We share this chapter from our book “The World According to Dog”, to inspire and encourage all of you who encounter that heart-wrenching moment when it’s time to say goodbye.
(From Chapter 39: PEACEFUL PASSING)*:
“While we devote our lives to our pets, receiving equal faithful¬ness in return, the inevitable and painful end to our journey together will arrive. It will be one of your worst days ever when you are permanently separated from each other. If you’ve been forced into a decision to euthanize while in the sterile room of an after-hours emergency clinic, know that there is an alternative.
Planning for your pet’s passing in advance is a more peaceful option and spares tremendous pain and suffering for both you and your dog.
For most of us, it’s hard to know when that time has arrived. We feel guilty about assuming the role of God. We can’t be sure if Fido still has good days ahead. He seems content, so we wait for a sign. How do you know when it’s time to let go and say goodbye?
Short answer: you don’t really. Your veterinarian can help in this regard, especially if you have an open, honest, and deep relationship between you, your vet, and your pet.
Many veterinarians have expanded their services to include a designated “chapel” in their clinic for these private moments. And some veterinarians are mobile, dedicated to helping you with a final celebration and making the last day the best it can be under the circumstances.
Having personally lost my last two companions in an ER room, due to undiagnosed conditions that presented in the worst way, I would give my invisible dew claws to rewind and do it over. I would hold my dog in the comfort of my arms in our home, with family and friends present following a big, fat steak dinner for them, the scene set with candles and soft music.
While I didn’t have that privilege, and the amount of tissues needed would have been the same, I would not have the lingering and painful memory of those final moments. It’s such a helpless feeling. If only I’d known, I would have provided a more peaceful farewell.
Consider the following suggestions to help you discern when you’ve reached that painful point:
1. Make a list of your dog’s good days versus bad, noting the things that your dog normally likes to do and whether these joyful events are noticeably absent.
2. Are they hiding in new places not normally frequented before or seeking refuge in a new area of the yard? This is often a sign of pain or a precursor to your dog’s preparation for crossing over, referred to as “denning.”
3. Have they stopped eating or drinking for an extended period?
4. Are they continually vomiting after eating?
5. Are they chronically whimpering or crying? If vocalization has escalated beyond normal, your dog may be in intense pain.
6. Are they able to walk without collapsing?
7. Are they unable to relieve themselves due to immobility or the lack of desire to get up and go?
8. Are they able to breathe normally? Unusually labored breath¬ing is an antecedent to monitor closely.
9. Are they experiencing muscle spasms, tremors, or chronic shaking? Digestive disruption accompanied by a change in eating patterns will manifest in bodily quivers.
10. Does your dog have cancer or an acute illness?
When your heart beats so strongly for your dog that you are paralyzed by emotion, indecision, your own rationale, or finances, it’s okay to talk to friends and family, and it’s okay to pray. Pray for a sign it’s time and the strength and courage to end their suffering. Some pet owners are blessed when their beloved pets pass naturally in their sleep. How fortunate and graceful, if so lucky.
For those who’ve been advised by their trusted veterinarian that your time together is now short, throw a final celebration of life and help your dog or cat depart in peace.
I believe that our pets have souls and they are received and healed in heaven with the same glory as those beloved family members who’ve passed in our past. As quoted in the Laudato Si, by Pope Francis: “Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all.”**
May you find peace in your memories and the courage to gain another furry friend.
Give time time…to heal…and be gentle with yourself.
Rainbow Bridge image reprinted with permission from https://www.rainbowsbridge.com/Poem.htm – A virtual pet memorial service
**“Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home”