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I let my Boy go a year and a half ago. He was 15 1/2. Did I agonize over my decision then? Yes. Do I still cry when I think about him? Yes. Do I still sometimes wonder if the time really was right? Yes, I do. Do I worry about the nearly 16 year old every time she refuses a meal, struggles to get up, falls down, appears to struggle to get her breath? Yes. Did I nearly panic the other night when the nearly 15 year old fell over in what appeared to be the same sort of seizure that Boy had right before he died? You bet. Do I cry thinking about the decisions I will likely have to make for both Jill and Willow, probably this year, most certainly within the next twelve months, unless a miracle happens? Yes. But even though the thought of previous losses and losses to come fills me with a great grief, I still understand that I owe it to them to be strong enough to make that decision when it's time. Even knowing that the time is right doesn't make it easier. But the only other choice is not to let them into our hearts to begin with, and I have chosen to suffer the pain of losing them (and the agonizing over the decisions that accompany that) because I would not want to miss the joy of having them a part of my life. I suspect that everyone who has posted to this list feels the same.

 

What I see in the posts to this thread are people who have given a great deal of thought to how to ease a beloved pet's passing, how to figure out when the time is right and when heroic measures are not the answer, and when to forgive oneself for having to make that hard choice. Our animals can't speak to us--we have to use our intimate knowledge of them to figure out what they're thinking and feeling, and I see a number of people who have searched their hearts and minds thoroughly in order to try to do the right thing.

 

J.

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The flip side of not waiting long enough is waiting too long. I waited too long to euthanize one of the dogs--a ~ 13 year old- that I refused diagnosis and treatment for. I had actually brought the dog to the vet twice expecting that he would not come home with me and both times was talked out of it by the vet (which wasn't hard) The cruel irony is that if I had euthanized him the first time, I would be forever wondering (like Rushdoggie), if he would have recovered (temporarily). As it turned out, his suffering was prolonged by about a week, something that I feel pretty crappy about almost 11 years later.

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There is another scenario here. Some people simply cannot afford to foot a huge vet bill when a dog becomes seriously ill. They may want to. They may feel panic and guilt and dread at the idea of putting down their dog.

This is also a very important point. Many people have pets and can (and will) provide reasonable, affordable, normal health care. But some people can't justify an expensive treatment - they don't have the resources, they have other demands on their resources, or whatever.

 

Everyone has to take into account their situation, including the welfare of the animal and the prognosis, to make the decision that is right for them.

 

Geonni - That was certainly a wonderful, win-win situation. Bless those folks who stepped in and helped!

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Based on so many of the replies in this thread I saw so many people who seem confident and at peace that they did the right thing, that they had the wisdom and grace to know and feel that they made the right call, that they could look back with clarity after the event and see that it was the best thing.

 

That is not how I felt at the time. I struggled with it. I cried for days and weeks. At night when I was supposed to be sleeping, on my way to and from work, and any time I wasn't in front of kids at work.

 

I worried about whether or not I might be giving up too soon, if she might suddenly get better, if there was something she might eat if I could only find it. Much of my life became consumed with trying to get her to eat something, and I still think of it at times when I run across some of the foods I tried.

 

I didn't know it was time. Maddie wasn't clearly telling me that it was time to let her go. In fact, I don't believe she wanted to go. But I had to make the choice between making that decision or letting her starve herself to death. I didn't have peace with the decision, I wasn't confident - it tore my heart to pieces.

 

But I simply could not let her starve. It came down to that.

 

Then came the guilt of feeling like I had killed her. And maybe if I seen some of the earlier signs, that I only saw in retrospect - maybe she could have been diagnosed while she was still somewhat healthy and something could have been done for her.

 

My acceptance of what happened is somewhat personal, but it happened some time later.

 

I still miss her like crazy.

 

I planted two shrubs in her flower garden yesterday. Why? She won't be here to lay under them. I don't think any of the other dogs would. I bought her shrubs and she isn't even here. I hope one of my other dogs will eventually enjoy their shade, but really, they are Maddie's.

 

I do know that I did what I had to do, and now I do have peace with the decision. But I will never feel good about it. And seven months later, I know it was right not to let her starve to death.

 

But I didn't feel that way at the time, nor even in the immediate weeks afterward.

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Years ago, I used to say about my boy Archer -- the day he quits eating is the day I will know. That dog ate through everything...good and bad. I knew it was coming...and of course, the day came that he refused to eat. He was going into renal failure and I knew that. Everyone is different. I always measured the quality of life as my guide. I called the vet and made an appointment. That night we took our last walk. The next morning, when I came downstairs he greeted me like he was a puppy. Driving to the vet, I prayed to God to give me a sign...was I doing the right thing? When we got to the vet, he asked me how old Archer was. "He's twelve" I said. My vet looked at his card. "No, Bonnie, he's thirteen." (I knew that...I just want him to be twelve.) To make a long story short, after the exam, my vet asked, "Has he been coughing?" No. "Has he been throwing up?" No. Geez, I thought was this the sign?? "Well", he said, "it's hard to believe he's not coughing with as bad a heart murmur as he now has...and not throwing up with the sizable tumor he has." There was my sign. I could have taken him home...to let him die naturally and maybe in pain. Or I could end it now. My vet told me that many times dogs seem to rally and people take them home, only to bring them back a few days later for the inevitable. It hurt...but I chose to end it right there and then. The quality of his life was more important to me. That was probably 20 years ago or more, and still I tear up as I am writing this. I have made that decision for almost every dog I've owned....14 in the past. An old friend and long-time breeder who I knew years ago once told me that no matter how many dogs you have, losing them never gets easier. And she was correct.

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I wanted to share this story with those of you who are interested. This happened to me when I was working at a veterinary hospital. I was haunted by it for a very long time, and only putting it down on paper helped me to get over it. Fair warning - it is not a happy story.

 

http://sugarfootsez.blogspot.com/2012/04/its-not-ok-kitty.html

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That is not how I felt at the time. I struggled with it. I cried for days and weeks. At night when I was supposed to be sleeping, on my way to and from work, and any time I wasn't in front of kids at work.

 

I worried about whether or not I might be giving up too soon, if she might suddenly get better, if there was something she might eat if I could only find it. Much of my life became consumed with trying to get her to eat something, and I still think of it at times when I run across some of the foods I tried.

 

---

 

But I simply could not let her starve. It came down to that.

 

Then came the guilt of feeling like I had killed her. And maybe if I seen some of the earlier signs, that I only saw in retrospect - maybe she could have been diagnosed while she was still somewhat healthy and something could have been done for her.

 

---

 

I still miss her like crazy.

 

 

This.

 

Substitute a few words and it's my story. I went through weeks of "if onlys" before I lost her - if only the cancer had been found sooner. The primary tumor was on her spleen, if it had been found before it had metastasized then maybe surgery would have made a difference.

 

Then came the agonizing how will I ever make the decision and when.

 

In the end it came down to the fact that I just couldn't let her get worse. I second guessed myself after I made the appointment. The only reason I didn't back out was that I knew it was terminal and, while I knew her heart was still willing, I could see her body had almost given out on her. I couldn't let her get any worse. But it was the hardest decision that I've ever had to make.

 

That was 9 months ago and I still don't really talk about her because it hurts too much and I just start crying.

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I wanted to share this story with those of you who are interested. This happened to me when I was working at a veterinary hospital. I was haunted by it for a very long time, and only putting it down on paper helped me to get over it. Fair warning - it is not a happy story.

 

http://sugarfootsez.blogspot.com/2012/04/its-not-ok-kitty.html

 

What awful people. What an awful vet. I'm sorry you had to get caught in that.

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My father's old dog was 14. She was my baby - I lived at home the year they got her, and loved her like my own dog.

 

She had hemangiosarcoma, and we brought her home to let her live out her last days. My parents went away for a weekend, and I was watching the dog. I could tell she was going; she had slipped back to not eating, moving slowly and painfully. I actually called my sister on Saturday and said, "This dog is going to die. Should I take her to the vet and have her put down?" My sister encouraged me to wait until my parents got home.

 

Well, Tuesday morning, my father woke up to the sound of screaming. The dog was wracked with some kind of incredibly painful seizure or brain bleed. My 76-year-old father had to carry his writhing, screaming dog to the car and manage to drag her into the vet's office to be put down. He remembers this horrific moment with great and intense pain.

 

If I think about this, I regret it - every single time. I could have saved the dog and my father the horrible end. I chose not to - and it was bad for the dog, my dad, and me.

 

I would choose 1,000 times wondering if I had done it too soon if I could wipe out my father's memory of those last hours.

 

Mary

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There have been a few recent passings of beloved dogs lately. It seems more than usual. I had to put down my 13.5 yr old cattledog on March 26. I am at peace with my decision but it still breaks my heart. I still well up with tears when I see her pictures, think about her or someone asks how I am doing.

 

Now this is a dog that I did spend a lot of money on between injuries and orthopedic surgeries when she was 7 yrs and 9 yrs of age. She was still very healthy at that time so I did the surgeries. Now may not have if she was older or had other health issues. 9 months ago she was diagnosed with oral melanoma. We chose to remove the tumor but not treat. I wanted a quality of life and not quantity. My biggest fear was that I would wait too long to euthanize. She probably only suffered for 2 days or so since it happened over the weekend and I chose that Monday morning I would take her in. My vets thanked me for thinking about HER and not myself. They knew it was time just by looking at her. The sparkle was gone from eyes. She went so peacefully and so quickly. I truly believe she was ready to say goodbye but also think I waited a day or 2 too long.

 

My biggest fear of waiting too long is because I did wait too long almost 8 yrs ago with Charlotte. She was diagnosed with GI Tract Lymphoma (very aggressive form) and liver failure. She seemed ok, not great, so we chose not to treat since there was no chance for remission (been to the vets many time for illness and a lot of money - this was the 3rd suspected cancer diagnosis but this time it was). We took her home and said we would make the decision when she refused to eat. You have to understand she was a food whore. Loved food so we thought this was a good thing to use. I was so wrong. I refused to see how sick she was the last month of her life. She could not even go for a walk without getting horribly sick and vomiting blood. The sparkle was gone from her eye but I didn't see it. She basically could only walk enough to get food and drink. She would lay in my lap and just sleep. I just was not ready to really see what was happening. The hardest part was she was only 4.5 yrs old. She was so young. Once morning she turned away from breakfast so I knew it was time since this was what we said would tell us. I made the appt and took her in. The problem was that because of her organ failures the drugs weren't metabolizing properly. The screaming at the top of her lungs from pain (even the vets felt it was the drugs actually burning through her) was horrifying. My husband and I both were in tears, the vets were in tears, the techs, receptionists were all in tears. They ended up closing the clinic for 30 minutes because owners of animals were getting upset. Yeah the whole process for this one euthanization took 45 minutes and about 43 minutes of that involved the dog screaming in pain and a ton of meds trying to find one that would let her sleep. If I would have chosen to euthanize sooner the process would not have been so traumatic to all involved. I still have nightmares about it and that was 8 yrs ago. There were so many signs that she was ready much sooner but I refused to see them. She was my heart dog.

 

After this I decided I would never let my animals suffer like that again. My selfishness caused her and many others great anguish. I now follow a better life quality monitor: Pick 3 things your animal LOVES to do and when they can no longer do 2 of them then it is most likely time. Foster loved to play, loved to eat and loved to just hang out. Earlier in the week she was playing just slowly which is, she was eating well and normal for her and would sort of hang out but was sleeping more and more each day. By Saturday morning she could hardly walk, could not even stand up easily or lie down without pain, couldn't squat to pee without pain and she could not play, she also ate her food so slowly which was unlike her and add in at this point unless we interacted directly with her all she did was sleep and look miserable. In her case, she lost all 3 things she loved at one time.

 

For things like orthopedic issues in a healthy dog I am ok with paying the money but for cancers that even with treatment may only give you another 6-12 months on average I won't do it. Yes your dog could be the "rare" one but then again they could be ill/sick for a good portion of that time so how did you do this for them if You are the one making them sick by treatments.

 

I won't give advice to anyone that asks about when to euthanize but if they want to hear my stories about it I will tell them. Everyone needs to make their own decision about it and no one has right to make anyone feel guilty about it. We all have our stories for and against this stuff and I think for me I am just very sensitive about it because of Charlotte so I would prefer to euthanize early if I have to instead of too late and letting the dog suffer. I may not agree with someone's decision but I respect it is there decision though.

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It’s very hard to sort through the argument your heart has with your head when it comes time to decide what to do. The last time I was placed in that situation was June 29th, 2009 with my cat, Tobi. Long story short, her heart had thrown a blood clot. The vet told us we could take her to a specialist and try to extend her life but she also told us, her heart would throw another clot probably within 3 months. The 2nd clot will kill her. While I was trying to sort through the info the vet was giving me, she offered to get us a 2nd opinion and brought another vet into the exam room who concurred with the 1st vet. Their info helped but maybe not in the way they thought it would. While the vets were talking, it allowed me time to think. When I looked down at Tobi, she looked up at me. The look she gave me helped me make my decision. It was a look of trust; not fear or pain or anger, just pure trust. Tobi had proven to me a number of times in the past her trust in me was unconditional and this time was no different. Her trust in me was testament in how much she loved me; that I had given her a good life. When I was able to find my talking voice (I was scared if I opened my mouth, I would lose it and start screaming) I told DH “Yesterday Tobi was running around playing with the dogs and being happy. If the rest of her life is spent forcing pills down her throat, unable to run or play and tease the dogs, she’s going to grow bitter and angry. I don’t want Tobi leaving me being mad at me. We’ll go ahead and put her to sleep”.

 

I felt like I lied to Tobi because when I found her that morning, I told her everything was going to be alright but do I regret my decision? No, because I know I still did what was best for Tobi. Do I still miss her? Yes. It’s been almost 3 yrs since she’s been gone and the tears still run down my face while I write this. But I know I’ll be seeing her again one day along with my other past pets who I miss dearly when my time comes.

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I have an appointment to take my 18 year old Papillon, Zippy, to be helped to the bridge this afternoon. Some of the things said in this thread have helped me - to all of you, thank you. This one thing I can do for him. I can let him go while he still has some good memories left. This will be the last gift of kindness I can give to a dog who has given me and others so much.

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Oh, Laura. I thought I was going to able to dry my tears until I read your post. I'm sorry you are going to be going through the pain of losing Zippy but I hope you take solice in knowing you gave Zippy a grand and wonderful life.

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I've read through this thread, and tonight, I've been listening to Zachary. He's barking off and on..like he's trying to tell me something and although he is eating well, I think that the time has come for me to let him go ..... I found this essay not long after Jazz died - I read it again tonight..

I know in my heart I need to let Zachary be at peace..but it does not make the decision any easier.

 

 

I hope this essay will help others as it helped me.

 

Dealing with the Guilt.

 

Guilt. It's a word that can invoke in us the deepest, most terrible feelings of loss, horror, anger, and helplessness. Why did I do what I did? Why couldn't I have done more? Did I kill my beloved pet? Did I not do enough? Did I do too much? Did I put him/her down too soon? Did I wait too long? If only I had closed the gate. If only I had noticed sooner. If only I had waited longer. If only I had more money. If only I had rushed to the vet sooner. If only I had known more at the time. If only I had listened to my gut feelings. If only I had gone to a better vet.

 

And we beat ourselves up for all these questions and "if-onlys". Why do we do this? Because we loved our pets. Because we wish we could have done more, or wish we had not done what we did.

 

But we cannot bring them back. We cannot change what we did or did not do.

 

What we can do is stop hurting ourselves over the guilt. Each of us, in our own way, did what we thought was right at the time, using what we knew and felt. Each of us tried to do the best we could, and did it with the intention of love.

 

We are human beings, with frailties and faults. We don't know everything. We make mistakes. But we make them with the best of intentions.

 

To hurt ourselves with the terrible additional pain of guilt is to do disservice to the love we felt for our pets. With very, very few exceptions, we did the best we knew to do at the time. Even if we feel that we didn't do what we should have, or did what we should not have, we have learned, and everyone will benefit from that knowledge now.

 

Our beloved pets are gone, and out of pain. We still torture ourselves with the pain of guilt and doubt. It's human to do that, too, but are we being fair to ourselves?

 

We loved, deeply, and that says that we have a deep capacity for love that many do not. We are basically good people. Should we not recognize that goodness, instead of inflicting pain on ourselves for what we could, or should, or should not have done?

 

We took in a beloved creature, and gave him or her everything we could. We petted, we walked, we fed, we changed litterboxes, we played, we stroked, we sat sleepless on difficult nights. We cared, and did everything we knew to do at the time. And we looked in their eyes, and knew they understood that we loved them. If we didn't know enough, or made an innocent mistake, do we believe that they did not understand, and love and forgive us in spite of it? I believe they did, and that they do.

 

We need to forgive ourselves. If we can, we can increase our knowledge, reach out to help others, and use our pain to make things better for our pets, for others' pets, and for those animals out there who are alone and lost. We can make a difference. But only if we quit hating ourselves, blaming ourselves, for being human.

 

Let the guilt go. Know that your furbabies don't blame you; they understand, because they know your heart. Let yourself forgive yourself, and allow all the love you have to be there for another. There are so many who need it.

 

Learn, and then teach. Keep learning, and don't stop. Every pebble of knowledge and caring you send out will ripple throughout the world, and keep growing. And perhaps in time, every animal will be loved, and well-cared for, and there will be a great golden age for the animals, and for those of us who love them.

 

 

Ginger-lyn Summer

September 10, 1999

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I guess I am the only one who still struggles so much. I posted how my little heart dog died after some kind event...I let him be PTS because he was disoriented and then struggling so hard to breathe, but then second guessed my choice because what if he had a seizure and was post ictal and if given a few hours could have improved?

 

I don't like having that choice weigh on me. How am I to decide what makes life worth living for my dog?

 

 

Oh, Rushdoggie, you are not the only one. I still see our sweet Della's face, as the vet carried her body into the hospital (we had her put to sleep in my truck) for later cremation. We knew she was done, sick, tired and bereft of joy. But ... we'd already lost two old ones, and to lose her, too, was pure agony.

 

We did the right thing. But it hurt. And I still ask myself, Could she have comfortably lasted a few more days?

 

When I have to let 13-year-old Jesse go, it's going to wreck me. It's never easy. Intellectual knowing does not overcome heartfelt pain.

 

Blessings ~

 

Gloria

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I haven't had the emotional energy yet to contribute to this discussion, but it seems to me there's a lot of valuable thoughts here on a very difficult subject.

 

Respectfully -- I'd suggest this might be a good thread to "pin."

 

LizS

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Gosh this thread is hard to read, but so important.

 

Chin was his name. Not a border collie but a sweet little pug mix that grew up with my kids. My son learned to walk by pulling up on him and Chin patiently never moved so as not to cause him to fall. I don't know where the time went but one day he was 13 yrs. old. He couldn't hear anymore but he was still pretty spry. Then in the course of 2 weeks he deteriorated rather quickly. Stopped eating, trouble walking... I was in shock about it and took him for an overnight to the vet for testing and IV's. I didn't realize he had so many deteriorating discs..he always had such a high pain tolerance, he didn't show it until then. The vet thought there was nothing to do but try to make him comfortable until he couldn't be anymore. It cost about $1,000 that overnight but I never regretted doing it. When he came home, it was like he had a second wind. He ate, and danced, and I thought ok little trooper you have some time left. So that week we went to a wedding breakfast for a friend, thinking Chin would be ok for a few hours home sleeping. When we came home we found that he had passed away. It was heartbreaking to know that I wasn't there for him and I can't help but feel guilty about it to this day. When you put your dog to sleep you get to be there and say good-bye and I didn't get to do that. Although, at times I thank little Chin for sparing me that decision. Still....

 

Thank you for posting the essay. It's what I've tried to do. Every rescue I've participated in I dedicate to him.

 

Mr. McCaig, I am sorry for your loss.

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I was told about this thread a couple of weeks ago, but stayed away til now. Donald, my heart is with you and Anne (and June's other beloved handler), I hate that you had to lose her. I appreciate what you both did when you found out about her condition, and I have to say I would easily do the same thing.

 

Our dogs are with us until we let them go or God takes them. I think they accept what we decide, trusting that we need them. For me, it's hard to let go, but I feel like I step out of my body and that middle-aged person in it makes the call, while my heart is screaming like an infant. It's the hardest thing I ever do, deciding when my beloved companion will die. My first euthanasia decision came when my lab mix Carly was found to have lung cancer at 9. I found out in May and cried clear til July when I saw the light go out of her eyes and that other woman drove her to the VEC and told them to let her go. I was with her and it was so peaceful. All of the actual procedures went smoothly, and I have had others die before we could decide, but each time I learned more. Having horses is tougher, with them, the logistics of death take far more planning and practicallity, but that same other woman makes the call. I have to say, she is calm, determined and seems at peace when she speaks to the person who she arranges it with. For the animal, be it horse or dog (or kitty), I join up with her and take a calm, loving attitude, begging them to trust me and to know they are the love of my life, and I pray for them to know it.

 

As for a "natural" death, I don't know if it is as peaceful. I have seen far too many to know it might not be. I pray for owners who cannot bring themselves (or that strong person they could call on from within) to chose euthanasia. They suffer so much, and those of us who serve them suffer too, but I have to believe their bond is unique to them, and no God would let anyone suffer but so much, not really. I kept the dog after Carly (Calvin, my first Border Collie) alive for an extra year when he was found to have immune mediated hemolytic anemia, and I think I made a mistake that time, and worried over it immensely afterwards. Regrets. The next dog I lost, Luke, I wholely believe God stepped in and took from me, not as punishment, but just because, maybe because we both might have suffered more than we needed too over what might have come, had he not been killed in that accident. I was able to hold him and tell him he was perfect and wonderful, and I still wonder what I would do now, if Simon meets up with an serious illness. He almost died in October, and I cherish every day I have with him, even if it means taking him out of what he loves to do.

Is that fair?

 

I am struggling now with an aged pony who is possibly faced with a terminal condition, and I have struggled with this same thing for the past few weeks. My oldest dog is 15 and a half, my oldest kitty is older. Each euthansia is hard, each situation difficult. Each one I pray I make the decision in time to lessen the chance they leave life hurting and too sick to want to stay. I never regret it when it's done, but it's with me forever. Worst thing my equine vet said recently hit me hard: "I doubt anyone would view you judgementally for deciding to let him go at his age". Does that mean I have to pass muster with them if I pass on further diagnostics for a 38 year old pony with a respiratory rate of 40-60 resting? Pass a tube down to his lungs to see if he has a neoplasia? Really? He won't know there's going to be no tomorrow, but we will sure know he's gone from ours if I put him down. His pain in living gone, mine for a while longer, I have to have the strength, for them, to take that on.

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