When is the correct time to euthanize our pets?

Bill Westcott
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There is no psychiatrist in the world

Like a puppy licking your face

- Dr. Ben Williams, psychologist

There's a country song that says: Every puppy has its day - everybody has to meet his Waterloo.

Scribblings of a Corner Boy - There is no psychiatrist in the world

Like a puppy licking your face

- Dr. Ben Williams, psychologist

There's a country song that says: Every puppy has its day - everybody has to meet his Waterloo.

In life we often face heartbreaking decisions of one kind or another. Pet owners, and there are hundreds of thousands in Newfoundland and Labrador, have to, at one time or another, face the question: When is the correct time to euthanize our pet?

My wife and I owned two puppies and it is fair to say they became part of the family. The first, a Bichon Frise (curly lap dog) named Alfie had to be put down at age 12. The second, a Maltese named Sparky had to be euthanized at 11.

Both episodes became gut-wrenching experiences and sadly one happened extremely fast while we were on our winter stay in Florida.

In both cases the services and most of all advice of our veterinarians was invaluable. Neither told us when the time was up. That is an issue responsible pet owners have to face individually.

Vets in general I believe, stand by with emotional support after the pet owner makes the final decision to euthanize.

We, like others we know, watched the behaviour of both our dogs change. Either they were not eating the same, losing bodily functions uncontrollably, restless at nights, habitual licking, whining, no interest in playing anymore and both were just plain lethargic.

Prior to that, both of them had been treated by our vet in Bay Roberts and were on medications for their individual problems, intestinal colitis and congenitive heart failure. With every pill and shot administered we knew time was ticking away.

Our dogs first

The first episode took a long time to realize the time to put him down had come, and the second was so sudden it was hard to believe how fast it was happening. The most important thing about the experience is that we put our pet dogs first. Those black eyes seemed to say "I can't tell you how sick I am," or "Please do the right thing for me; I'm not enjoying life anymore."

When it reached that point it was definitely time to put our individual personal feelings behind. Regardless of how much you feel you will miss him/her, the decision has to be made for the pet and in the best interests of him/her only.

Suggested steps

The following are suggested steps obtained from the Humane Society of Canada.

Talk to your vet: There is nobody who knows your pet more than your personal veterinarian. He/she can answer your questions about the process and lead you gently to the point where the decision is made to euthanize.

Sometimes reviewing its struggles can answer your questions like is he/she just growing old? Is there a cure? Will he/she get better if we give it time? Is there anything else that can be done, and are we prolonging the pet's suffering?

Most likely the vet will read your mind and suggest: "It's one of the most difficult decisions you have to make. But, keep in mind you must make it soon, from a completely unselfish standpoint."

Discuss it with your family and close friends. It should be a family decision, a consensus that pooch just isn't enjoying life anymore. If possible it might be a good idea to talk it over with friends or someone who is particularly close - preferably a pet owner.

We will forever be grateful for our friend Brian who accompanied us when we had to have our second puppy euthanized in Florida.

Painless procedure

Consult a technician: If offered it might be wise to speak with a euthanasia technician who understands the process involved before your pet is eventually put to sleep. He/she can explain the painless procedure. You may or may not want to be present in the room. It is something to consider. If you do you will see for yourself it is a peaceful process. It can become a rewarding experience if you so choose.

A lasting memory: When things finally settle down, being able to say you did everything you could and you acted in the best interest of the pet (dog, cat, canary or otherwise is likely going to be the lasting memory you will have of that life long friendship.

You will feel good knowing you gave your pet a wonderful life and when the time came you gave it a peaceful loving and painless journey to the end.

Guilt feelings: It is not unusual to feel guilt after a pet has been euthanized. Instead of a lifetime of love and friendship we can judge ourselves harshly and think that we have failed him/her.

Leading veterinarians advise us to, "try to redirect the feelings of inadequacy or wrongdoing to the times that you shared with your pet in good health, and the times you provided for and took great care of him/her."

Personal choice

What to do with the remains: Another decision to be made is what to do with the remains. We chose cremation on both occasions. Many choose to bury the pet somewhere special where they can visit him/her now and then.

My feeling on that is, "there would not be closure".

Why not dog sit? Our vet in Bay Roberts suggested to ease the pain we could consider dog sitting. We decided to try it and it worked wonderfully with great results. Since our second puppy was euthanized we have dog sat numerous small dogs. As I write this, Luke (a tiny Yorkshire terrier) is with us for a couple of months while his owners are away on an extended winter vacation in South America.

He brings back so many memories for us. He magically licks away the old wounds with his playful way and his loyal friendship.

Bill Westcott writes from Florida.

The Love of a Pet

You gave us so much love
So much joy
But, you also broke our
Sometimes pampered,
Often spoiled
You had your way
Of charming us into
For twelve long years
You two shared our lives
'Till father time
Came knocking
At our door
You will never know
What pain you brought
On that final trip
To the Vet
Time healed our
Heavy hearts
Knowing we put you first
You are both in doggie heaven
And all that's left are sweet
Memories of times well spent
You were the most
Loyal friends
We ever had

Organizations: Humane Society of Canada

Geographic location: Florida, Newfoundland and Labrador, Bay Roberts Yorkshire South America

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