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Saying Goodbye: Making the Decision to Euthanize Your Dog

Although no one likes to think about it, unfortunately we are going to have to say goodbye to our beloved Service Dog or pet. Sometimes however, like the grief we will feel after our animal’s death, determining when it’s time for them to be put down can be extremely challenging. After we make the decision, we may also question whether we made the right choice. Here are a few tips on saying goodbye and making the decision to euthanize your dog.

Indy on her last day at the vet.

“I knew it was time for a long time — but I couldn’t bear to put her down. She probably suffered longer than she needed to.

On her last day it was raining outside. I let her out to potty, but she couldn’t walk very well. She just laid down in the grass in the rain so I went outside with an umbrella and sat with her for a long time. I called the vet and brought her in. She had internal bleeding and nothing could be done. It was about 2pm so I drove to my children’s school to pick them up early so they could say goodbye.

It’s a decision that you can’t always make on your own. I needed the doctor to tell me it’s okay. Even after I agreed with the doctor that she should be put to sleep, I couldn’t help feeling like this was my fault. That I could stop all this, that I should take her home and keep her safe. But, of course, that wasn’t the solution.

The year before, my mother was in critical care with advanced-stage cancer. Our whole family stayed with her in the hospital as much as possible. We were all by her side in the middle of the night and I held her when she passed. I listened to the alarms as her heartbeat slowed and her organs shut down. I closed her eyes when she finally let go and her soul left her body. I felt helpless. Everything…the whole world was out of control and life would never be the same.

But with our animals, we are in control — to a point — and that control makes things complicated in a different way. We have the choice to end our animal’s suffering when every other option has been explored and nothing can be done. It’s a burden to shoulder a decision like that… To be responsible for ending the life of a family member… Our head knows it’s right, but our hearts will never agree.”

The Quality of Life Scale

As shared in the story above, it is quite difficult for people to decide when it is time to put their pet to sleep. Knowing this, Dr. Alice Villalobos the founder of Pawspice and a specialist in cancer and end-of-life care for pets, created The Quality of Life Scale (HHHHMM)This scale can help pet caregivers decide if they have enough resources to care for their ill pet and also understand when it is time to put their pet down. The six criterion are as follows:   

1. Hurt
Is there adequate pain control and breathing ability? Assessing a pets ability to thrive without oxygen should be the first concern amongst pet caregivers.

2. Hydration

Is the pet drinking enough? Are they able to drink on their own?

3. Hygiene
Are all the pets pressure spots and wounds clean? Is the pets coat healthy and brushed?

4. Happiness
Is the pet responsive to the things they usually enjoy? (ex. toys, family, etc.)? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious,   bored or afraid?

5. Mobility
Can the pet walk on their own without assistance? Do they want to go for their regular walk?

6. More Good Days than Bad
When bad days outnumber the good, caregivers should understand that the time is near.

Unfortunately the grieving is not over as soon as you say goodbye. Like grieving the loss of a family member or friend, it may take time to accept and find peace with what just happened. It is also important that you take care of other pets too that may be experiencing grief from the loss.

One thing that might help the grieving process is to create a memorial or remembrance project in honor of your pet. Here are some ideas:

  • Have a funeral for your pet. Have a funeral or memorial ceremony for your pet, even if it is just yourself and your immediate family.
  • Purchase a garden stone for your yard. You probably spent a lot of time outdoors with your pet, so a garden stone is a perfect way to commemorate and cherish those memories. Etsy has some great options available.
  • Get a professional portrait painted of your dog. Commissioning a portrait of your pet and hanging it up in a special place is a great way, to not only decorate your home, but also remember your pet. Seattle artist Angie Ketelhut does some amazing work.
  • Donate to an animal rescue group or other charity in memory of your dog. How awesome is it that you can showcase all the love your pet gave you by giving back? The ASPCA offers a memorial gift donation option on their website.
  • Create a scrapbook. Collect all the pictures you have taken over the years and showcase them all in a scrapbook. It will also make it easier for you to access those memories whenever you wish.
  • Write down your feelings or create an obituary. Sometimes it can be good to get your feelings all out on paper. Once you are done writing put it in a scrapbook or frame it and place it somewhere special.
  • Create a living memorial by planting a tree. As the tree grows you will be able to reflect on how much your love for your pet grew over the years. In fact Let Your Love Grow, a company based out of Missouri, creates an eco-friendly soil from cremated ashes that can be used to plant your tree. You should ideally look for a perennial when selecting the plant for your living memorial.

It is important to note that if you have just lost a Service Dog that eventually you will have to decide whether you will be needing another one. Take your time with this decision and if you think having another Service Dog will benefit your quality of life it might be something that you should look into.

For most of us, our animals are almost as much a part of our family as our children, parents, brothers or sisters. Saying goodbye is not easy. We wish you all the best in your grieving process and hope that you are able to find a special way to commemorate your pet.

Other Anything Pawsable articles you may be interested in:

Retiring a Service Dog: Signs it’s Time

What Happens If You Die? Creating a Plan For Your Animals







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