers, and finalized my decision. Megan just waited and I could see how bad she felt by the look in her eyes and the aged condition of her body. At 15 plus years old she was ready to go.
Calmly I praised her as her vet eased her condition. She went with a quiet dignity. I felt the pain and the peace of knowing I was there for her.
Sometimes the body will react to the process so being careful to listen to your vet about what to expect is important. Or perhaps you chose not to be present. I fault no one whom choses this yet I will say facing the experience brings closure and full circle the experience of dog ownership for me.
So what about “C”? Nine months is so young? How could someone put a puppy to sleep? We all know we have choices in life and sometimes choices are unpleasant. I was met with some oppisition from others for not “saving” dogs like this. My response was whom wants the to take him home. I offered him to people in the industry whom objected and said “why don’t you do thus and so?”
Sometimes it’s not all about the dog’s ability to change or even the person’s ability to change. We live on this earth together and have a responsibility to each other weither we choose to or not. Some people choose to use words to hide behind actions. The dog despite being very loved, posed a possible high threat to society. So a choice was made. If you ever face this here are some things I have learned.
- Who will care for the dog when the owner/advocate cannot? This is a lifelong commitment that must be taken into account
- Is it in the best interest of a dog to keep it locked away so we do not have to face euthanasia?
- I ask myself the level of danger I am willing to address and keep among others.
- Genetics, environment, breeding, and care are all factors that can affect a dog. Sometimes these things may be out of our control.
- Am I keeping this dog because I feel guilty or does he/she truly has a chance at changing.
“C” was a loving companion 99% of the time. Yet I still advocated for his euthanasia. I loved him and I grieved upon his departure. However I chose to put the well being of others above my guilt of his misfortune. True enough I believe had he been raised properly and in the hands of the kind gentleman whom rescued him sooner he may have never gotten to the place he did. Yet the reality was he did.
So you can see I have faced euthanasia in those two examples and there are many more and yes it is painful but, I embrace the opportunity to be there for the dogs and owners in good and bad times.
As good stewards of this land and the animals in our care we can make a difference in not only their lives but the people that are connected to them. No healthy balanced person enjoys watching others suffer and so addressing euthanasia before you have to face it can be very helpful if and when the time comes for you to face it.
We are fortunate to laid our sweet old girl to rest upon our farm, yet you may not have that option. There are crematory services available. Just speak with your veterinarian before hand so you can be prepared on what to expect.
I will not soon forget that little powerhouse of a companion I was blessed with in my life. I can still see her at my feet ready to face the day.