The Loss of a Pet: Will You Be There at The End?

the loss of pets I have loved

the loss of a pet will you be there at the end

When the time has come and you’re about to experience the loss of a pet, will you be there at the end?

No matter how long it’s been since you said goodbye to your last furry family member, it’s always heart wrenching, and you never forget that feeling.

I stay

I have always been there (except once which I’ll explain further down), and will continue to be there as long as I’m able, because I have no doubt it is the right decision for me.

Is it easy? No, it’s one of the most horrific experiences of my life. Knowing there’s nothing I can do to stop the inevitable from happening, and having to say “I’m ready” is tough beyond words. Why do I do it? Because I know it would eat me up alive if I wasn’t there to give them comfort.

Our dog Bailey had pancreatitis, and was at the vet in another city. The end was unexpected, I had no car, and it was late in the day. My husband worked in the same city, and since they were besties, he was the right person to be with him.

Some go

Several people have told me they couldn’t handle being there, and while at the vet I have seen people leave the room, because it was too much for them to witness, and heaven knows it is.

The person who leaves is no less brave than the person who stays, nor did they love any less.

the loss of pets I have loved

Guilt

I want to talk about the guilt some people feel at not having been there. It can hit anytime – soon after, or much later when the grief has subsided.  

That is a road you don’t want to walk down.  

I can certainly understand why you feel the way you do, but not only is it unproductive, it will eat you up inside. Easy for me to say? No it’s not actually, because I know guilt, and I have to learn to handle it regularly.

Please explain this to yourself – you’re feeling guilty in your current state of mind, but you made the best decision for yourself in another state of mind. How can one judge the other?  

Understand what I’m saying?

How will you decide?

While it’s not a topic we want to think about, it’s a good idea to know who would want to be there, and who wouldn’t. At the time, circumstances may force different decisions, but it’s still a good idea to know who stands where, before you’re forced to decide with very little time to think.

If the idea of having it done in a cold, and unfamiliar environment makes you sad, many vets will come to the house. It is an option a lot of people prefer, as it allows their pet to be calm and comfortable in familiar surroundings. It may be easier for you to be there if it’s done in your own home. I hesitate to use the word “easy” because nothing can be further from reality, but you know what I mean.

If this is a strong consideration, know in advance if your vet offers this service, or would you have to look further afield.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you keep changing your mind, I’m the queen of reversible decisions.

If it helps, think about it like this – would you feel worse if you were there, or weren’t there?

Reasons people stay and reasons people go

Here are some reasons why people stay, and why they go. There’s no right or wrong decision, only the decision you make.

Stay

  • Get comfort knowing their pet went peacefully
  • Sure they were treated with respect because they witnessed it
  • Want their pet to know they were with them until the very end
  • Know for sure their pet died – sometimes you have to see to believe
  • Can’t regret not being there

Go

  • Don’t want their pet to be stressed by their reaction/emotions
  • They don’t want it to be the last memory of their pet
  • Don’t want to see death

The loss of a pet – conclusion

It is not our place to judge if someone decides they aren’t able to be there in the last moments of life. Some wouldn’t be anywhere else, others prefer a different final memory. What’s important is you do what’s right for you.

You have to believe your pet knew how much you loved them, and are grateful for how you cared for them.

When you face the loss of a pet, will you be there at the end?

 

Were you with your pet or not? Would you like to share the reasons for your decision? Would you make the same decision if there’s a next time? Sharing your experiences helps others, just write in the comment section below.  

The Loss of a Pet: Will You Be There at The End?
Hindy Pearson
Helping people care for their senior dogs
I am a certified dog trainer and pet care consultant, specialising in working with rescue dogs and first time pet parents. I foster and adopt senior and special needs dogs, and advocate for shelter adoption of all animals, particularly older dogs and cats. I am currently working on a spay/neuter program in Spain.

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12 thoughts on “The Loss of a Pet: Will You Be There at The End?

  1. About 6 years ago (has it been that long?) I we had to let my 16 year old toy poodle, Truffles go. I wanted to be there, but I couldn’t watch him die. The memory is still very hard for me.I am trying to hold back tears as I write this. My fiance and I were with Truffles and I held him to say goodbye and I held him until I had to hand him over to the vet for the injection. My fiance went with the vet. For me, that was how I wanted it and will probably handle it the same way when the time comes for my 2 dogs–which I hope will not happen for many, many, many years.

    1. Hi Sandra, I know how you feel. Every time I write an article in this series I want to cry, but I’m doing it in the hopes it will help someone. We all do the best we can, and you did the best for Truffles. You said goodbye as you wanted, and left him in your fiance’s hands – you were both with him and he knew he was surrounded by love. That’s the only thing that matters.

  2. Nothing ever prepares you for the loss of a pet, they are part of the family but if it means they will suffer no more then, I for one, feel it is the best thing you can do for a loved one. We had a beautiful Airedale (foxy) for 1o years, who helped both our daughters learn to walk, sadly he developed cancer and the only course of action to take was to ease his suffering. My husband and I were there with him and the big sigh and look of relief in his eyes at the moment of his death showed me we did the right thing. Your pets are special and will love your unconditionally, it’s a pity people can’t do the same. Cheers Tracy 🙂

    1. Hi Tracy,
      You’re so right, they are part of the family, I wish more people felt that way. It truly is so sad to have to say goodbye, but they count on us to care for them as best we can, and that includes knowing when it’s time to let them go. Humanity certainly has a lot to learn from animals, if only we would pay attention.

  3. Hi Hindy, I had a black miniature maltese, Smurfie that had arthritus and later she developed heart problems. She was on medication for about 5 years and at age 17 the arthritus medication no longer worked so effectively. I had to make the hard choice to take her to the vet and put her down. I’ll never forget the day I drove back. I cried so much, I had to pull off the road 3 times, unable to see through my tears. My dogs are my children and it was the toughest thing I experienced.

    1. Hi hear you! I cry during each article I write, because it reminds me of how I felt every time. I can’t imagine never sharing my life with animals, so in order to experience the joy, sometimes we have to feel some pain. As horrific as it is, it would never stop me from giving homeless animals a forever home. How empty our lives would be don’t you think!

  4. What a great post and important topic. I’m one who is always there to the very end. When I was 17, my Dad had a heart attack and I did CPR on him, trying to save his life. Ever since then, I have wanted to be there with my loved ones when they pass. I missed out on being with my Mom (I drove from Canada but did not arrive in Idaho in time to be there) and I missed on out being there with my dear cat Cheeto (he died unexpectedly at home without my being home). I’ve been involved in lost pet recovery since 1997, working to help grieving pet owners who’ve lost a pet they love (because it is missing) but I’m now working to start pet memorial retreats in the spring. I want to offer a 5-day retreat for dog and cat owners to laugh, cry, process their loss, kayak, watch whales, and move from grief to joy and celebration of their deep love for animals. This blog taught me about those who chose to stay and those who chose to leave and that the “right” option is what is right for each individual. We all grieve differently, but the fact is that we all grieve! Thanks again for this blog post!

    1. Thanks very much Kat! We all try and make the decisions we can live with, and I know how difficult it is when you can’t be there when you want to be. My father was diagnosed with cancer, and died in just a few weeks. I was living elsewhere at the time, and had just worked out a schedule of flying home every other weekend, and he died. I never got to see him but we do the best we can. I think what you’re doing is amazing, working in lost pet recovery. A terrified puppy mill rescue I fostered got out of her collar and bolted out of terror. Thankfully she was found 6 hours later by the humane unit of our local police department, or I would have been wracked with guilt for not having a harness on her (which I immediately rectified!!). Your retreat sounds amazing, and I wish you lots of luck with that.

  5. It is incredibly difficult – and emotional. When we had to say goodbye to our cat, Charlie, we all made the long drive together (dogs et al) as it was a holiday weekend and we had to drive to an emergency clinic. We did not want to prolong her suffering.

    Because we had the dogs with us, I stayed with them after saying my goodbyes. My husband stayed with his girl until the end.

    1. It’s horrendous. As much as we suffer when they’re gone, the best thing we can ever do, as you did, is end their suffering as soon as possible. How fortunate you had the chance to say goodbye, and she had the comfort knowing your husband was with her.

  6. I found your post very informative. Our last dog we had to put to sleep was our Dobie girl who was almost 12 yrs of age. We got her when she was 8 weeks old and to say she was the love of our life would be an understatement. We have no children so our pets are our children. We were both with her at the vets when she crossed over. Although it is one of the hardest things I have every done I am glad we were with her to the very end. No matter how sick they are though I find that I am always left wondering if I made the right choice.

    Our male dobie who also was almost 12 died two years before our female. We had him at the vets and when he did not seem to get any better we took him back. We were in the room waiting for the vet when he just collapsed and died.

    Having lost pets in very different ways one thing does remain the same and that is the tremendous loss felt by their death. What helps dealing with their death is the memories of their life they shared with us.

    1. Hi Maureen, I must admit I got a bit teary eyed reading your comment. It’s natural to wonder if you made the right choice, but when it comes to your pets’ suffering, there is only one choice to make. They rely on us to give them the best life we can, and to let them go when it becomes too much. For me the wondering is when it’s a quality of life issue. If they’re obviously sick and in pain, and there’s nothing to be done I know I made the only decision I could, when it’s quality of life I’m tortured by it – too soon, waited too long…You’re right that no matter how they leave us, the hole is massive, it’s figuring out a way to cope and for me, it’s giving another homeless animal a place in our lives.

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