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Is Your Pet Ready For Rainbow Bridge?

Updated on November 7, 2014
SheilaSchnauzies profile image

SheilaSchnauzies is a Miniature Schnauzer rescuer, writer, crochet designer, gardener, crafter, wife, mom & friend living in Omaha, NE.

How Do You Know When It's Time To Let Your Furkid Go?

For whatever reason or clues your pet has given you, the question, "Is it time to let him/her go?" has been on your mind. That's why you're reading this article. You're hoping that maybe your pet will give you a sign somehow, saying it's time to go. Sometimes they will do that - there's a look that they will give you that says, "Enough." But sometimes they don't. Animals are stoic and will do just about anything to hide their pain.

As a dog rescuer for many years, I am often in the position of counseling people whose pets are approaching that time when the decision must be made. Here are some questions I ask them to help them make their decision. I'm hoping they will be of some help to you, too.

It's All About Quality Of Life...

  • Are they in pain? Watch for clues like difficulty walking, unusual noises or whimpers, inability to jump up on furniture, difficulty going potty.
  • Are they alert? Do they know who you are? Do they appreciate being petted and loved?
  • Are they able to enjoy their food and keep it down?
  • Do they enjoy their usual activities – toys, walks, going bye-bye, napping in favorite places?
  • Are they able to go outside (or to another designated area) to potty?

Time To Chat With Your Vet

If the answer to one or more of the above questions is "yes" you might want to have a conversation with your vet. Sometimes, depending on the diagnosis, measures can be put in place to provide comfort for your pet like pain medication or other types of medications. If all the other questions are "yes" answers, getting your pet out of pain may allow him/her to enjoy more time with you!

If multiple answers are "no," you and your vet will need to have a conversation about options for your pet.

Scrappy Jack's Story...

On the day before Thanksgiving 2013, my beloved Scrappy Jack, age 12, had to go in to have an emergency dental procedure for a dead tooth. He went in healthy and came home with a raging respiratory infection. He also developed a horrid MRSA (methycillin resistant staph aureus) infection which created a huge abscess in his jaw and face, clear up around his eye.

Fast forward through three months of weekly or more frequent vet visits, special soft diet, countless antibiotics, painful daily abscess draining procedures, having his nose cleaned out multiple times a day... the boy was going through a lot. But he was a fighter! Once he would get his health care done, off he would go to explore the back yard, cheerfully putting up with the coat I put on him each time because it was freezing out. The saving graces were that he still had a good appetite, was drinking well, and never ran a temperature throughout the whole ordeal.

All of these reasons, combined with the knowledge that I had personally beat MRSA many times myself, made me willing to keep Scrappy fighting this awful disease. I felt it was a matter of time and the right combination of antibiotics, as it always was with me.

In the remotest corner of my mind, at the beginning when he was diagnosed I told myself that IF the time came, I would not let him suffer and would make the kind decision. IF. I had people telling me to quit and give up, enough already. I believe those comments were more financially motivated than what was right for Scrappy. Don't get me wrong, the financial burden was immense. But I have been used to having to raise vet funds for our Miniature Schnauzer rescue for many years, and a little thing like money wasn't about to stand in his way.

Around the first of February, things started looking up for Scrappy! He seemed to be on the right drugs, the abscess was getting smaller, and his gums were healing nicely. The respiratory infection was stlll raging, but aside from that he seemed perkier, hungrier, and spending more time awake. I was starting to feel pretty hopeful for my precious boy!

On Sunday, February 8, it all went south. Scrappy had a bad day. You could tell he was just feeling miserable. His abscess was bigger, and he had redness around his left eye. For the first time, he did not want to eat for me. He was drinking very little. Once, he went off in the bathroom to hide out and nap on his favorite soft rug alone. These, in a sick dog, are bad signs. Early that evening, I put him outside to potty and he just stood there on the patio. I brought him back inside and put him in his bed for a nap. An hour later, I checked on him and he had totally wet his bed and himself and made no attempt to move away from it. A very bad sign.

When I picked Scrappy up to clean him up, I stood him on the floor and he didn't move. I gave him a gentle push from behind to see what he would do. He bumped into the coffee table and fell down. Oh, no no no no no. Not that. I checked his eyes doing the "flinch" test for blindness and it was inconclusive. (I later learned that was because he lost sight in only one eye, the one affected by the infection). His left pupil was fixed and dilated. I knew he had gone blind in at least that eye, had a stroke, or both. The boy couldn't walk, either.

As the owner of a dog rescue and someone who has a lot of experience with older dogs, I am often asked for advice on the huge "When is it time?" question by owners of sick dogs. I always question them about quality of life issues. Is s/he eating? Drinking? Enjoying going outside? Playing with any toys? Enjoying being loved by his people? Free of excessive pain? If the answers to these questions are all yes, you can feel confident in continuing your pet's fight. But if several answers are no, it's time to start making that hard, kind decision to have your pet humanely euthanized to get him or her out of suffering.

In the course of one day, all of Scrappy's answers changed from yes to no. I was completely unprepared for it, despite knowing it was a possibility from the get-go.

I gave him a gentle bath and got him all clean and dry. I washed his bed and got him settled and comfortable a foot away from where I sit. I cleaned his little nose, put vaseline on it to sooth the dryness, held him on my lap and gently brushed his hair. I gave him a paw massage with the vaseline to make his dry little feet feel better. I talked to him about his friends Sheina and Sparky and so many others who would be waiting for him at Rainbow Bridge. In this way, we spent the night and following morning. I needed some time to say goodbye. Scrappy was "here" mentally and feeling everything so I knew he was enjoying the attention.

Around lunchtime he looked up at me as if to say, "Enough, Mom." I got the message. We got ready to make the final trip to the vet's...

In the course of one day, all of Scrappy's answers changed from yes to no. I was completely unprepared for it, despite knowing it was a possibility from the get-go.

Scrappy Had An Amazing Life! - He was my sweet boy.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Scrappy coming home for the first time with my daughter as an 8 week old puppy!Poor Scrappy - he was always so good for his bathie!Doing what he loved... just last autumn.I bought Scrappy this very cozy bed and he enjoyed it all through his illness. He spent a great deal of time sleeping.Getting ready to say goodbye.
Scrappy coming home for the first time with my daughter as an 8 week old puppy!
Scrappy coming home for the first time with my daughter as an 8 week old puppy!
Poor Scrappy - he was always so good for his bathie!
Poor Scrappy - he was always so good for his bathie!
Doing what he loved... just last autumn.
Doing what he loved... just last autumn.
I bought Scrappy this very cozy bed and he enjoyed it all through his illness. He spent a great deal of time sleeping.
I bought Scrappy this very cozy bed and he enjoyed it all through his illness. He spent a great deal of time sleeping.
Getting ready to say goodbye.
Getting ready to say goodbye.

Doggie Memorial Gifts From Amazon - Any of these would make an awesome gift for someone who has had to say goodbye.

BANBERRY DESIGNS Pet Bereavement Photo Frame Rainbow Bridge Poem
BANBERRY DESIGNS Pet Bereavement Photo Frame Rainbow Bridge Poem

Everyone loves the Rainbow Bridge poem. It's so comforting. Here is a lovely keepsake plaque where you can display your loved one's photo.


How Scrap And I Said Our Goodbye...

Scrappy Jack has always had this trick that he's done since he was a puppy. He wanted to lay on his back on my lap. Then I had to hold his back feet. I would stroke his left shoulder while saying softly, "night-night Scrappy." I could hypnotize him to full lights-out in about 30 seconds! So... what better way to leave? I told him I loved him and to wait for me at Rainbow Bridge and meanwhile go find Sparky and Sheina and the rest of the kids... I did his night-night trick, which seemed to relax him. When he hit lights out, I gave the vet the signal, and that was the end. He did open his eyes for one brief second to look at me, he must have known. I'm so sorry, baby.

Here Is One of My Rainbow Bridge Paintings Available At Cafepress Framed - See all the little Schnauzers waiting??

This painting is available printed on canvas or other items at
This painting is available printed on canvas or other items at

This painting is close to my heart. Although I did it many years ago, it still comforts me. I love the idea of my little doggie going across the bridge and seeing all his friends waiting to greet him.

What Are Your Thoughts On Putting A Doggie To Rest? - Come On, You Can Tell Me!

Scrappy's last moments at the vet.
Scrappy's last moments at the vet.

Have You Ever Had To Put An Animal To Sleep?

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Honored To Be A Guardian With The ASPCA!

You can join the Guardian Donation program at http://www.aspca.orgImages credit
You can join the Guardian Donation program at Images credit

"Crochet thread is the ink with which I will sign my life." –SheilaSchnauzies

Going Back Home Alone... - Everyone Grieves In Different Ways.

Cathedral Art Pet Memorial Urn Locket-heart Shaped-silver Tone Filigree …
Cathedral Art Pet Memorial Urn Locket-heart Shaped-silver Tone Filigree …

You know... I find this idea oddly comforting. I'd probably just wear it in private, in times of being sad. Otherwise I could hang it right here at my desk.


My Other Dogs Helped Me Survive...

When I came home alone after putting Scrappy to rest, I expected the usual "crazy dog attack" at the front door from my three remaining rescue Schnauzers, plus two boarding guests, little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies. But no. Instead, they waited while I walked over and flopped into my chair. Like a wave, they quietly walked up and snuggled in as close to me as possible without a sound. Manny, the larger spaniel puppy who normally wasn't all that "huggy," gave me a full minute hard face lean. Wow. They all stayed like that for a long time. They just knew.

After awhile, I threw myself into doing a mountain of laundry that had piled up. I deal by doing "psycho cleaning." My husband knew I needed to just go through it, so he let me be.

Scrappy And The Rescue Schnauzers At YouTube!

Scrappy has always done a trick with my bowl of cereal. I leave a bit of milk in it. He removes the spoon and sets it aside out of his way!

Pet Dog Cat Memorial Charm You Left Paw Prints On My Heart Zinc Charm, 3 Inch 64536
Pet Dog Cat Memorial Charm You Left Paw Prints On My Heart Zinc Charm, 3 Inch 64536

Nice to have a small memorial I can keep with me all the time on my handbag.


A whole bunch of schnauzers playing!

Rescue Bailey, now at the Bridge, with my Scrappy and my grand girl Macie.

Monty, one of our kids at Rainbow Bridge, was famous for finding a hiding place for his Big Bone toy every night before he went to sleep. A different place each night too!

This is a beautiful memorial song, sung by an awesome friend Shyla, at that time in memory of my nephew Sean. I think it's comforting in times of loss. NOTE there is only audio on this video. No video.

Nothing heals the heart like furry love.

A Way To Keep Scrappy's Memory Alive... - The New Scrappy Jack Memorial Fund

Hi, I'm SheilaSchnauzies... I operate a nonprofit state licensed Miniature Schnauzer Rescue called Sheila's Schnauzies in Omaha, Nebraska. We currently have three rescue dogs here. I keep all my rescues on a full medical coverage plan which costs me about $50 per dog per month. If this article has given you some help or comfort, you are invited to give a memorial gift to our new Scrappy Jack Memorial Fund. Scrappy always loved all the rescue kids who have come through here, and it's only appropriate to honor him in this way. Any amount is appreciated, and all contributions will go directly to support our rescue dogs' monthly vet expenses. You may Paypal to:

On behalf of SJ, thanks so much for your support. It means the world.

Would you stop and say hello? - I'd love to hear your furkid's story here.

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    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 

      4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      I wasn't sure what Rainbow Bridge for your doggy was and now, I have tears in my eyes! I sent 2 dogs and 2 cats ti Rainbow Bridge and they will always be in my heart.

    • SheilaSchnauzies profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Omaha, NE

      @Elsie Hagley: Thanks so much for your kind words and thoughts! It definitely helps knowing people like you care!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      4 years ago from New Zealand

      Tears are in my eyes reading this. I feel for you, it's so sad to watch a animal that has brought so much love to your household suffering. Thinking of you and wishing you all the best for your future happy days, maybe with a new bundle to help you recover from the loss of Scrappy.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      4 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      This was really hard to read. I can still feel the hurt of having to do that, but I'm glad you were with him to the end. It's the least we can do, don't you think? It seems better to watch them go peacefully than know they are suffering. Sigh. So hard to do. My heart is with you!


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