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Expected Euthanasia of An Aging Dog

Updated on October 9, 2014
Titan 5 Years Ago
Titan 5 Years Ago

"Euthanasia" What Side Are You On?

But now having experienced euthanasia for an expected death of an aging dog, I realize the public has no idea what animal euthanasia really is or what it should be about. So whether you have a cocky attitude about euthanasia and think it’s great and can’t wait for the medical system to legalize it for humans world-wide, or whether you feel that euthanasia is a nasty term for killing one’s beloved dog, I guarantee what I have spent months contemplating, reflecting and preparing will make you really think about this process.

What Made The Difference For Me

The veterinarian told me two things that day that helped my pre-grieving process

  • Dog’s don’t humanize their health and circumstances. In other words, according to Dr P, Titan wasn’t concerned that he was once a young puppy who loved to chase birds and jump around. Titan was only focused on the here and now. If his legs were good enough to get him to the food bowl, he was happy. Only people humanize their circumstances “I feel so old today” “I feel sick”, etc.

  • Euthanasia is NOT KILLING YOUR DOG, it is letting them die in comfort. Domesticated dogs have lifespans far exceeding their wild ancestral peers, because we do everything for them. We take care of them and we eventually get to decide when it is time to facilitate our friend’s passing with dignity and peace.

Titan Last Year
Titan Last Year

Have You Had to Put An Aging Dog Down?

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Another day after that appointment Titan was walking a little better. Still his usual weak gait, but good enough that I was less upset by his struggling. We continued to enjoy him in our lives for another six months. Although I would not let myself ever try to guess how long. I felt like it would be bad superstition to think about it. I started to cling to day-to-day moments with him. I was so worried that we were going to have to call the euthanasia at any time. I almost wanted to cancel my whole life schedule just to stay home with him, until he was ready to leave us, permanently. But we have young children and I have to set a healthy example and get us all through this. So I kept my life schedule as is, and showed the children how to really care for the dog. We bathed him of his incontinence about twice a week, we kept his nails groomed, we brushed him often, we did all the normal things one would do when caring for a dog with a little more time and effort. Lingering moments.

I started to question the veterinarian in my head. Titan was still eating a drinking well, but he was a hound, should there not be more critical thinking how far a hound will go to eat? Because his gait had got so weak and he was completely incontinent of stool and urine 3 months after that February appointment. I started to have moments where I felt myself wondering if it was time to euthanize Titan based on what our lives were like. Caring people tried to give me advice. A well-meaning friend told me, “when your dog has had enough, you just know, you can see it in their eyes”. I was emotionally pulled between trying to analysis what I thought I “saw” in Titan’s eyes, and not really wanting to “know” at all. It was such a strange feeling to feel that it was only open to my interpretation. Or was it?... How would I know?... Then I felt guilty about questioning Titan’s status since it may or may not deviate from what the vet told us to watch for. Eventually, I started thinking about the simple fact that I live with Titan every day, Dr P merely exams him in fleeting, passing moments. So who really does know best? And even worse, would I be able to live with my decision?

When I Knew It Was Time?

With great sadness, a few days after his eating habits had slowed dramatically, he became really unsettled. Very antsy, he couldn’t rest.. He was up and down, every few minutes. He was usually tolerant and would lay still on the carpet as the children hugged him and dressed him up or tucked him in. But suddenly, on that particular day he suddenly wanted to separate himself from them. His restlessness was him trying to stay away from the children and avoid their contact. He walked away from hugs and cuddles. He’d get up and walk to the opposite side of the room everytime our three year old took interest in him. Watching his avoidant, guarded behavior throughout the day, made us believe that an aggressive act was possibly looming. There was definitely a sudden change in his comfort level.

"Everybody is born so that they can learn how to live a good life - like loving everybody and being nice, right? Well, animals already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long." A veterinarian`s story while euthanizing a family dog; Shane, the four year old son said this to his parents and the vet.

— Shane, 4 years old

But everyone’s experience in this situation will be different. Every dog is unique. It all depends on the specific dog, the dog’s health, the dog’s abilities, and the owners mind and heart.

The biggest learning from this experience is to not let the public pressure you. Trust me, if it looks like suffering, eventually people will say something, even if the vet can assure you it’s not. And everyone has their tolerance level for incontinence. Many people won ‘t handle any incontinence and others like us, will go to all lengths to accommodate their dog’s needs provided others issues are not as severe as the incontinence. The main issue is that in these critical situations there are no “take backs”, no “do overs”. Already, that sense of permanency is hard to accept. Keeping the dog around a day, a weekend or even a few days longer is better than ending it all too soon.

Getting By; Life After The Death of an Old Dog

Surprisingly, maybe because I had to be strong, I felt some sadness immediately after the loss of Titan, but also a lot of relief. Relief that I felt justified that his time was now, not yesterday, not tomorrow. That I had relieved him of all and any of his suffering. Even if there was doubt that his condition was painful; the fact that he could not run or jump, and did not play anymore and had not played in a long time, started to give me real clarity over what I was observing. Verification that I was doing the right thing at the right time. It is so easy to get caught up maintaining life, focusing on how to keep the dog alive, that it is easy to have the ethical lines between reasonably living and past due euthanasia, become a blur. That was the first 24 hours.

The worst was the next 24 hours up to 48-72 hours. A full day without the usual routine of the last 15 years. Leaves a huge dark hole in your heart. No one to walk or feed, love and pat… Loneliness in the house, no matter how full of life. At the end of day two, I just wanted my dog back so I could take care of him. Make myself feel useful in that same way still. That’s when my heart broke.

Than during the days after that, the time just keeps coming and going regardless of what your doing. You find a way to keep going. Start a new routine while still clinging to the beauty of the one you did have with the dog. For us, we kept walking several times a day, around the same time we would take Titan out. We were able to go for longer walks and explore more. We started to use this time to appreciate the beauty around us. It was summer. Lots of sunshine, everything’s blooming, the grass is green, lots of excitable children and puppies enjoying themselves. At first is it very hard to get out, I couldn’d stop remembering things we did with the dog, I couldn’t stand that he was missing this. But after awhile, we got used to being without a dog and still enjoying the walk. We found new ways to enjoy the old things.

Share Your Memories of Old Dogs with Others

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    • escole61 profile image

      colin powell 

      12 months ago from march

      I'm very sorry to learn of your story, concerning Titan. He looks like a wonderful dog from the photo. All the best for the future.


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