Decisions on Death

I had my dog put down yesterday.

On one of my best friend’s birthdays.

My son was in the room with us, but I regret not reminding him to say goodbye. He thinks Coco is sleeping at the doctor’s.

I had them make me a clay pawprint.

And I can’t help but wonder whether I did it out of convenience or necessity.

Coco was 16 years old. She lived a long, full life for a dog. There was never a dull moment. She had a glorious time, and I loved her with everything in me.

But the last few months were hard, even when there was nothing wrong. The last two days were the hardest.

I told myself I was prepared. I told the vet I was prepared. How on Earth was it possible that I was so prepared?

I wasn’t. I completely shut down and lost it once the euthanization happened. I’m pro-euthanasia. But this just seemed horrible.

She had no say. What if she wasn’t ready to go? What if I acted too hastily? What if she would have pulled out of it? She’s pulled out of everything else, after all.

I can’t help but wonder if I did it for her comfort or mine.

It’s hard work to take care of a dog. It’s something I’ve been struggling with lately, especially with my mental health going all haywire.

It’s even harder to take care of an aging dog with seizures. What if she still had good years left in her, but I cut them short because I was so hasty to be rid of the responsibility?

Would I have done the same thing to my son? To stop his suffering? Was she even suffering?

I know she was. Her last two days were spent seizing and sleeping, seizing and sleeping. But she seemed so alert and . . . okay otherwise. She seemed like Coco, but more loving. Maybe she knew what I was thinking.

I think it’s going to take a long time to get rid of this guilt. Part of me knows I did the right thing, but another part — a part I cannot control — will always wonder. Did I do this to alleviate her pain or my own?

Am I wrong, either way?

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59 thoughts on “Decisions on Death

  1. Hugs. I can only imagine I will feel this same guilt when I may have to put my beloved pet down too. You had to make the decision for her – she could not on her own. She loved you – still loves you – and it was the right thing to do to end her suffering. Do not compare it to your son – it is so different. Your son can speak for himself and tell you what’s wrong, there are more medicines covered by health insurance, there are more options – you did the right, humane thing for her. God bless and may you heal from this loss.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Doing the right thing is sometimes very difficult … at least, you where brave enough to be there, when they put Coco to sleep … I told you about my lab Piwo … and how I could not bear to be there, when it was time for him to go … guilt, ya … but not guilty … Hugs, cat.

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  3. “I told myself I was prepared. I told the vet I was prepared. How on Earth was it possible that I was so prepared?”

    Because there is a finality when death actually happens that is impossible to fully prepare for. Even when death is completely, 100% expected, say an aging grandparent on bedrest and in hospice. Don’t beat yourself up over how you feel. It’s totally okay.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so sorry, what a heartbreaking thing to have to do. But when they’re suffering and it’s only going to get worse it is the kindest thing you can do.

    Thinking of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ll always be grateful to the late Rhodry Malamutt for making it crystal-clear that it was time to go. But I’d made a less crystal-clear decision before that point: X-rays showed that he had a cancer pressing on his spine, my vet thought it was probably prostate (which generally has a bad prognosis in dogs), and I decided against a biopsy and possible further treatment. Why? Rhodry was 13. We’d had a great life together. I didn’t see the point of putting him through tests and surgery that might buy him some time. And, just as important, I didn’t have the thousands of dollars that this would have cost, not just in vet bills but in travel time — there are no specialists in my area. I was with Rhodry when he died. I missed him. All my friends missed him (he was a popular guy). I knew for absolute sure I was going to get another dog, and soon — and I did.

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      • It’s a journey through choppy waters, that’s for sure. The wind pushes you this way and the waves push you that way. Sometimes you spin in circles and sometimes you’re just stuck. Pretty much all you can do is feel everything you’re feeling and keep putting one foot in front of the other. The only thing you can know for sure is that she wouldn’t have lived forever, and neither will the rest of us. :-/ I used to sit by Rhodry’s grave and talk to him. I asked him to send me another dog. Don’t know if he did, but Travvy was born the day after Rhodry died. I didn’t know it at the time.

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  6. T-Rose, as hard and sad as it is, 16 is a fine age for any dog to get to – and a dignified and kind end is a thing I think we humans owe our amazing friends. You did the right thing and also the compassionate thing.

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  7. Ah, my heart goes out to you Tempest. Euthanasia is never a peaceful decision to make. Try and trust your instincts. This loss is hardship enough without punishing yourself with guilt and self-doubt. I’ve been there, I know it’s not easy. Take care

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Dear Tempest,

    This was a tough one, but you did good — for her AND for yourself and for your family.

    When we had to put our Samoyed down it was a long difficult decision, with the same questions you bring up so eloquently here, and freighted with the same self-doubt and emotional pain. In the end we were fortunate that it became clearly necessary on a “cousins day” — one of the monthly days we’d taken care of all 8 grandchildren, all of whom had known her from birth — so they all had a chance to say goodbye as they brought her out to my car, and to discus what was happening with their grandmother while I was at the vet’s.

    I brought home a photo of how I last saw her, lying (upright) on the rug, holding her head up and looking comfortable (but lost), and we ended the children’s discussion with that picture, and others from more active days.

    We can’t know how an animal feels as well as we can with a person who has language, but even then we only “kind of” understand — it’s never complete. In any case we have to make our best judgement with always limited knowledge, allowing others (human or animal) their one choices if they have powers to choose. But even with other humans — even our own children — there can come a time when we have to decide that for them — “pull the plug” — and we won’t know “for sure”, but we have a responsibility for making our best judgement and forgiving ourselves for the fact that we have no choice but to act in at least partial ignorance, no matter how long and how hard we’ve tried to become as sure as possible before acting.

    By the way, I think your thoughts about your own son WERE relevant, and it was courageous of you to face them, and to reveal them to all of us. Even with humans, there sometimes comes a day when a legitimate part of the decision is that we won’t prolong the emotional and financial burden on the family of, for example, a brain-dead 30-year-old — or on the community at large — by insisting s/he “endure” a 40-year-long “sentence” in a hospital bed hooked up to a breathing machine — comatose.)

    Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Embrace the reality that even the hardship her illness worked on you and your family are legitimate considerations, that you’ve done your best in the circumstances — and that your best always has to be good enough, even if it’s not someone else’s “best”. You deserve a break — from the work her illness caused, from your worry about what she would have chosen — assuming she could even understand anywhere near as much as we do about what was about to happen (which, frankly, the current state of the science of brains and their capabilities does not yet support our assuming) — and from the self-doubt and guilt resulting from having been forced to make this decision for her.

    Thank you for having shared this experience with us, so many of whom are either still reeling from or will eventually have to face the same dilemmas, and can only hope to find the support to forgive ourselves for the choices we have to make for others. It’s never easy, and as you have so often done before you’ve helped us all once again by sharing your own struggle so fully and courageously with us.

    Gary

    Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, it sucks, and it will feel sucky for some time yet, but your knowledge that you did the right thing will shorten that time and blunt its pain while it does last, so keep that focus: you did the right thing. I know you can do that, and I know it will help

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  9. So so sad. My family’s dog Bullet is coming up on 12 years now and after his last surgery I had this discussion with my dad. You see my dad is going to have trouble letting go and I know he will want to keep Bullet around for as long as he can. Bullet is not just a dog, he’s part of the family and you never want to lose a part of your family. I don’t want to see Bullet gone either, I love that dog, but I don’t want him to have to suffer and his suffering be the last memory I have of him. You did the right thing and I’m sorry. Lots of love *Hugs*

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  10. 16 is a very long and happy life for a dog. Please understand, the seizures were going to get worse, not better. You did the right thing. Don’t feel guilty. Dogs have pride and she could not tell you, “Mom, this hurts, I don’t like peeing on myself, it’s disgraceful to me, I know better and I can’t stop myself. Help me.”
    As far as your son goes, it may have been very hard on him to say goodbye. Better to tell him she fell asleep and did not wake up at the Veterinarian’s. Explain that she was very old. Absolve yourself of this guilt. You made a very difficult choice but, had you not let her go peacefully, she would have been (more) miserable. Veterinarian/Author James Herriot always wrote that our time with dogs (or pets in general) was always too short. You must have been a good Mom that CoCo lived as long as she did. Woofing hugs, Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much<3 I know in my heart that I did the right thing, but there's this part of me that questions that and it's going to take a while to silence it. But reading comments like yours make me feel better.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Tempest i went thru the gamet of all of those emotions. i tried every food on earth to try to get her to eat but she wouldnt take it and one day i had been so busy i had no time to eat and i was starving. it dawned one me that thats how she was feeling everyday, starving but too sick to eat.
    i adored her she was born in this house and was the sweetest of the litter. i struggled for the last week prior thinking it was wrong to take her life, i should wait until she just went on her own but it was the week of the holiday and i was terrified that she might get into some horrible pain and there would no one to help me for 5 days while everything was closed. so i took her and it was just horribly heart wrenching. she was individually cremated and i have her ashes here as i do all my previous cats.
    its a no win situation, we want to keep them alive because we love them and dont want to part with them but they are suffering more than we know. i know you will be correcting my grammar and punctuation but this is just my raw accounting of my heartbreak and tears are flowing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh love I’m not worried about grammar right now. I’m sorry you had to go through this as well — I considered getting Coco cremated but instead decided on burying her in my backyard. I plan on sitting by her grave and talking to her as often as possible. This whole thing sucks, but I thank you so much for your words and support.

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    • Well said… We try to keep them alive because they mean so much to us and we can not bear the thought of not having them around anymore… But in the end they suffer and their life is no longer a nice one to live. You did the right thing. We have our dog’s ashes here with us. Still not sure if we want to “send him” to the ocean and into the wind, or keep him around… He was our first baby, we got him shortly after we got married and he was always there for and with us. He was there for our first child and for our second and they both dearly miss him too. We are lucky to have a daughter of his now and about a month after he left us we stumbled across a little rescue puppy and “adopted” her… Crazy little thing, but she reminds us all so much of him and I am sure it was meant to be for us to find her…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. So sorry to hear about your loss! After a full life, the last thing you want is for your dog to be suffering or in pain. If you even THOUGHT Coco was struggling, it’s only natural for you to want to release that pain, both for yourself and the pup. It’s some seriously wishful thinking, but I really hope that when my dog goes I just wake up one day and she’s died in her sleep. Having to put her down would really eat at me, even if I knew it was the right thing. Treasure your paw print and hopefully someday you can make a happy life for another animal in need of a home :)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you<3

      I always wanted her to go in her sleep, too. It all just happened so fast, it was a real shock. I think I've decided to start going to the Humane Society so cuddle the other dogs there.

      I've been cuddling with the pawprint every day<3

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  13. You’ve gotten such amazing comments, and I hope they give you comfort – they are truly beautiful and they show how amazing YOU are to attract such encouragement and love from people.

    I’ve been thinking of you lots and I send you my love and big, big hugs every day, T! Be extra-good and extra-gentle/forgiving with yourself this week!!!!!
    xoxoxoo
    Dy

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much=] The comments really do help — I’m starting to come to terms with everything and believe I made the right decision.

      (p.s. Nate got the letter, he took it better than expected. I might make a post about it or at least a brief update next Mini-Post Monday)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am SO SO glad on both counts, T – you did make the right decision – the vets told us that 15-year-old Shera (with the sudden brain seizures) would have gotten worse – that was usually the case, so please let yourself off that guilty hook!

        And about Nate – OMG – I cannot tell you how glad I ma to hear about his reaction being better than you thought it would. Please do write about it if you feel like it but no pressure, my dear!! You have more than enough going on! xoxoxo

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Just think about how miserable she was when she had her fits. It is a hard thing to do, but you did the right thing. Stop asking yourself if it was the right thing. Think of her when she was well and then think of her when she was not. I guess a lot of people would prefer to leave instead of suffering so badly when they are terribly sick. I think you’ve read my post about the night I had to make this decision for my horse… If not, you can find it under Hooves & Fur. It’s the Still Miss you post. I cried when I wrote it. The feeling comes back every now and then. But I always knew it was the right thing to do…

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  15. oh my, I am so so sorry and giving you gentle hugs. You had such a hard decision to make and I think guilt is a natural part of it, because ‘we’ have to make that decision one way or another. You would have felt guilty either way I think, because you loved her so so much. I think she is in a better place, pain free and still there in spirit, if that is what you believe :) 16 is an amazing age and wow you have such amazing memories of her and I hope still stories to tell, she can live through your blog in ways, her memory can and we can stilll get to enjoy her at times for which we thank you. Grieving takes time I hope that time doesn’t hold its grasp on you too hard xxx

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