- Death & Loss of Life
What to Expect When Your Pet Passes Over
You know that your pet is aging. You notice the subtle changes, for instance , your pup is sleeping a lot more, they don’t get up as easily after a long sleep and they are having accidents in the house. It’s these minor issues that make you realize your pet is not immortal. You knew when you got your pet that you would most likely outlive them, but when is the right time and how do you make the decision to let them go?
This decision is so individual that only you and your pet will really know when it is time. Since it is so individualized I can only tell you what I experienced when my beloved Bailey passed. My first article in this series is "Caring For Your Geriatric Dog 10 Helpful Hints." I wanted to start where I felt the grieving process actually begins. You may want to read that article before you read this one.
Your pet feels your energy and knows there is something heavy weighing on your mind. They probably even know it is about them. They want to be with you so they may hide how bad they are really feeling. Don't feel guilty about this. It isn’t anything you did. Dogs in the wild do the same thing. They hide a lot of their pain, so they don’t become prey. Most animals don’t know there is an alternative to how they are feeling so they just live with their illnesses, often suffering through them.
It is up to us their keepers to discern illness and then decide how to help them. That may mean vet visits to see if there are any issues, or to see if they are in pain. If your pet is ailing from age related problems then sometimes all you can do is keep them comfortable. Even a terminal illness isn't an automatic death sentence. I know a lot of pets that with proper nutrition, supplements and medication have outlived their initial prognosis. But when they are old any diagnosis makes us realize they are not going to live forever.
I believe the grieving process starts at the moment you realize your pet has something they won't recover from. We also go back and forth beating ourselves up as to what we should do, how we should do it and for how long. I know I worried if it was "time" every time Bailey had a bad day. I'd be reduced to tears, often sitting in my yard willing her to get better.
Thankfully, our pets don't carry the same guilt and anguish around with them. They probably wished we didn't either. Animals don't have feelings about death and they are not afraid of dying. Our pets mostly want to hang around because we are here and they want to be with us. That doesn’t mean they don’t get frustrated by their limitations. They just don’t know there is an alternative.
Domestic animals have come to rely on us for their needs, because we have taken care of them all of their life. It only stands to reason that when they are hurting they depend on us to make it stop. That may mean keeping them comfortable in old age and unfortunately making the pain or suffering stop when traditional routes no longer work. The best you can do is try to understand what your pet is going through and make decisions accordingly.
As an animal communicator I often get asked if our pets tell us when they are ready to go. They do and they don’t. Dogs in the wild don’t have an alternative to illness or pain, so they learn to live with it. Domestic pets on the other hand have learned to read our energy. They even know two to three hundred words. They feel when we are happy or sad or especially apprehensive. So they are more likely to communicate back to us.
Their experience of their human companion is that they meet their needs. This probably explains why you know when your pet is hungry, or has to go outside, or even when they are not feeling well. It only reasonable that they will let you know when they no longer want to go on. Some pets may just take it upon themselves to pass. Don't we all hope that happens to us? Unfortunately is doesn't always happen that way, so we are left to make the devastating decision when to let them go.
I hated that I was playing God with Bailey, but I loved her so much it killed me to see her in pain. When we, her humans could no longer make her comfortable I knew the best thing to do was let her pass over.
My experience with God is that there is an afterlife. It is a beautiful place where all creatures on earth go. There is no pain, no suffering only joyous times of playing in the sun. I knew all her needs would be taken care of. I know not everyone has the same ideas about God, Heaven, the afterlife or passing over. Your own plan of action will come from your own beliefs.
My first experience with knowing I had to let a pet go was with Deacon my Golden Retriever. Deacon was poisoned, so everything happened very quickly. As soon as we saw he was sick we rushed him to the hospital. They actually had to revive him. He spent two more days in intensive care. We had him on oxygen and even gave him blood transfusions. He was very, very ill. It was while I was sitting vigil by him on the second night that he told me he needed to go. It was so clear as if he had spoken the words right to me. He said that he was very sick and he wasn’t going to get better. I actually gasped for air. It knocked the wind right out of me. At first I tried to ignore it. I didn’t want to believe it was true, but I knew he was reaching out to me for help. I sobbed by his bedside for a long time and even begged him to stay. The next morning he was no better so I told him it was okay and I was letting him go. I felt a knife had been plunged through my heart the pain was so intense. I stayed in the room and cried over him for over an hour before the staff told me they needed the room. I still cry when ever I think about that night. I remembered it so vividly and when others asked me what they should do I always tell them your pet will tell you. I still believe they do. I doubt most people have the shocking experience I did, but I feel in one way or another it happens.
Many times we miss the subtle clues because our own heart can’t bear to let them go. Our pets may reach a plateau, they don’t get better and they don’t get worse. They hang on and they hang around because they don’t know what else to do. That doesn’t mean they aren’t ready to go. They may just be in limbo.
In Bailey's case I felt she was might be ready to go, but was having trouble letting me know. I really was in tune to her. I spent as much time as I could with her the last six months of her life. I quit my job and even broke off a relationship because I really wanted to savor every last moment I could with my beloved girl. At first I thought it was me she was hesitated leaving, so while we were driving one day I had a talk with her and gave her permission to go. I did this so she would know I still loved her, but wanted her to be happy and I knew she wasn't in her present state. It was during our conversation I found out it wasn’t me but her dad that was the issue. She didn’t want to go without seeing her dad one more time.
My husband and I had shared custody of our dog for six years after our divorce. Every other week she would go to his house. About nine months before she passed Bob gave me full custody. I know it killed him to let her go but, it was getting harder for her to get up and down the stairs at his house. I was in the dog business so he knew she would be well taken care of and could even go to work with me. Although, she visited my ex a lot I knew she missed him terribly. She just couldn’t fathom leaving earth without seeing her dad and step mom one last time.
During our conversation I explained to her that she would definitely see her dad again. I told her if she was ready to go I would call him so he could come down and visit. I made that call as soon as we got home. She must have understood because she lied down on the seat next to me and went to sleep.
What happened that day was a true sign animals communicate with us. I knew she was ready to go and as soon as I told her everything would be okay daddy would be there to see her she let me know now was the time. I had sensed the time was getting close, so we had gone up to my friend's ranch for the weekend. Bailey loved it up there and I wanted her to see her Auntie one last time. We had the conversation on the way home from that trip. We arrived home on a Monday morning. I don't know what made me do it, but I carried her up onto the patio. I made her comfortable and went about unpacking the car. I was barely done when I noticed she had gotten up and then it started. Bailey became very ill. She slept most of the day getting up only vomit. I knew it was time.
I called the vet right away and arranged to have her come out to the house to do the euthanasia. I was glad my vet did home euthanasia because I wanted Bailey to go in familiar surroundings. I called my ex again to let him know what was happening. He and his wife arranged to come down first thing the next morning.
I was in shock. I knew she wanted to go, but didn't know she would take me up on my offer so soon. I knew Bailey’s time was getting close since I had taken her to the vet the week. They took x-rays and you couldn’t miss the tumors growing in every part of her stomach. That was the first time I called my ex and told him how bad she was. He and Kathy were actually trying to decide a day to come down before Bailey forced the issue.
Bob and Kathy arrived first thing the next morning. Bailey perked up a little and wagged her tail, but she wasn’t able sit up. I offered them coffee and then my mom and I left so they could spend time alone with Bailey. The vet was late getting to the house so, Bob and Kathy got to spend more time with her. I was glad for that. They loved on her and took full advantage of that time to say goodbye. They told her stories about when she was a puppy and all the funny stuff she did. We all told her, her brother Deacon would be there to help her pass over.
Bob, Kathy and I remained on friendly terms for the last six years purely for the love of our dog. We split vet bills and were there for each other when the other wanted go on vacation. I often wondered why divorced parents couldn’t act the same way for the sake of their kids. I was just glad we were both able to enjoy her for her full fifteen years. She was definitely loved.
The vet arrived and things moved quickly from there on out. We all gathered around Bailey, Bob and I up by her head and my mom and Kathy down further, each holding a paw. I whispered to her that her brother, Deacon would be there to help her pass over and to just comfort her. I held onto her as they injected her, so I felt her energy slip away. It was very peaceful and she went fast. Then Bob said a prayer.
Although it was the best we could have hoped for, for her end it was a horrible day for me. I had my beloved Bailey for fifteen years. Even though I knew we had made the right decision at the right time my heart was shattered. I was thankful my friends and family, especially the ones that loved Bailey were there to support me. She was so loved I got condolence calls, emails and texts all day. That really helped me get through. Even the manager of our park came over to say he was sorry. She had become some what of an icon in our mobile home park.
As sad as I was here I knew Bailey was on her way to ever lasting joy and that gave me comfort. It pained me to let my baby go, but it pained me more to see her not having fun with life anymore and it pained me to see her so sick. I loved her so much I only wanted what was good for her and at that point is was respecting her enough to give her relief from her misery. I’m glad she could pass at home with her loved ones all around her. As devastating as it may be there comes a time when it has to be about your companion. Whether we know it or not we make that commitment to them the day they walk into our lives.
I guess because I can communicate with animals I have a certain comfort knowing our companion animals never really leave us. They just become a different form of energy. I'll never forget about a week after Bailey passed I was at work. It was very quiet in the store and Bailey came to me. Clear as day I heard her say, "Mom, I'm having fun!" My heart skipped a beat, but I smiled because I knew my baby girl had arrived. She was no longer in pain and wasn't sick.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of both Bailey and Deacon. I keep their ashes on the mantel and I have pictures of them all over the house. I see them running in fields of gold under turquoise blue skies and I know they are okay.