Saying Goodbye to a Friend: My Experience Putting a Dog to Sleep
It is always heartbreaking when it comes time to putting 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 go through.
What is it about animals that causes we humans to frequently show such compassion towards 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. The fact that many of them are very beautiful as well, 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 a 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…while other animals seem predisposed to being temperamental, and seem ‘untrainable’.
Nevertheless, a real bond and trust develops 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 lay about, or not engage him in some activity regularly. Otherwise, they’ll bark frequently, or destroy things, and 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 back yard, 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 sleeps on my carpet every night. He’s usually waking me up first thing in the morning, to let him out to do his business.
Over the last few months though, he seemed to be tiring a lot more, and 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’s never been, the whole time I’ve known him.
It was becoming apparent in various other ways, that his health was deteriorating, and a number of other circumstances were signalling 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 for 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 2011, that we made the decision of putting Pran to sleep. We prepared a hole in a quiet, lightly shaded corner of the backyard, where he liked to roam.
Saying Goodbye to a Friend
The animal hospital we took him to has a large field in 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.
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,
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, and 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.
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Tim Nichol