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- Love, Guilt & Putting Dogs Down
You tried as hard as you could. To all of us: Try folding up that guilt and pain like a pile of dirty, ripped clothing, and throwing it away. Remember: Much of what we love about dogs is that they live in the present and accept what happens. I learned about this while I was writing For the Love of a Dog , and it blew me away when I discovered it.
We take people flowers and food when they are grieving just as we do after they have a major operation. I remember feeling physical pain when Luke died, when Tulip died, when Pippy Tay died, just as I did when my mother died. It needs you to take care of yourself. It needs rest and comfort and flowers and sweet soup and gentle kisses and hugs. As I write this, I think of my Lassie girl. Her 16th birthday party is planned for a few months from now. Really old. Meanwhile, back at the farm: Lassie played tug with Willie this morning, oblivious as she is to calendars or human concerns about the future or the past.
Willie got lots of sheep work this weekend, is a bit gimpy on his left shoulder but lordy we had fun. Here are 2 photos from this morning, while feeding apples to some of the sheep. I heard a quote that I will always remember on a rerun of Law and Order of all places. A cop was stricken with guilt that he could not overcome after accidentally shooting and killing another undercover cop in a dark alley. He kept going over and over the incident trying to figure out what he could have done different to prevent the death of his fellow officer. We are not in control.
Great post that hits very close to home right now. My older girl is a She was diagnosed at age 6 and has done amazingly well but the ticking of the clock grows ever louder these days. We have fought back time as best we can with her chiropractor, IMS therapist, homeopathic and a western vet but I know the day will come to help her to the rainbow bridge. Most months her supplements and treatments exceed our own grocery bills but she is still a happy girl who loves to swim at the beach and smile on our daily slow walk so that and some cuddles make it all worth it.
I never felt guilt when putting my sick, old dog down but the young and healthy only slightly crazy and not able to be comfortable in her skin dog…. Those dogs came to me after whatever damage was already jelled and set, I know in my brain their faults were not my doing. Thank you so much for this post. We put down our beloved Kiwi in april due to behavior reasons, and it still hurts just as bad, as the day we draped over her body and cried.
Of course, ask me how I feel when the almosty. But I know that I will also be strong enough to look into his clouded eyes, and massage him and hold him as long as it takes if it comes to that. That hurts, and is the strongest reminder that no — you really are NOT in control of anything. But like the obligation to my older dogs, I also have an obligation to give the otherwise healthy dogs which must be euthanized that responsible end, in loving and comforting arms. Strong thoughts.
Trisha, may the compassion you offer to others come back to you tenfold. Thank you for your particularly considerate brain! For all, may any pain of loss that resurfaces serve only as a reminder for us to embrace this day, this moment, right now, as our entire lives often change in the blink of an eye.
In January of this year my corgi Henry, who was almost 6, got a pork bone out of the trash I should have removed from the kitchen and within 24 hours while at the vets office he bled out and died… major shock to all. The shock and pain did knock me out for 1 week I did nothing but cry. This is an excellent topic to explore and one that is certainly familiar to almost every pet guardian.
In each case I know I did all that I could do, but it remains one of the hardest things to do. Thank you for helping to put things in proper perspective. I have felt guilt over each dog I have lost, whether they went fast and died naturally, or whether they went slowly and I had to make the decision to end their lives. I will probably never get past it, although I try to repeat words of absolution to myself when the guilty feeling tries to come back. I have come to the conclusion that it is unavoidable when you love someone deeply, just like the feeling of having your heart ripped out that is an almost physical sense of loss.
Very timely topic for me. I love this blog so much, I have it on an RSS feed. I am a shy poster, but this really did hit home. I read this post just after holding my old diabetic cat who is slowly slipping away. Thanks for your perspective on this day. Having a dog share your life changes you forever. The lessons they teach, the unqualified love they share, that bond that is formed…it is a deep association unlike anything else. It is one of the greatest gifts. And losing them does cause a greater pain than one can imagine.
But going through life, without ever sharing part of it with such a companion, would be far worse. Last December I lost my first rescue dog, Bart, at age Also a very wise creature, Bart taught me more than I ever imagined an animal could teach. He inspired me to become a corgi rescuer, work that has now continued for over a decade. You could say that Bart has saved over dogs! Thank you. Thanks, Dr.
Your compassionate words are very welcome. Our family adopted two dogs from the same litter thirteen years ago. We had to put Juno down last winter; she had hemangiosarcoma. I think the thing about pets is, they rely on us for everything.
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As others have said, your post came at a good time. I have a co-worker who had to Euthanize her dog yesterday. I sent her this post in the hopes that it will help her. I also sent it to my mom. She said it was so valuable that she is saving it. This time, it was a torn cartilage in the same knee. He needed yet another surgery. At the 4 week check-in, Duke was not doing well at all. They were suppose to have taken out the part that was hurting him. He should be better by then, but he was worse than ever.
He hated to put his knee down at all at that point. He had just the tiniest bit of problem before the surgery and on October 1, the vet told me that Duke would be in pain for the rest of his life! Everything stopped for me. Everyone who knows me kept asking what was wrong within 10 seconds of seeing me. Even the waitress at a one of the places I go to said something. I felt like I was under a wet, suffocating blanket all the time. Every time I tried to make my forever dog better, I did something that made him worse.
There goes the vacation time, gas money, etc. My beloved Dittany left me in July. She was tired, and ready to rest. I appreciate this. We recently had to put our cat to sleep. Tumors all over his lungs and throat. He was only 4 years old. I know he was suffering, I know I did the right thing by ending it for him. He was feral by behavior and would have to be sedated for any type of post op treatment…. JJ: Have you looked at a brace option for Duke? They do amazing things for dogs with joint issues and they are just great people.
Harley and I have our paws crossed for you and Duke. What I meant earlier, and what has helped me deal with loss of many shapes and sizes, is the saying: This too shall pass. Sometimes change can be taking place and we are not aware of it, and there are in-between moments when switching from one place to the next where change is just barely recognizable. I think it starts in the little things.
Sometimes bad feelings and memories are a bridge to the good ones. My comment spawned this side trip and I am grateful for Dr. Just the grief of losing my beautiful dog is overwhelming; however, coupled with the blame, doubt, and guilt of being the agent of a premature dispatch has been soul-crushing. Sometimes a wave rolls through and I feel bowed down so hard and fast that I imagine my chin hitting the floor in front of my feet. I will try to do just as advised and throw away that blame and guilt and just grieve without all that additional baggage.
I especially like how the end of the blog moves from the sadness of the topic back to the farm and happy, alive animals…because, after all, life does go on despite the ways in which we find to torture ourselves. What a really great post Trisha. I loved that dog with all my heart, and I wass devastated to lose him. When I look back at the pictures we took the day before his death, I can see the need to rest in his eyes. The least I could do was return the favour when he most needed me to give him something. They give us so much joy, happiness and devotion that letting them go is like living torture.
We agonize, shed tears, rip our hair out figuratively , and yet, we choose to embark on the journey again. Because that pure, devoted, genuine love is worth the pain. We get many more years of the good times than the pain we suffer upon their loss. Oh Liz, your earlier comment was lovely. Sometimes short and sweet is just perfect. The fact is, this really IS all we have, this moment, this breath, this touch of the fur.
When I was struggling with the choice I made to euthanize my dog, Dr. It helped with my perspective in working with the public. We need the link between species. Thank You!
I am glad I am not alone in the guilt. I knew that grieving was normal, and the intense pain was normal, but thought I was more or less a minority when it came to the guilt. I was never sure how old she really was. After having her 10 yrs she developed CCD and after 11 yrs was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
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After a particularly difficult and restless night, my partner and I concluded at the same time that it was time for her final visit to the vet. I called her vet, who had no hesitations, and we stopped for an ice cream cone on the way. I try to remember that we do do the best we can at a very difficult time. Thanks for the post. But then, the better part of me sat on my evil twin, and suggested a better response. Ah, Kerry — well, ah — a hugging ah — to all those posting here.
Giving one we love a last favorite treat, a last holding is not a deception, but a gentler passage, a respectful farewell for the love these animals have been and are to us. Just do what we can to keep our charges happy, healthy, safe and let go when the time comes. Its the last gift we are able to give. Kerry, My beloved border collie is battling colon cancer, his special treat after each vet visit is a stop at the ice cream stand on the way home. If only ice cream could cure ignorance, CHF, cancer, kidney failure and heart ache the world would be a much better place.
What a wonderful post. I read it with tears streaming down my face and wanted to thank you for addressing a topic that is very personal to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Kerry — you did the most loving thing possible. To Kerry L. I cried through the whole thing. She even specifically mentions as an example giving the doggie her favorite ice cream. Thanks for the idea. I wish all dogs would receive at least half of the dedication you put into her care! To Ignacio: Such kindness from people like you will indeed make it easier; thank you so much for your thoughts.
Thanks Trisha. My friend Deb in N. That was of such comfort, even in my agnostic way of looking at the universe. How humbling, if we could all live that way too, each and every day. Your post really touched my heart. I suffered with guilt for so long after my sweet dog died of leukemia at the age of eight. Knowing that guilt is part of the grieving process really helped me to heal. I will pass this post on to all I know who are grieving. It took me three days to get through that portion of the book and I am not an emotional person by nature, but this stuck a cord with me.
Part of this is due to your excellent writing ability [I feel present tense as though I know him and the kind of dog he was], that my childhood dog had recently passed away but also the fact I see present tense so much of my big dog in his character. The person who knew the mill owner convinced him to let the puppies live, but he refused to keep them longer than 4 weeks. This is how Missy found us. My grandmother worked with the kind-hearted woman who had a short time to find homes for all of the puppies and convinced my parents to take her I was 12 at the time.
My sister stayed up with her as a puppy and since my parents worked from home, she was with them during the day. I eventually left for college and Missy stayed behind, having grown very attached to my Mom. As the years passed she remained fairly healthy, but as the end neared everything started to fail. She had CHF, breathing problems and finally kidney problems. Fall came and Missy seemed to be doing better. A storm rolled in quicker than my parents thought it would and they were stuck at the camp grounds.
Missy had always been scared of thunder, but since her health had gotten worse so had her fear. She looked up at my mom one last time, my mom says she moved closer to her and then let her breath out for the final time. I never got to say goodbye and my mother blames herself to this day, even though Missy was well into her golden years and had suffered longer than she probably should have.
It has taken me nearly 30 minutes to actually type this between bouts of sobbing spasms at the memory of a lost friend, but also because my big dog is laying next to the couch with his head on my foot and one big black paw draped over his nose. So much of what you say about Luke reminds me of Sirius and I have no doubt that when the day comes that he must leave me forever, all the oxygen will definitely be removed from the room.
What a beautiful post, and what beautiful comments. I only wish we humans could have a loved one give us our last ice cream cone and hold our hand and help us to the other side when the time comes. In July my dog Sophie and I were driving to the beach for an early morning swim and I saw a small orange cat on the road — weaving unsteadily. I stopped to take a look and saw that he was in very bad shape.
At first he walked away from me but I waited and he came back and I picked him up. He weighed just about nothing, his eyes were sunken from dehydration, his hair completely matted, and he was full of fleas. He was close to death. I brought him home and the first week he just slept — only woke up to eat and drink. He was very weary — he needed to rest deeply and find some strength. My vet thought he was about Oh Trisha, a knife was stabbing me, when I read your blog!
Last year, our Donar, a Bernese running hound, and I left home for our daily two-hours morning trip.
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He happily ran in front of me through the woods when we met another dog owner with two dogs. They played so cheerfully together. I tried heart massage and mouth to snout breathing, but … too late. I phoned the animal ambulance which took us home to my sick husband who nearly broke down seeing our beloved Donar lifeless lying in the ambulance car. Donar was the healthiest dog he has seen, so it must have been a sudden heart death. I thought of so many people who say good by to their beloved, not knowing that it was the last time! We have now a one year old Bruno du Jura and he is the best medicine in the world!!!
I lost my Grace, the first dog that was really mine and my responsibility in March. She got me through college and vet school and getting married. She was the pup that I learned all the wrong ways to train, and then inspired me to learn all the right ways. She was gentle and fiesty and the best dang puppy raiser ever. I thought I had another few years with her at least. But i went home for lunch one day and she was not hungry. And Grace was only not hungry one time before- when she had a spontaneous lung collapse!
So i knew it was serious. I got her up to the clinic and found a large bleeding splenic tumor. I kept my wits about me until i got in touch with a friend that is also a vet and handed over the information to her. Then I just cried as my husband drove us to her clinic. That even if she survived it would most likely still kill her within a few weeks or months. I took 3 days to lay on the couch eating only pizza and crying. My profession means that I know far too well that things happen far outside our control. I can be the level headed professional in the white coat, but I know only too well how it feels on the other side.
She was half pyr, and she loved it when the cool weather hit. I cried as I watched the other dogs run the yard. I made sympathy cards with Grace on them to use at the clinic. The cards have a short blurb on the back explaining who she is. I feel like this way I am sharing something personal with the clients.
I hope it lets them know I understand. Do you guys like it when the vet includes a paw print or claw paw impression of your dog with your sympathy card? I do paw prints on colored card stock, but i know a lot of clinics that make clay impressions and paint them. Are these helpful momentos?
Lots of love to Lassie…maybe she continue on with the heart and soul of a pup for a least a few years more! He was a challenge, he was a liability. He was a godsend. He lived because we could keep him. He hated kids we never wanted any , he hated motorcycles, bicycles, and things that moved we lived in the country on three acres , he hated mean people we were very kind.
I always joked that Lucky would live forever because he was doing it to spite me.
Because he was just to ornery to die. As he aged, his heart murmur became more of a threat to his life. On the last day of his life, he had a great morning, ate a full breakfast, then went to sleep. I went out all morning for errands and he awoke as I came back in. He looked up expectantly as I knelt to give him a chance to sniff my whereabouts and to rub his fur.
A few sniffs later, he had a fatal heart attack. I will never be able to thank him for 1 not making me decide and 2 waiting for me to come home to help him cross. I was with him, held him, cried into his fur as he left me. Thank you for this. My girl has lymphoma and was diagnosed almost 3 weeks ago. She is slowing a little and every nite she cuddles up close and sleeps with me.
But I know the steroids are amost at the point of not working…. Is it today, tomorrow, next week? And how will I know….. But it will be done when it is time, with her curled in my arms as my beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback Karma and stay close in my heart always…. Thank you, thank you so much for this post. I lost several people, a pet rat, and 2 ferrets in the last year. I kind of shut down for a time. My guilt and grief culminated after I lost my heart ferret in March unexpectedly. I was beating myself up for still grieving him and the others when I came to this blog to check in as I have for the last year.
It reminded me that grief is not something you can decide is over. It reminded me about all the good things I enjoyed with each of the lost. To those still raw from a loss my heart goes out to you. To Trisha-Thank you. May she live forever. Less than a month later, dear Lucky another maremma was released… he was always an anxious lad and had a terrible first year of life until he came into rescue. After Lucinda passed he became increasingly anxious and unsettled.. I let him go without waking him.. Then in april maremma sisters Angelina and Margali both died…….
My pack is diminished without them but but life has been immeasurably enriched by their presence. Even though the blog and comments are primarily aimed at dog people, I noticed a few cat persons posting, too. My cat has terminal mammary cancer. Last night DH and I made the decision to save her from any suffering and say our goodbyes while her quality of life is still just that: quality.
Instead of a last-minute frantic rush to the ER hospital, we opted for a house visit from a vet who comes to the home. Oh Linda, my heart goes out to you. Then spend the day making it the best day you can for her. And one more thing…. If it helps, the last 2 times I put dogs down Tulip and Pippy Tay , we made the decision and then spent days giving all of us what we needed.
I took lots of time off, spent lots of time with them, did their favorite things as best we could. It was still incredibly hard, in part because I guarantee you they will get better on at least one of those days , incredibly hard, but it helped me tremendously to have that focused time to help prepare myself. Please think of yourself too. Bless you, Trisha for commenting on my way-to-long post, The pre-bereavement counselor suggested I automatic write my thoughts each day in he form of a letter to or about Sandy. On those bad days I still dote only it comes closer to hovering and I think that tends to make her nervous, so I back off.
A bit. One of her wounds has ulcerated even more and she is licking it constantly and moving less. I examined it closely. Of course I want to hold her another day,…but not at the risk of this getting even worse and causing pain. Wonderful comments everyone. Its comforting to know that we all grieve intensely when we lose a special animal. And I worry about all the ones that I want to get into that very special home.
The grief is no less for the shelter dogs than it is for my pets at home or for even the wonderful people who have graced my life and passed on. I do think I grieve more intensely for the dogs that I feel were cheated on life. It was easier to say goodbye to my 14 year old coonhound who was retired from SAR work and therapy dog work and who had bone cancer. He never even looked up when the vet pulled in the driveway. He was ready and content and had lived a long life.
My SAR dog who died from lymphosarcoma at age 8 I think I grieved for 5 years or more until I broke down bawling at a compassion fatigue seminar. Shame on someone for belittling the gifts we give our pets in their last moments. I bought my SAR dog fresh bread when the bakery opened before the vet got to the house. He ate the whole loaf. I euthanized him and buried him in his working harness. My hound was buried with two rawhide chewies between his paws. He only ever got them once a year on his birthday and he never chewed them.
He simply lorded over all the other dogs for 24 hours till I took them away the next day. Silly hound! Interesting is that despite him being gone for more than two years now, not a blade of grass, flower or paw print graces that grave.
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I tried to plant flowers and they always got kicked out. I blamed squirrels even though squirrels rarely dare to step into our yard. Grass never grows there. Odd to see them sidestep at a full run. The rituals that give us and our beloved pets peace should be valued with utmost importance. I was out of town with the other two dogs and it was the best gift I could give him…ten days to treat his girl like the princess she deserves. I hate to acknowledge that her clock is ticking louder and louder with each labored breath. The pain and it is definitely a physical pain of losing a beloved pet is made so much worse by the guilt of trying to decide when the right time is for euthanasia.
And we all decide differently. In some, we decide to end their lives on a more positive note, believing that extended life without quality is useless. Despite the fact that I truly believe we made all the right decisions for her, my husband and I both still suffer bouts of guilt and anger about some of the events of her last week of life. Some words that were shared with me after having to make the decision to put down one of my horses rang loud and clear. It is interesting to substitute the word control for affect as well. I hope this simple message will bring some peace in your heart if you are struggling with the decisions you have had to make.
It did to mine. He had been diagnosed with lymphoma and my vet had him on predisolone and antibiotics for the last 6 months of his life. I decided not to put him thru chemo because of his age and he hated going to the vet. I cooked for him every morning and night and took him in the car everywhere that I went.
I tried to make him as happy and comfortable as I could. I have incredible guilty feelings that I should have gotten a second opinion, I wonder if I should have had him on predisolone for so long, did I put him to sleep too soon. My beloved Golden Retriever, Ellie, was a God-send, and endured heart surgery and cancer with me over the last 2 years. She patiently waited and watched, and comforted me. The hemangiosarcoma was a shock, at 7 yrs!
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She had the tumor removed, but was so advanced that they told me months. It is has been over 2 months. I am seeing her less active, and the tumor has regrown. She it showing some signs of stress, and I know that it is time. Thank you for this article. I know that it is time to end the pain for her. Please pray for my children, they are devastated.
I did get a puppy this last week to help bridge the gap, and that seems to be helping. I will miss her, but I know now that I owe her the gift of peace. I feel so guilty. I feel like I murdered him. He was nearly blind and pretty deaf, he was on 9 pills in the morning for his thyroid problem and 1. He couldnt stand up for any period anymore, he had to lie down to eat, and hadnt been able to go for a walk for two years. Yet even though it sounds a hell of a list he was still my Fudge one minute and gone the next.
To Sarah: Oh Sarah, my heart goes out to you. You could have done nothing, and let your dog begin to suffer terribly and perhaps die a terrible death, but you did the brave, courageous thing and helped him into another world. I hope it helps to remember what I said in the blog: everyone seems to feel guilty, no matter what the circumstances, perhaps because it is easier to think that maybe, just maybe, there was something else you could have done, rather than accepting that life just happens to us sometimes, and as hard as it is, all we can do is play the hand we are dealt.
Cyber hugs to you. I am so grateful for websites such as this that help immensely with the healing process. He could no longer walk and had accidents in his bed. I know that I made the right decision, as I would not want to have such a poor quality of life myself. I named her Sophie because she was such a pretty girl.
Sophie loved to run and run and was such a free spirit. However, part of her running included chasing cars. My husband hooked her up to her rope in the driveway and we both knew that on a couple occasions the clasp would fail when she hit the end of the driveway, breaking away and running.
She was only on the rope for two minutes while I prepared breakfast for all of my cats. That all it took for her to dash off and get hit by a car and killed. She had gotten loose in the past, but stayed on our private road. If I could only turn the clock back and not make that fatal mistake again. We just put down our beloved Westie, Scruffy. She seemed to be a little less active age 7. Flip-O-Rama in Every Chapter. The Hammer of Thor Ninja Meerkats. Royal Nursemaid Step back into Victorian England. Shakespeare's Globe Step back into the life of a young actor.
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