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How to let go - possibly a sad thread

plantlust's picture

WARNING - this may end up a very sad thread


As some of you may know, I've got 2 dogs, both of whom are not puppies.  Both Red Sonja and Spatzie are my very own first dogs so I've got no experience with the animal aging process.  I'd be grateful if someone who's gone thru the process could give me an insight on how you came to the decision.  How did you decide it was time to let your companions/pets/friends go?  What were some of the signs?  I'm not limiting this thread to dogs as I'm sure the process is similar with other animals...


Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and quite delicious accompanied by a balsamic and raspberry reduction, garlic mashed potatoes, smoked applewood gouda, a cold glass of Lynfred pear wine and something decadent for dessert.

Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with parsley sauce, goat cheese garlic mashed potatoes, Galena Cellars Niagra grape wine & Pie Boss's apple crumble topped with Ruth & Phil's sour cream/cinnamon ice cream.

hambiscuit2's picture

(post #40953, reply #1 of 299)

This question comes up so frequently in rescue. I've been through it personally, so will respond as to my own experience. The only thing I can say is that you will instinctively know. It is such a personal decision, there is no set of circumstances to describe. My own decision has always been when I felt the dog was no longer living quality life....but this can depend on many variables including pain and dignity for the dog. I think you have to know your dog, and know when he or she is ready. At the same time you weigh that against when you yourself are able to let go. It is never easy. I've always looked at it as giving my last loving gift to my friend.

plantlust's picture

(post #40953, reply #3 of 299)

That's what I'm afraid of.  I don't want either of them to suffer and I've always heard that dogs(not certain about other animals) suffer in silence.  This doesn't apply to Sonja tho.  She squeek-barks to come in if she's too hot/cold etc so I'm positive that the signs will be different for her.  The only close call I had was when she had the vertigo attack last year?  She didn't want to move, no eating, no drinking and just laid there. 


Right now she's still eating like a pig and tho she has difficulty w/her back legs, she still seems with it.  So I'm just trying to get a feel of what I should be watching for.


Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and quite delicious accompanied by a balsamic and raspberry reduction, garlic mashed potatoes, smoked applewood gouda, a cold glass of Lynfred pear wine and something decadent for dessert.

Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with parsley sauce, goat cheese garlic mashed potatoes, Galena Cellars Niagra grape wine & Pie Boss's apple crumble topped with Ruth & Phil's sour cream/cinnamon ice cream.

Wolvie's picture

(post #40953, reply #17 of 299)

I concur with others here - you will know when it is time. It is heartwrenching, but - the humane thing to do at that point. They have been your best buddy(ies), and you need to be that for them.


One thing re- the difficulty with the hind legs. Is that from nerve degeneration or arthritis? If the latter, rimadyl works wonders. It made a 10 year old's sheps last 3 years (to age 13)magical.


Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time - Abe Lincoln.

 

KitchenWitch's picture

(post #40953, reply #2 of 299)

Since I've gained a LOT of experience in this in a short time, I hope I can help.


Losing Cassie was the first dog I had to experience this with - my childhood dogs, my mother made the decision, and we were not allowed to accompany them.


In the case of both Cassie and Horus, they made it clear to me. they were both in pain, and I always promised them I would never let them suffer.


I agree it comes down to quality of life. as long as they were not in pain, and could get around, and were happy, they were with me. when that changed, I had to let them go. With both of them, I asked them if it was time, adn they both told me very clearly - not with words, of course, but I understood.


I did purchase a couple good books on the subject - "Goodbye, Friend" by Gary Kowlaski and "Surviving the Heartbreak of Choosing Death for Your Pet" by Linda M. Peterson. I purchased both on Amazon.


The Peterson book is more a book for coming to terms with it before you make the decision. both are a worthwhile read in my opinion.


~RuthAnn

~RuthAnn

plantlust's picture

(post #40953, reply #4 of 299)

Your thread is what made me think about it....that and the fact that I just started calculating that Sonja was about 6months old when I got her from the pound on St Pat's day in 1990.


I never made the decisions about our family pets either.  I'm afraid that Cindy(our first German Shepherd or maybe Norwegian Elkhound) suffered terribly before she died, now that I look back on it.  But Midnight was taken to the vet by my mother and Mitra by my younger sister, as I was out of the house by then.


Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and quite delicious accompanied by a balsamic and raspberry reduction, garlic mashed potatoes, smoked applewood gouda, a cold glass of Lynfred pear wine and something decadent for dessert.

Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with parsley sauce, goat cheese garlic mashed potatoes, Galena Cellars Niagra grape wine & Pie Boss's apple crumble topped with Ruth & Phil's sour cream/cinnamon ice cream.

shywoodlandcreature's picture

(post #40953, reply #5 of 299)

Plantlust, I don't know how to explain it, but Beau, my malemutt, "told" me in language so plain there was no mistaking the message that it was time to go. In his case, he just went outside, dug a shallow hole beneath his favourite tree, and lay there. We were able to coax him back inside, but once there, he just didn't move. Like Hambiscuit and KW, I had always promised both him and myself that I would never let him go into distress. The next morning, I took him to the SPCA hospital, and the vet there confirmed my decision. Making that decision was heartbreaking, but not as heartbreaking as watching my best buddy suffer needlessly would have been.


You will know when the time is right. Good luck.


 "People that are really weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history."
 -- J. Danforth Quayle
KarenP's picture

(post #40953, reply #6 of 299)

 


Another one of those who have been down this path.  I had 2 cats, the elder lived to almost 21, as a baby I could hold her in my hand, she had to be bottlefed until I could teach her to eat,  The younger lived to just before her 17th birthday was sweet and ditzy.  As I stood crying in the vets office as she told me the news that we had chronic incurable illnesses, I asked her to hold me in check should I go overboard keeping them alive for me.  She was very clear with me that they would tell me clearly when it was time.  As Hambiscuit said, it was VERY clear. 
  For me, it was important to hold them as they left this life...I wasn't sending them off with a stranger.  My DH, who loved his dog beyond belief, could not do that, that part too is something you will know.
  His dog had pancreatitis.  The vet kept prescribing different foods for her--he told me, It looked like plastic, I know it tasted like plastic....so, he started experimenting.  He found the chow mein did not make her sick, so he would buy huge amounts. When he'd stop the owner would ask...is this for you or for the dog?  He feels that he had another 2+ years with her that he would not have had otherwise..She too told him most clearly that her time had come.  Its was a look and a wimper for her, but different than others.
  Rest assured that you love them, you communicate with them, it something that will be very clear to you.  
  They're lucky to have you that cares so much and acknowledges how important their lives are.


 


 


 

sandermom's picture

(post #40953, reply #11 of 299)

We had a black cocker spaniel who let me know when the pain was no longer to be endured.  I remember my father keeping a german shorthaired pointer far too long, she was so uncomfortable.  I promised I wouldn't do that.  I've finally talked to the vet about our current geriatric vizsula.  It was good for me to ask the questions I needed to know now rather than to wait for a crisis.  My dog hates going to the vet so much.  The trauma would kill her if nothing else.  This vet does have euthanasia at home for clients they have cared for over their lifespan.  The drive to and from the vet at such a time is the worst for me.  Letting her choose the time and me control the place makes for greater peace of mind for me. 

Klaatu Barada Nikto

kai230's picture

(post #40953, reply #13 of 299)

ML:>>And I have never stayed with them when they were actually euthanized. I just couldn't. <<


RA: I know it's really, really hard, but I didn't do it for me, I did it for them.
I had to be there for them, to hold them as they made that final step.


Sorry, that delete was mine as my computer wants to post if you press return after waiting a heartbeat. Sheesh!


Anyway, I was sobbing uncontrollably so I didn't think that was the image I wanted to leave my kitty with. I regret I'm such a wimp, but that's the facts.


PL, I think you'll see it in her eyes when the time is right, but some animals are so devoted they will try to hide their pain.


It's controversial in some circles, but a raw food diet might help--it helped my feline AIDs kitty have several months of good eating when he otherwise couldn't eat w/out pain, and there are countless stories of how a change in diet healed dogs (less so w/cats).


It's hard, PL, but you will make the right decision at the right time, I'm certain.

KitchenWitch's picture

(post #40953, reply #14 of 299)

I know, it's so hard. Bill and I were both sobbing on Cassie as she went.
But she was ready. When it was time to put her on the table, she just collapsed onto it. which was so unlike her - I always spent every vet visit holding her on the table lest she dive off of it.


I also put Cassie on a raw food diet after her diagnosis, knowing that the carbohydrates in kibble can contribute to tumor growth.
did it help? I don't know.
but she certainly loved it. and making her happy was my biggest concern.


PL, they will tell you - you may have to ask them straight out, but also be prepared for the answer they will give you.


~RuthAnn

~RuthAnn

kai230's picture

(post #40953, reply #15 of 299)

she certainly loved it. and making her happy was my biggest concern. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


Oh yes! And they are quite sweet about asking for what pleases them. Cassie helped you cope at that time, little star that she is.


I was astounded to see my kitty who would yelp in pain from eating canned cat food chomp into raw bone-in chick breasts (and eat the bone, too). The first time he looked at me like I was Tarzan of the Jungle to have captured such a fine piece of prey. He gained weight, his fur got silkier, and he was livelier and purred constantly. He got an extra 6 months as he was quite close to dying when I sought help.


PL, they will tell you - you may have to ask them straight out, but also be prepared for the answer they will give you.


This asking is key I do believe. I am positive my kitty understands my words, or at least a few of them, when coupled w/the corresponding emotion.


Should I ever need to get a new cat, one thing is certain—he will be a little traveler, so that a trip to anywhere (the vet) usu means a treat after and not necessarily anything scary at the vets. Also, next kitty will be indoor only, except for screened in areas (not yet built).


If you're interested PL, I have an addy for the wellpet folks who have vets and all sorts of pros contributing to a mailing list which you can get in digest form, and some live chats. Although most of the stories are abt dogs, there are some abt cats. The dog recoveries are remarkable. 


 

Cissy's picture

(post #40953, reply #7 of 299)

PL, you will know when it's time, as others have written.  When it was time for our beloved cats, they let us know and the vet confirmed our decision.  The kids came with us for Teddy the cat and we all cried.  When it was time for Fuzzy (another cat, who was DD's), DD was away at college and I had to bring him to the vet, then explain to her as we drove home from NH that Fuzzy wouldn't be there.  So many tears were shed when we did what we knew was best for them (leaking now, remembering).

MarieLouise's picture

(post #40953, reply #8 of 299)

It wasn't so clearcut for us. DH and I have put five cats to sleep in our years together. For several, we spent thousands of dollars on them, only to have it be futile. In one case in particular, we put a very beloved old cat through radiation for a hyperactive thyroid, then some sort of surgery from a complication I don't remember any more. She spent weeks in the pet hospital, only to have just a few last weeks at home before we had to put her to sleep. In hindsight (which of course is 20/20) I wish we'd just let her die a lot more peacefully, without all those interventions. But another cat was hit by a car a few years ago, and almost died, but a few thousand bucks made him 100% healthy. It gets easier to tell when to let go; our last couple of cats I just knew.

And I have never stayed with them when they were actually euthanized. I just couldn't.

I don't think it ever actually gets easier to say goodbye. As I write this, I am surrounded by three of my four cats. The fourth one is staring at me through the window. It brings tears to my eyes to think about having to say goodbye to this generation. They are family.

MEANCHEF's picture

(post #40953, reply #9 of 299)

Cats are easy.  You just have to get them before they get in your garden.

MarieLouise's picture

(post #40953, reply #12 of 299)

You can't fool me. I know you pet them when no one is looking. <G>

KitchenWitch's picture

(post #40953, reply #10 of 299)

>>And I have never stayed with them when they were actually euthanized. I just couldn't. <<


I know it's really, really hard, but I didn't do it for me, I did it for them.
I had to be there for them, to hold them as they made that final step.

honestly, I would have rather been anywhere else in the world, but simply couldn't let them face that in the arms of a stranger, no matter how caring.


In reality, Cassie's cancer wasn't inoperable - they were willing to operate - at a cost of more than $3000. but the surgery was so invasive (they would have had to split her pelvis) the recuperation would have been long and painful. Even with surgery, life expectancy was 3-9 months. I simply couldn't do that to her. We lost her sooner, but her quality of life was good, up until the last day. if the surgery would have made her 100% healthy, I wouldn't have hesitated and would have sold my car, taken a second on the house, sold a kidney, whatever was needed. Darn things just get under your skin that way. The pain of losing them is unbelievable. 

But I can't wait to get another and go through it all over again.


~RuthAnn

~RuthAnn

chiffonade's picture

(post #40953, reply #16 of 299)

When it becomes apparent that a pet's quality of life has been seriously compromised by inability to move or severe pain - everyone here is right - it will become obvious to you that it's time to say goodbye.  It's a heart wrenching decision, no matter how clear it is. 


I was only put in this position once - with my rabbit - when I was 19.  Don't laugh - this wasn't a hutch-bound animal.  We lived in an apartment that forbade pets (my former landlord is burning in hell as we speak) so a rabbit was perfect.  They don't make much noise and don't jump on the windowsills (so he'd never be seen).  My mother felt terrible about his living in a cage, so she paper trained him.  He had the run of the house.  Every delivery kid in the area knew we had him.  When we'd receive deliveries, they'd be craning their necks to see him, so we'd call him over.  He'd sit on his haunches and sniff the air around the kid.  We'd let the delivery kids pet him - it was a riot.  My mother would cook for this rabbit.  She'd make macaroni (surprise!) with squash peas and tomato.  She'd give him a little plate of it every day.  He never had a real, "official" name - so we'd call him things like Bunson Burner.


Eventually, he got a deep tooth infection and it proved to be too much.  It spread all through his head - and I was the one who wound up deciding it was time to let him go.  We had him 4 years which was three-and-a-half more than anyone thought he'd last.


When it's time for any of our current six pets to go, I hope to be able to rise to the occasion as I was forced to do so many years ago.  I feel it's the final act of compassion I can provide for a pet who's life's work was to make me happy.

*You're a REAL person, eat REAL food."

Chiffonade

kai230's picture

(post #40953, reply #18 of 299)

I feel it's the final act of compassion I can provide for a pet who's life's work was to make me happy.


I hope I can muster up the strength for my kitty, when it comes time. He could fit in a teacup when I adopted him. Unfortunately, he had bad parents for a while when I briefly gave him up for adoption--I took him back, but he was already accustomed to being in/out.


This is as serious as the death of child for those of us who don't have kids and/or love our pets as children.

Jangomango's picture

(post #40953, reply #19 of 299)

Great story, Chiff.  Macaroni, squash and peas - you have some mother.   


Bunnies are so cute.  We had one called Hoppy, but not having the mother you had, I suspect we ate him for dinner.    Same with our precious ducks, Paddles and Waddles.     Pets always disappeared under mysterious circumstances at our house.  

CdnRhea's picture

(post #40953, reply #20 of 299)

Gosh,this sure brings back some memories. When we had to come the that decision, at the time it was my cat Samson, my heart felt like it weighed a ton.... he had been with me through more than a few rotten boyfriends, those"teen years" and many trying times. He was the best friend I knew and gave me love to last my lifetime. I could see his health was declining but put on thick blinders instead. When the time came where I just could not ignore his suffering, I forced myself to accept that it was time. One night my phone rang and on the other end was the Mother of a dear friend. She was calling to talk and perhaps, to listen as I blubbered away for what seemed like an eternity. I have never forgotten the words she spoke that night........"Animals are a gift from God, they make our days, our world a more beautiful place. You must never feel that you are doing something wrong by making the choice to ease the pain of your treasured friend. To do that, is to show more love than one can measure......" I can only say that you will know the time when it appears and any animal lover can attest that you need only to look into the eyes of the furry one you love, to see all. :)

I may come from a disfunctional family,but thank God I'm crazy and not nuts!

My knight in shining armour has gone to rust, and I'm left with the ass he rode in on...

essel's picture

(post #40953, reply #21 of 299)

Wow.  All these stories both happy and sad.  I had to make the decision to euthanize for both my cats.  But it was not a decision I made alone - they helped.  My one cat had stomach cancer and she endured a lot before she 'told' me that it was becoming too much.  Such a sad, sad moment.  And yet one must respect their decision as much as one would respect that of any other family member.  I do not envy you right now but know that all of us with pets will likely face this same situation one day.  We are with you.


"I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation."  ~ Madame Benoit

Play hard. Have fun!

kai230's picture

(post #40953, reply #22 of 299)

Hmm, here is something I just thought of. Will increased exercise help prolong their lives or keep them healthier? Unless it is too fast, or hurts, walking or running or just being out might be nice. I think this is another reason I prefer cats--in my case they seem to live longer than dogs and I don't have to exercise them. My babe rolls on his back for a tummy pet every time he's out and I come out. Then he rubs my legs and leaves fur all over my pants. OTOH, he potty trained himself to go outside except in emergencies! (He has 4 boxes inside and hates them all.)


If you haven't already, start having little talks, if for no other reason than that you will need to speak the words "Please tell me when it's time for me to let you go."


Don't know if it's true, but supposedly cats (and maybe dogs) understand a complete slow blink of the eyes to mean "I love you", and my kitty does it back! (Sometimes)


I give my cat massages, and your babes could also profit from that. Start w/one hand's fingers moving around on the top of her head for at least a minute, starting above her eyes, then eventually move down the spinal chord in a slightly scratching and squeezing motion (because your fingers will be tired from the head pampering). You will probably get kissed!


Massage therapy and aromatherapy are fairly well-established as helpful. Oh, and in some other thread I mentioned toothbrushing--extremely important. One could start, if you have an adult dog, with a slightly parboiled carrot or some other veggie, just to get him used to something in his mouth that you are rubbing against his teeth that is releasing a good flavor. My Charlie loved to have his teeth brushed (w/a baby toothbrush) when he was a tiny teacup tot, but hated it after I re-adopted him when he was older, so I have been a bad mother and not re-done this like I should have :-(


(For non-pet people, try a head massage on your SO! This works for pets, too: Use both hands and mirror motions; don't forget the ears.)


Get some Rescue Remedy to have on hand for all, and I think it is Child that calmed my kitty down so much (http://www.mermaidsbath.com) from our own RuthAnn.

MarieLouise's picture

(post #40953, reply #23 of 299)

On a lighter note, does anyone besides me have a sneaking suspicion your pets are leading a better life than you? I mean, the only decision they have to make all day is where to sleep. They are never late to meetings, and no one gives them impossible deadlines. Jeez, I came home early the other day and they looked more than slightly annoyed, as if I was being really rude for waking them up too early.

I think they have a pretty good gig here!!!

MadMom's picture

(post #40953, reply #24 of 299)

My daughter had a friend who said that we all start off life as a dog, serving humans.  If we are good and loyal, we come back as humans.  If we are really good as humans, we come back as cats.

Things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse.
Lily Tomlin

KarenP's picture

(post #40953, reply #26 of 299)


LOLOL..isn't that the truth! I was so honored mine allowed me to live wtih them.

kai230's picture

(post #40953, reply #28 of 299)

I've always thought that coming back as a cat would be idyllic.

KarenP's picture

(post #40953, reply #25 of 299)


I often told people that my pets have lived a better life than many people's children. Its a sad but very true statement.

kai230's picture

(post #40953, reply #27 of 299)

True. Cats know I was born to spoil them.

MarieLouise's picture

(post #40953, reply #29 of 299)

Sigh...they will persevere until you accept that you are their staff, and they make the rules. It is like getting in a power struggle with a two-year old; sometimes it's just easier to give in.

kai230's picture

(post #40953, reply #30 of 299)

My inability to say no to cats was one of many clues I was not suited for motherhood!


My main complaint is that they seek out clean clothes the opposite color of their fur to lie on.