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  • Writer's pictureCindy Kaufman

Making the Hard, but Right, Pet Loss Decisions

To all of those struggling with a beloved pet at end of life, my heart goes out to you. The decisions about what to do and when to do it are some of the hardest we have to make as humans. I have had to make the difficult choice to euthanize three dogs in the past two years. I share them in this post. Trust me, I know. It is not easy. It is heartbreaking. It is also heartbreaking to have to spend your lifesavings, or money you do not have, to try and save a dying animal. If you need to hear that it’s okay to let your dying animal die, or to euthanize your dying or suffering animal, then allow me to say to you that it’s okay to let your dying animal die or to euthanize your dying or suffering animal. You do not have to put your animal through invasive procedures, intensive treatments or numerous medications and their side effects. You also do not have to put yourself in serious debt trying to save an animal that is dying or one that is suffering or has no or very low quality of life. You can choose to allow your animal to die naturally, or you can choose to euthanize your animal in a peaceful, gentle and humane way.

Princess Grace, aka Gracie, a senior rescue during the pandemic who came to us blind and deaf. We only had four months before we got a cancer diagnosis and a euthanasia decision. We loved her all the way out.

If you are in a situation like this and your veterinarian has not discussed the option of allowing your pet to die naturally, or has not discussed the fact that you can also choose euthanasia as an option, then you ASK if euthanasia is a reasonable option to discuss at this time. Not all vets are comfortable giving you your options about end of life and euthanasia up front. Just as with medical doctors and humans, we have to be advocates for ourselves. We must ask. We have to consider that our finances are a valid and important part of the decision-making process around animal end of life. Vet care is enormously expensive. And it is an important factor in choosing what is best for your pet and for you. No need for guilt here. It’s hard enough without the guilt.

Milo Ruffalo was a senior rescue, also deaf, blind and severely arthritic. We built stairs so he could get on the sofa. Six months later a cancer diagnosis resulted in euthanasia. We loved him unconditionally!

You’ve already made a beautiful life for your pet. You can make a beautiful death for your beloved pet as well. Create a ceremony to honor them and the love they have for you and you for them. Have a living funeral before the euthanasia. Invite those who know and love them to come see them, to tell stories about their life, share all the experiences they have had with them, talk about all the funny things they do, and all the endearing ways you will remember them. Share your gratitude with them for having had them in your life. And when it’s time, love them all the way out. Remain with them. Trust me when I say…remain with them for the euthanasia. The process is a very peaceful, painless death. Pet them, hold them, touch them, talk to them. Let them know you are there with them all the way to their final breath. Love them in death the way you have loved them in life. No guilt, no regrets, no fear. Only love.

Porter Knox, our lovable boy. He was a rescue that we got to love completely for six years before lymphoma took him from us. We took him to see the ocean before he died. He deserved everything wonderful.

You will grieve the loss. They are a huge part of your life, a member of your family. You will miss them enormously. Give yourself the time and space to honor the grief and feel the loss, just as you would with anyone you love who is no longer here. Remember them and memorialize them with a garden stone, or a place for their ashes, or an altar of remembrance. On their annual birthday, or “gotcha” day for a rescue, have a little ceremony to honor them on their special day. Keep them a part of your life, a part of your heart. For they will always hold a special place in your heart and their memories will always keep them close to you. We never forget. We remember with love. In all things, love. Know that whatever decision you make is the BEST decision. Your decision, your choice, is always what is right.

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