I know what a heartbreaking prospect saying goodbye to your dog will be, something we avoid thinking about as much as we possibly can. The thing is, as we watch our dogs age and develop health issues, it becomes harder and harder to prevent those thoughts from creeping in.
I’m not suggesting you start dwelling on that day, but I am urging you to find strength to give it some thought, at least when it comes to deciding whether or not you will be with him or her when it’s time.
The moment we have to say goodbye is so heart wrenching, many pet parents aren’t able to be in the room when it happens. No judging please and no feeling guilty. It doesn’t mean they didn’t love their dog completely or was less caring or responsible, it just means it was too hard for some people to bear. By the same token others couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
What would you do?
Perhaps you’ve already been faced with this decision so you know what you’ll do. Maybe you weren’t entirely sure you did the right thing so will do the opposite next time. Quite possibly you haven’t had to say goodbye before and you’re not sure what the “right” decision is.
This is very important to understand – there is no “right” decision, only the one that you can handle in that moment.
Having to think about the unthinkable
The reason why it’s so important to give it some thought is because it’s irreversible, and when you’re in the middle of heartbreak it’s hard to think clearly.
I will never forget the first time I had to say goodbye, it was my beloved cat Calypso. She wasn’t eating so I took her to the vet. He did blood tests and quickly discovered her kidneys were failing, there was nothing he could do and it was time. I knew she had issues but it felt like she went downhill quite quickly so I was stunned…and in pieces. Not only because I loved her so much, but because I had never faced anything like this before and had no idea what was going to happen. My vet was so amazing but there was “stuff” to take care off, and that stuff included being handed a form with big letters saying Euthanasia across the top and being asked to sign it. That’s when I thought I would literally faint. Then the questions came – did I want her buried or cremated, ashes back or not, what kind of urn…
As I write this I realise it sounds like they were heartless but that was absolutely not the case. My vet couldn’t have been more compassionate, but there were important questions that needed answering. I had never thought about this subject before, but I knew without hesitation being with her and comforting her was the only place for me.
I stay with every pet except I was not able to be with Bailey, but my husband was. I was okay with that because they were best buds and I know Bailey was happy being with him.
When you’re faced with having to make an immediate “yes or no”, “stay or go” what do you do? I hope the following will help.
Why you might decide to stay
- Feeling your dog is comforted by your presence, which in turn may give you comfort and peace
- Wanting yours to be the last face your dog sees
- The fear you might regret/feel guilty not having been there
- Knowing how impossible it will be, but doing it anyway because you want to be there for your dog as you have been until now
- The vet’s office can be a very scary place with some unfamiliar people around, having you there can be a great source of comfort
- Even if you “know” he’s gone, sometimes not actually seeing it can leave you doubting whether it happened
- You want to rest easy knowing he passed quickly and painlessly
Why you might decide not to stay
- You’d rather not remember your dog’s final moments surrounding by strangers in a clinical setting
- You want your last image to be of him alive in your home, garden, on his favourite bed…
- Concern your emotions will stress your dog
- You may be scared of death, almost superstitious
An alternative to your vet’s clinic is having a vet come to your home. Your dog will be in a familiar environment, surrounded by everyone he loves who loves him. Perhaps this option is one you’re more comfortable with.
Check with your veterinary practice to see if they offer this service or can recommend someone who does. Otherwise a search for “in home euthanasia” will give you options in your area. Lap of Love is one many of my FB group members have used, and spoken very highly of in terms of compassion and support.
Who wants to be there
Something else to think about is who might like to be there – your children, other family members…Saying goodbye at home allows you more flexibility than a vet’s office in terms of how many people you can accommodate. Some vet practices have private rooms specifically for saying goodbye, so check with yours in case you prefer this option to at home.
Knowing what to expect
You’ve read the reasons why some people choose to stay, and why some choose not to. You’ve also seen there is another option to a vet’s office. What about knowing what to expect? Being unfamiliar with the process frightens people (even though my vet was amazing it terrified me because I had no idea what to expect) and influences their decision whether to be with their dog or not. Have your vet explain what happens step by step and see if that helps you decide.
I will mention one thing – being asked for payment right then and there is not something anyone should expect to experience…yet I did and it made an already heartbreaking experience all the more horrific.
A terrible experience I don’t want you to share
Sadly I’m no stranger to saying goodbye and it never gets easier, however nothing was more disgusting than when I had to say goodbye to my cat TT at an animal hospital in Florida. Although he had cancer for a few months he was doing well until he suddenly had what seemed like a massive stroke, so we rushed him to the hospital. We knew we were going to say goodbye and that nothing could be done. What we never expected was for a receptionist to come into the examination room to collect payment before they would put him down.
That tells you everything you need to know about the type of place it was, I don’t care how well known they are.
I mention this because payment is something you need to be absolutely clear about. Your practice may know you well enough to let you leave without paying, respecting your grief, but they don’t always tell you they will not send your pet for cremation (if that’s what you decide) until payment is received. Yes that happened to me as well. I assumed because I had been going there for years and they allowed me to leave without paying (respecting my grief), I could pay when I picked up my cat’s ashes (another cat not TT). When I hadn’t heard from them in a couple of weeks I called and found out they had left my cat in a freezer the entire time. I went ballistic at the owner of the practice, crying and screaming on the phone.
They may not have wanted to say anything at the time out of respect, but a friendly phone call a couple of days later would have been the right thing to do. How are we expected to know their policies?
See why I want you to ask in advance?
Saying goodbye to your dog
A sad topic to be sure but an important one to think about. Whether you decide to stay or not is a decision only you can make, but I do hope this post will help.
If you feel comfortable sharing, did you stay? If you’ve never been through this before, have you given any thought to what you will do? Leave your comments below.
I held my last two dogs when they passed. The first was eight and the last was fourteen. I think I got as much comfort from it as they did. I have not been able to take my dog to the vet and have them put down because they are sick.
Hi John, thank you for sharing that. As horrible as it is to witness, I couldn’t imagine not being there with them, and like you say, you each got comfort. All my pets have been put down at the vet, because we were there when the test results came in. I had never considered having a vet come to the house to do it, although someone very close to me always does. This way the whole family is around, and their pet is in the comfort of their own home. Seems like a very kind alternative.
I held my buddy of 16 years while he was put to ‘sleep’ .. his name was Happy. we enjoyed him from puppy-hood till 16 years of age. Happy trusted us completely and his love was surrounding us all as he left. thanks for you post.
Hi Meherbani, Happy was very lucky that you were with him – I’m sure it made him feel safe knowing his family was there.
At this time I can’t imagine saying goodbye to Hani, though she is aging she has many years left I believe. However, I did learn from this article and the comments posted and want to say thank you for bringing the topic up.
Thanks for your comment Florence. We can never imagine it can we, it’s so heartbreaking. I am so glad you found the article helpful and when the time comes, you will find comfort in some of what you have read.
I have been with most of my pets upon their passing and it was not easy. One of my dogs I was not with because I did not feel like I was emotionally able to handle it at the time. There was a lot going on in my life including loss in the family etc. so I had my husband go instead. You are very right that the moment is not for everyone and that is nothing to feel guilty about but you should make sure someone is there for support upon their passing. Thank you for addressing such a difficult issue.
Hi Camille, No it’s certainly not easy. I’ve been through it too many times and it’s always heartbreaking. I’m sure your dog was comforted by your husband’s presence. It is a difficult issue, but I want people to know there are resources and places to turn to for help, and advice.
That is a very sad time in your life. A dog that I had for 11 years passed, and we decided to have the vet come to our house since it was too hard for him to get up – so where they are put down, I guess depends on the situation. Very interesting article, thank you!
Hi Mary, yes indeed – one of the saddest. There is something to be said for having the vet come to your home, to where your dog feels most comfortable. The whole experience must be a lot less frightening for them that way. I think it’s definitely an option worth considering, if the situation allows.
This is probably the reason why I chose not to have pets. I can’t bear to see them leave. Your suggestion here to pet-lovers, though, is a good one as sometimes they overlook this, and I know of some friends who’ve been through this situation.
Hi Mylu, I often hear of people saying they don’t want pets because they couldn’t bear having to say goodbye, and others who would never get another for the same reason. I totally understand what you mean, it’s a terribly heartbreaking experience, but no matter how many times I go through it, I would always adopt more. It doesn’t cancel out the love you have for your pets, or how much they add to your life. It’s a shame to deny yourself those experiences.
2011 was the first time ever I had to put a dog down and it is agonizing! Our pets make us so happy and it’s so incredibly hard to say goodbye to them. With that said, I must also say that the method by which the vet puts an animal down, I felt was very peaceful and humane….I kinda wish we(humans) could go like that when we are ready !!
Hi Julie, thanks for the comment. It is definitely agonizing, something I’ve had to do too many times. Many people choose to have their vet come to the house, so they can all be together to say goodbye, and it’s in comfortable and familiar surroundings. Makes a lot of sense to me. I agree with you about humans having the same option. How could it possibly be someone else’s place to decide that someone who is in terrible pain with no hope of a reprieve, must suffer. But that’s a discussion for another time.
I have a 13 year old terrier, dachshund mix male dog named Scruffy. He was recently diagnosed with a heart murmur. We can treat it for a while. I dread losing him. Such a sweet boy. We are blessed to be able to take good care of him. I found him in a gutter when he was a puppy. He has been a gift to our family. I hope he passes on his own when it is time, but if the vet every says it is time and we should put him to sleep, it will be done and quickly. My only regret about losing pets in the past is that I tried to hold onto them and because of my selfishness they suffered. Scruffy will not. ~Gina
Hi Gina, thanks for sharing your story. I obviously don’t know Scruffy’s medical situation, but speaking from my own experience with pets and heart murmur, they can live for years with treatment. How wonderful that you saved his life, which makes him even more special. No one can deny feeling the same way you did – wanting to hold onto our pets because the alternative is not something we want to face. Having said that, it really is always about what’s best for them, not us, but we’re human things happen. You know Scruffy won’t suffer and that’s all that matters. I hope you and Scruffy have many more years together.
What an important post. I’m not one to judge at all. I’ve been there for both my pets. As awful as it is , being there does give a sense of final closure. I also know what you mean about the payment in advance. The urgent care I visited presented that to me however they were very compassionate and professional about everything. I had no idea they can withhold the remains though. 🙁 I’m fortunate that I had a very compassionate sincere vet at the time.
It is awful Kamira but I agree about being there. I feel like as heartbreaking as it is for me, it’s the right thing for me to be there with them at the end, giving comfort so they know they’re not alone. It’s definitely not for us to judge, everyone does the best they can do at that moment. I don’t know if every practice holds the remains, but apparently it was because they had to pay the company up front so they didn’t want to be out of pocket. All I can say is, during that time compassion from your vet and staff is what you want to experience.
I had to put my 12 year old beloved Husky, Travis, to sleep because he contacted end stage lymphoma and was suffering. This was my dog. I maintained eye contact with him and stroked his face and told him what a wonderful dog he was. It hurt real bad but I owed it to him.
I’m so sorry to hear, I know it’s heartbreaking. I hope you’re comforted knowing you loved him so much, you were ready to let him go when it was time. It is truly the most incredible thing we can do for them, in the time they need us the most. Travis was lucky to have you.
We just found out today that our 14 year old Nikki has a mass by her heart that is pushing her organs. We are devastated. We don’t know how much Time we have left with her and i can’t stop crying. I know I will be with her when the time comes but I don’t know how I will survive it. Just the thought of it is too much to bare
I am very sorry Lisa. I know how devastating it is to say goodbye to a beloved family member. *hugs*