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Saying Goodbye to a Friend: My Experience Putting My Dog to Sleep

Tim has been an online writer for over nine years. His articles focus on everything from pet care to tool reviews.

Pran relaxing, but always alert.  Photo by timorous

Pran relaxing, but always alert. Photo by timorous

How to Say Goodbye to Your Dog

It is always heartbreaking when it comes time to put your dog to sleep, whether due to an accident or just old age. Saying goodbye to a friend is one of the hardest things to do.

What is it about animals that causes us humans to feel such compassion for them? Perhaps it’s because they can’t speak for themselves, so we feel obliged to look out for them whenever there is some man-made danger that they may not be able to deal with. Actually, I think it’s a deep-seated natural affinity—knowing that we’re all sharing the same planet. And the fact that many pets seem to love us back is a real plus. There are so many reasons we fall in love with animals.

Cats and Dogs Seem to Show Compassion

Many domesticated animals such as cats and dogs seem to show reciprocal compassion. I say ‘seem’ because we can’t really communicate with them directly, on the same level. We can only ascribe human traits based on the behaviour we observe. Their thinking and motives may have a completely different basis- we just don’t know.

Still, we seem to become very attached to cats and dogs particularly. They really do become a member of the family, just like a son, daughter, brother or sister. You’re always looking out for them, and their best interests.

After living with your pet for some time, you get to know their personalities very well. With adequate training, you can live together in harmony for many years as well…unlike other animals that seem predisposed to being temperamental, and seem ‘untrainable.'

Nevertheless, a real bond and trust develop over time, and if the animal is treated with love and respect, you’ll likely get the same in return, just as with human relationships.

My Buddy, Pran

Over the past year, I’ve been living in a house with several other people, and a beautiful German Shepherd dog. His name is Pran. While I’m not his owner, Pran took a particular liking to me from the first day I arrived here. In the ensuing months, we developed a mutual bond that I really can’t describe easily. It’s almost as though we could read each other’s minds much of the time.

It is said that German Shepherds have the intelligence of a 3-year-old human. While it’s hard to say just what his level of understanding might be, I noticed very early on how smart he is.

German Shepherds are said to be difficult to train. They need a purpose, something to do to please their master. Apparently, the worst thing you can do is let him lie about, or not engage him in some activity regularly. If you don't keep them engaged, they’ll bark, destroy things, or generally misbehave.

Pran’s owner is normally fairly busy, so I’m the one who usually gets to take him for a walk. He’s largely restricted to an area of the backyard, so when he realizes he’s being taken for a walk, he just goes berserk. . . it’s hilarious.

For the first few minutes of each walk, he’s pulling me along for all he’s worth, though he eventually settles down and obeys my commands. He’s very strong for an 11-year-old dog. We’ve had a lot of fun, especially wrestling in the deep snow in the winter. I’m sure every large dog is in heaven wherever there is snow to play in.

Pran has a habit of spending a great deal of time sleeping in my room, and he sleeps on my carpet every night. He’s usually waking me up first thing in the morning to get me to let him out to do his business.



Winding Down

Over the last few months though, he seemed to be tiring a lot more, sleeping a lot more, and wasn’t waking me up in the morning. He also seemed to be fairly tuckered out by the time we got back from a moderately long walk. He’d also been sick a few times, something he’d never been the whole time I’d known him.

It was becoming apparent, in various other ways, that his health was deteriorating, and a number of other circumstances were signaling the fact that his time was nearly up.

Much as we like to keep our pets until the bitter end, I think this does a disservice to the animal. While we can’t really determine their discomfort, it’s sometimes quite apparent. It also becomes a costly proposition to pay the medical bills to sustain them. It’s a heart-wrenching decision to weigh the pros and cons of putting your dog to sleep. The love for our pets is sometimes greater than that of our own family members.

Thus it came to pass in early May of 2011, that we made the decision of putting Pran to sleep. We dug a hole in a quiet, lightly shaded corner of the backyard where he liked to roam.

My final picture of Pran.  Photo by timorous

My final picture of Pran. Photo by timorous

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

The animal hospital we took him to has a large field behind, so I took Pran for a few walks around the field until they were ready for him. It was a sad but peaceful way of spending our last minutes together.

He was first given a tranquilizer to calm him down, although he was fairly calm already, from the leisurely walks. Pran’s owner and myself were accompanied by two close women friends. We were escorted into a semi-darkened room, where we all sat down or knelt next to Pran, petting him and comforting him, while the veterinarian administered the injections that would cause his heart to stop. It was all over in a couple of minutes and seemed very painless for Pran.

As you can imagine, it was a very difficult thing to witness. We couldn’t hold back our emotions, so we didn’t.

Laying Our Beloved Pran in His Final Resting Place

After bringing him back home, we laid him down in his prepared resting place, wrapped in a blanket, and covered with some fresh roses. The four of us each took turns with a shovel’s worth of soil... just enough to cover him. We then joined arm-in-arm and uttered some final words and prayers. I then commenced filling the remainder of the grave, and stood for a minute’s silence, as a light rain fell.

Pran and I.  Photo by Roger Calverley

Pran and I. Photo by Roger Calverley

An Ode to Pran

He strides with grace

Yet fearless and strong

Faithful to his master

Intelligent and wise

A keen sense of bad karma nearby

Voicing his objections loudly

Ever faithful and protective

Yet always offering an empathetic presence

And warm licks

When his friend is low

And who takes who for a walk,

I wonder...

Going somewhere fast…whatever for?

What is it you find at that tree or pole

That so captivates your senses

A now silent corner of the kitchen

Where shiny bowls once sat

The slurping of tongue water

And the masticating of meaty treats

The clatter of claws on hallway floors

No longer fills the air

How is it you came to be

My bestest buddy.

You look at me with those sad brown eyes

I return a smile, a silent knowing

I miss you buddy, I’m sure you know

A better friend there just couldn’t be

Accepting Death and Letting It Pass

While grief for the passing of loved ones, and other fellow humans and animals, is a useful and natural release, I believe we must not hold on to the absence of these mortals. I’m not saying we shouldn’t grieve, just that we shouldn’t prolong the emotion. We need to accept the fact, move on with our own lives, and let these mortals get on with their next lives.

We need only remember what these people and animals brought to our lives, especially the happiness, and mutual enjoyment we shared. And to know that we loved them, and were loved in return. Though we must not dwell on the past. We must live in the present, and just be thankful for their existence in our lives.

© 2011 Tim Nichol

Your Comments Are Always Welcome

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on July 11, 2014:

Thanks for your comments, husky32. I do however disagree with putting an animal down just because of a single, isolated biting act.

husky32 on July 10, 2014:

My baby was two years old when we had to put him down. He bit a person who stopped by to see him. He was a good dog, but was too protective. I realized that the hardest part about having him gone is that I couldn't go downstairs any more and hug him and tell him how much I love him. He will always have a special place in my heart and I can't wait to see him in heaven.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on March 14, 2013:

Yes, German Shepherds are a very loyal breed. They do need training and regular, challenging activity to keep them in line. But once you have that mastered, you have a friend for life (theirs anyway). Thanks, ebonynivory.

Amy from Oswego, NY on March 13, 2013:

made me cry...we are a 2 German Shepherd household and know how special this breed is. You are right we have to be thankful for their short presence in our lives.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on January 27, 2013:

Hi Thundermama. Yes, it's always hard to let go, especially if it's been a long relationship. However, move on we must, and let Sam move on when his time comes. Thanks for your kind words.

Catherine Taylor from Canada on January 26, 2013:

What a lovely and touching hub. I especially found your advice about moving on and not dwelling on the past quite useful. It can be so hard to let go. This is a road I will be walking very soon with our beloved black lab Sam. Hoping I handle it well as you have.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on January 06, 2013:

Thanks for reading about my buddy Pran, kellylipp. Yes, it's sometimes hard for people to understand the attachment we have to our pets. Still..they deserve the same love and attention that you'd give to your children. Cheers.

Kelly Lipp from North Dakota on January 05, 2013:

Beautiful article. We lost our beloved Chihuahua Chacha about a year ago after a long battle with cushings disease. She died at home in our arms. Some people don't realize how dogs become part of our families and how real the grieving is...just like it is for any other family member or close friend. Their absence leaves a big hole. Thanks for sharing about Pran. She looks like she was a wonderful friend.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on December 14, 2012:

Hi snakeslane, great to see you here. I'm so sorry you also had to go through the loss of your dog, Dora. Even though it's been 18 months since I last saw Pran (except in pictures), I still think of him sometimes. But not in sadness, just in reverence. Thanks for coming by.

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on December 13, 2012:

timorous, I went through this with my dog Dora, it was very emotional. I think we humans are fortunate to share this special bond when we can. I do pet sitting on a regular basis and always enjoy the animals. It is amazing how quickly we can get attached, the dogs especially love company. Thanks for telling Pran's story. Regards, snakeslane

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on January 26, 2012:

Yes, it is kind of painful at the time, Peanutritious. However, as long as you don't dwell on the loved one's absence, you'll be fine. It's all about letting go.

Thanks for reading about Pran, and thanks for having a kind heart to rescue animals from further cruelty.

Tara Carbery from Cheshire, UK on January 26, 2012:

Thanks for writing this. It's something that I find incredibly painful and unfortunately some people don't understand. Animals love you unconditionally. Nothing can replace their loyalty. I adore my animals and always try to home them from rescues or bad situations. They deserve a bit of happiness in a hostile world. I'll bookmark this and look at it when I need strength to visit the vet's for that 'unbearable visit'. Thanks.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on October 14, 2011:

Hello Greenhousewife. Thank you very much for reading about Pran. He certainly enriched my life in many different ways, even over the short time we were close friends. You're so right, nothing can 'replace' such creatures.

Aimee on October 14, 2011:

Beautiful hub. Nothing in the world can replace the love of a pet. Their level of loyalty and undying love can not be matched by anything. I am glad you did not make him suffer to keep him longer, it is a very difficult choice to make. I have had to put two of my girls down over the years and it was hard both times. Cherish that last walk forever and remember that if in the future you get another dog that it is not to replace Pran, as that is not fair to you, Pran, or the new animal. Each of them deserves their own spot in your heart.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on October 14, 2011:

Thanks so much AEvans. I think, in many ways Pran is one of a kind.

Julianna from SomeWhere Out There on October 13, 2011:

timorous: Your hub was so touching. It is best to remember the joy and not the sadness, although there is always a little twinge of pain in there. Time heals hearts. I wish I could find yo another dog like Pran. Your words tell me he was loved so much. (((Hugs))

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on October 13, 2011:

AEvans; I know how you feel, and I'm sorry you lost your cocker spaniel in that way. But I'm sure you know, it's best to remember the joy your dog provided, not the loss, and just accept that life goes on. Thanks for becoming a follower, as well.

Julianna from SomeWhere Out There on October 12, 2011:

Made me cry. :( We lost one of our beloved Cocker Spaniels last year. I miss him so much and he was only 4. He had heart problems and died in my arms, before I could get him to our vet. I have his ashes on a shelf and this story made my heart hurt all over again. Thank you for the comforting words at the end and a beautifully written hub.And I am so sorry for your loss. Thumbs up.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on September 01, 2011:

Hi Joe. Yeah, it's a hard thing to go through, but Pran was very close to going 'naturally', I believe. I think we saved him some extended misery, in hind sight.

We all do what we think is in their best interests, in the end. Thanks for your comments.

Zach from Colorado on August 31, 2011:

I have a german shepard of my own named Sargent, so your story really hits home. I'm just hoping that he'll go naturally, so I won't have to go through what you had to. Sorry for your loss, but a wonderful hub.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on August 15, 2011:

Thanks for reading about Pran, Bretsuki. Pran had a special knack of sizing people up in very short order.

I've known many dogs over the years, but Pran was very special. I'm sure my life is richer, having been 'chosen' by my buddy Pran.

William Elliott from California USA on August 14, 2011:

Hello timerous. This is a beautiful hub. You have had the wonderful experience of having been chosen by a beautiful dog.

It is sad that you and Pran shared only a short time but you obviously meant a lot to each other in that time.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on July 23, 2011:

Thank you danielleantosz. Yes, it is difficult, but you'll mangage, as long as you look at it as the passing of one phase of life to another, and letting it be.

danielleantosz from Florida on July 22, 2011:

I have a puppy and three cats (well, she is not really a puppy, but shes my baby so thats what I call her!) and I dread the day I will have to go through this. Beautifully written!

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on July 07, 2011:

It is difficult Tina, but one needs to be strong...try and remain positive. Perhaps it feels wrong to be the one to decide when a living being is to be taken from the physical world. However, as you say, it is worse to let them suffer, although I suppose it's a matter of degree.

As much as I loved Pran, I didn't cry very much. I continued to think positive thoughts about him. Even to this day, that's how I think of him...not his absence.

Christina Lornemark from Sweden on July 07, 2011:

A very good description of that awful decision and terrifying moment that every pet owner fear the most. It is so sad and you don´t think you can do it, but you must do it anyway. But then again, It is worse to let them suffer. I cried for days when I had to say goodbye to my last dog, a big and gentle Leonberger.

You have written about Pran in such a beautiful way and with that special love that dogs can make us feel! Thanks


Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on July 06, 2011:

awwwwwwwwwwe - you are too kind (and I love it). :)

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on July 06, 2011:

You're such a dear, Audrey... You don't mind if I call you such...? Thanks again.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on July 06, 2011:

...and you can take comfort in knowing how much you added to his life. He felt your love, compassion, your fun times together and he felt safe and wanted. You did a good thing :)

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on July 06, 2011:

Oh thank you vocalcoach. It was heart-breaking but I've mangaged to move on fairly quickly. I've planted some things in the garden bed where he was laid to rest. I'm also considering a commemorative plaque at some point soon. Cheers.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on July 05, 2011:

What a beautiful tribute to Pran. So touching and filled with love and compassion. My 11 yr old shih tzu, Clancey, is beginning to slow down and I know I must prepare myself for the inevitable. I don't want to do that. I cannot bear the thought of my little "heart" leaving me. Your Ode to Pran is wonderful. Thank you for sharing this and for being a marvelous and kind buddy to a very blessed dog.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on June 30, 2011:

I'm so glad you enjoyed the Ode to Pran, and the hub as well. Thanks Eternal Evolution.

Eternal Evolution from kentucky on June 30, 2011:

Wonderful hub. Saying goodbye to anything you love is never easy. "An Ode to Pran" was beautiful.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on June 29, 2011:

Hello sonia. Yes, it really is diificult to say goodbye to a friend like Pran. But you really can't dwell on such loss for too long, otherwise it just drags you down, and for no good reason. You'll never have that friend back. You just need to let it go, and move on. Thanks for reading about Pran.

sonia05 from india on June 29, 2011:

vVery heart wrenching hub! I am sorry for the loss of your dear friend Pran.Our pet friends become close to us like a family member and even like a son or daughter so much so that its difficult to part with them. I have a pet too,a labrador and I cant imagine a day without him. Tears welm up in my eyes thinking about such an eventuality.

Have a nice day!

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on June 25, 2011:

Thank you FishAreFriends. It is very much like losing a family member, perhaps more so.

FishAreFriends from Colorado on June 25, 2011:

Sad. My dog died at age fourteen the day before I went on a vacation. She went downhill in a matter of days. This was a very sad occurance- It was like losing a family member..... Great Hub, your words were beautiful.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on June 25, 2011:

Hi sofs; Thanks so much for your kind words, and thank you for being such a good friend when I needed one. I do indeed have many beautiful memories of Pran. ((((hugs))))) to you too.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on June 25, 2011:

Thank you Lynn. I'm sorry to hear you lost 3 in such a short period. It's hard enough dealing with one. Hugs to you too.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on June 25, 2011:

Hello Maria Cecilia. Yes, it is an agonizingly difficult thing to imagine, let alone carry out. However, I feel that your loved one's quality of life is the over-riding issue. Thank you very much for commenting.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on June 25, 2011:

Aww...thank you Peggy. He will indeed live in my heart forever.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on June 25, 2011:

You're so right Rochelle. Many people don't understand the bond that pet owners have with their pets. Thanks for stopping by.

Sophie on June 25, 2011:

Tim, I am sure it is difficult to say goodbye to your bestest buddy, Pran. Pran has meant a lot to you, almost like a friendship of a life time. I am sure that the beautiful memories that you have of Pran is something that you will always treasure. (((((Hugs)))) and prayers.

Tim Nichol (author) from Me to You on June 25, 2011:

Thank you so much Charlinex.

Lynn S. Murphy on June 25, 2011:

Hugs and prayers, and its a difficult thing to let go. I lost my 3 within a 6 months period. My heart was eased because I was able to say goodbye to each one.

Maria Cecilia from Philippines on June 24, 2011:

Although I understand you, I am still in the denial that someday my dog will be passing the same path, but I still pray to God not to bring me in this situation where I will need to bring my dog to vet and put him to sleep.This is my prayers too to fellow doglovers..

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 24, 2011:

Your words brought tears to my eyes as I am certain that they were shed from your eyes regarding the loss of Pran. He will live forever in your mind and heart. My parents favorite breed was the German Shephard.

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on June 24, 2011:

Yes, it is very tough.Pet owners know, others find it harder to understand.

We had a Min-Pin for 14 years. In some ways he was a real pain, (he would bite people, for instance). But we did love him, he added to our lives and it was hard to say goodbye even when his senses were declining.

Charlinex on June 24, 2011:

That's so sad. Sorry to hear your loss.