I have owned dogs most of my life and know what it takes to keep them safe, healthy and happy when traveling with them.
Anybody who loves animals knows how painful it is when the time comes to bid a final farewell to a pet.
It is difficult.
So much so, that many people put it off for far too long.
This article is meant to help those of you who are facing this dilemma so that neither you nor your dear friend has to suffer any more than is necessary.
Pets Are Family
Many who keep animals in their homes view them as family members and treat them as such.
Whether it be a parrot, cat, dog, snake or any other critter, it takes on a personality of its own that you come to adore and count on for faithfulness, love, comfort and joy.
Pets are cute, funny and are always full of surprises (like the day my faithful German Shepherd reached up when I wasn’t looking and stole a raw chicken leg from my counter while I was cooking dinner. Who knew my trustworthy girl was a thief!)
Is it any wonder that we try to keep them with us wherever we go and even have wardrobes for them!
Every person who has had the joy of having an animal as a family member understands how important they are.
In fact, it has even been proven time and again that owning a pet is good for our health!
So, when we start to see signs that they are weakening, aging and/or are sick, we too lose something of ourselves.
The Big Question
As time passes, we become increasingly aware that our baby may be slowing down or even suffering.
However, some of us go into denial.
When this happens, we start living in fear and our animals suffer far longer than they should have.
I knew a man who had a little dog that had been his best buddy for more than 16 years. Now the poor little thing could no longer walk or see and had lost all bladder and bowel control.
His owner could not bear to let him go, so he built a huge, round soft bed where his pal could rest. He cleaned up after him, bathed him and carried him everywhere they went.
It was a sad thing to see.
The dog was in pain, but he was helpless against his master’s denial until, one day, the man found him, not sleeping, but dead on his big pillow.
This is an extreme case, but I know from my own experiences that figuring out the right time to put a beloved pet to sleep is very difficult.
Many hurt terribly, but do not show their pain, so the choice is an extremely painful one for both master and animal.
The question is, how do you know? When is it the right time to put your pet to sleep?
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Some People Get Lucky
Those who are fortunate are the ones who are not put into the position of deciding. Their pet takes care of that for them.
It is nonetheless painful, but at least the decision is taken out of the owner’s hands. This happened to me.
My husband and I had a beautiful female German Shepherd that came into our home as a wee puppy. She crawled into our hearts that first day, and never left them.
Years later we took her on a camping trip to South Dakota where she somehow swallowed a type of grass that is very stiff. It pierced her lungs, and she began to have trouble breathing.
For three days we nursed her, even renting oxygen tanks to help her breathe. We knew we were going to have to take her to the vet in Rapid City and put her to sleep, but the thought of doing so was unbearable. She knew it too.
As was her way, she put her nose on the screen door to tell us she wanted to go outside. This came immediately after my husband held her in his arms and tearfully begged her to tell him when would be the right time to take her.
I opened the door and followed her out. She walked around to the other side of our RV into a lovely meadow of summer flowers there. Without even a whimper, she sat down, then laid down on her side and died.
Her dear old heart simply gave out, and when it went, it took ours with it.
Even so, we knew that, in the end, she had saved us from having to decide. While we didn’t realize it at the time, she had given us a great gift.
However, not everybody is that fortunate.
How to Know When Farewells Are In Order
If I were to give people one piece of advice, it would be this: Call your veterinarian and ask their opinion.
Take your pet to him for an examination. Let him make the decision for you. They will tell you if your pet is suffering or if there is any chance that it will be healthy and active again.
Perhaps your pet will need medication or even an operation, but only your vet can guide you in this. Sometimes even those things will only put off the inevitable.
The bottom line is that you should never let your pet suffer. Your little friend trusts you and expects you to do what is best for him, not you.
Saying Goodbye the Right Way
When it is time, the best thing you can do is be there, talking to and touching your best friend. He needs you to comfort him, and you want your face to be the last thing he sees in this world and your voice, the last thing he hears.
When it’s over, take him home and bury him in a spot you can visit, and when you place him in his little grave, be sure to put a favorite toy or item of food. After all, he has loved and served you well and deserves a proper sendoff.
Saying that last farewell to a pet is not easy. You will mourn, but you should also spend some time remembering better days.
When I think of my German Shepherd who died those many years ago so peacefully and kindly, I still weep for her.
Yet, I also remember her prancing giddily through high wheat fields on a Canadian farm, swimming with her “father” in the icy mountain streams of Northeastern Tennessee and traveling with us across the country in our RV.
It was painful to say goodbye, and if she had not decided for us that her time was up, we would have shortly carried her away to be put to sleep.
We loved her, and her time had come.
Remember this when you are forced to decide. Put your pet first, and do what needs to be done.
It’s the right thing to do.
© 2016 Sondra Rochelle