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When It's Time to Let Your Dog Go
The Hardest Decision a Dog Owner Can Make
Unfortunately we humans have a much longer lifespan than our canine companions. This means that you will probably witness your dog in old age and may have to make the decision on when to end the suffering of your pet. I've been through it. It's a heart-wrenching experience and here are some things I did when it was time for us to say goodbye to our little fur baby. Her name was Princess and she was a sassy little Shih Zhu. We did not pick the name, she came to us with it. She was a senior dog when we got her and she had been rescued from a puppy mill. She bounced around to a few homes before finally landing with us. She was a unique little dog. She loved men and as more fond of my husband than I. She would bark and growl to wake us up in the morning to let us know she wanted to be fed right away! What I miss the most is the little dance she would do at the front door every time we came home. We were fortunate enough to give her the life she really deserved. We only had her for a little over a year, and sometimes I wish we had more time. She really came into her own in that year and I know she knew she was loved.I will forever miss her and she will always be my furbaby. Below are some general tips on how we handled the whole experience. I hope some of this advice can be helpful for those going through the same experience.
6 Tips on how to get through end of life care.
- Minimize suffering. Make sure to have a talk with your veterinarian about the pain and suffering your pet may be in. When we made the decision to put our dog down we had about a week between the decision and the date for her euthanasia appointment. We talked to the vet about pain management and if it was a good decision to wait this long. We were fortunate enough to be able to do this with her so we could have time to say our final goodbyes.
- Give your dog their best day. So for our little fur baby, she had a few people and dogs she really loved. We called and made visits for her to see each one of them in her final week. She got to eat canned food and tuna with abandon since she had no stomach issues. For us, we were lucky to have a week timeframe to celebrate her life. Most of us don't get that chance. Do the things that make them the happiest whether that's a visit to a park, or with a loved one. If you have only a day or two or have limitations due to their illness try to pick one special treat for them.
- Remember you are the advocate. Your dog cannot speak or advocate what's best for them. This is what makes the decision that much harder. You as the dog parent have that role. Sometimes you want to put euthanasia off for your own emotional reasons. However, do you really want your dog to suffer? As hard as it is, try to look at the whole situation logically and make the best decision based on that.
- Don't be afraid to be emotional. This is something I did not do well. I was very stoic about the whole thing and held in all my emotions. Then one night about a week after putting our dog down I felt everything and it was like being hit with an emotional truck! I wish I had taken the time to feel more during the whole process because I felt like I missed the natural grieving. Everyone grieves differently but it's also ok to have moments to cry and just be sad. This is the hardest thing you will have to do as a dog owner.
- Plan for life after. One thing I did when we put Princess down was put away a bunch of her belongings before we left for the vet. I knew for my husband seeing these reminders when we came home would be too painful. I didn't get rid of everything, but I put stuff away that I thought would be too hard to deal with right away. I also made sure to donate goods like food that we could no longer use to a local shelter. It was a great comfort knowing we could help others in our time of sorrow.
- Decide on how you want to keep the memories. Some people will opt for pet burial or cremation. This means you have a spot to visit or an urn you can keep. My mother's vet offered a beautiful clay ornament with her dog's footprint. For us, we kept a lock of Princess's fur. This reminds me the most of her. When I miss her I can see and touch it. It reminds me of the times I would cut her fur. This was probably one of our biggest bonding times. You may want to print photos or have a painting done. There are so many ways to create items that help you remember the beautiful life you shared with your pet.
Have you been through the experience and have anything to add? I would love to know, so if you do please leave a comment. While this experience is never an easy one I hope the above tips can help you and your dog navigate it as gracefully and peacefully as possible.
© 2018 Jenn King