How Do You Know When It's Time to Say Goodbye?

Pepper9873Pepper9873 Member
edited June 2013 in General Interest
Hello all. I'm usually not the type to post my problems on a public forum, but in this case I'm in need of guidance from others, and I didn't know where else to turn. Everyone here are so supportive of others when they present a problem, so I thought this would be a good place.

I have a Siberian Husky that celebrated her 15th birthday on April 16th of this year. Lately my family and I have been faced with the decision of putting her to sleep, but -as you can guess- it hasn't been an easy one to make.

Last winter she started having problems with her back leg. She would be walking fine one minute and the next the leg would just give out which would lead to some nasty falls. We took her to the vet (who was rather impressed that she was as old as she is) and he gave her some medication that we could give her to stop the pain, but we can't give it to her all the time as her liver can't process it as well as a younger dog's would. We did consider surgery, but age becomes a factor again, and her chances of coming off of the operating table is extremely low.

The only good news is with the weather being much warmer, the leg doesn't seem to be bothering her as much as it was. But there are other signs that she has been showing that from the research we have done, are signs that say she's in pain. She's been sleeping more than usual, had relapses in housebreaking, and she's anemic. However, she still gets excited when you say the word "cookie" and prances when you go to get her one. She'll willingly drag you along for a walk, and zips around the house like a puppy. In other words: her spirit is there, but her body is failing her.

We know that we have to make this decision for her because she won't. We found sites that say that dogs will linger on in pain for their humans. There are also ones that say that dogs that are happy in their lives will also linger, so the only way for her to be free of pain would be for us to let her go.

My sister and I literally grew up with this dog which makes the decision that much harder. We don't want her to hurt anymore, but we also don't want to rob her of a life that she's enjoying. But which is worse? Making your dog live in pain, or cutting a happy life short? How do you set a date to say goodbye to a loyal friend of 15 years?


  • I just recently had the same thing with my first horse who I have known for about 10 years (and owned since 2009.) When i got the e-mail stating failed health from the person who leased her i knew i had to make the choice as she was 28. I don't want to sound rude when i say this as I don't know the whole situation but to me the best thing would be to put her down.
  • It is such a personal decison and everyone will have a different threshold. I am so sorry you are in this moment now. Treasure every single minute you have left with your girl, and when you decide it is time, free your heart of regrets. I truly belive that euthanasia is the last great gift we can give our animal companions.
  • We know we have to put her down and that it's the best thing for her. All the research we've been doing says we have to do it, and the entire family has come to terms that this is what we have to do for her. The hard part is deciding an actual date to say goodbye.
  • You aren't cutting her life short, Pepper....... She has lived 15 years of knowing nothing but love, happiness, care, and has lived every moment of her life to its' fullest. She is the lucky one, there are so many others who lived in suffering and died young.... She is not one of those animals and has not suffered that fate. You have given her a wonderful gift, the gift of a warm hearth, a home, and a loving family..... She couldn't ask for better, and wouldn't prefer anything else. And in my opinion.... The last and final gift you could give her, is to lay her to an eternal rest, free from the pain that will await her as her aging body begins to fail. She will die peacefully, and not go down violently like so many others.... She will always be there, with you in your heart..... You just won't be able to see her. You will never let her go, but she will never really leave in the first place. And who knows? She could appear once again in the most unexpected ways.

    I don't know if this helps, but as someone who has made this heart wrenching decision many times.... I know how this feels.
  • We know we have to put her down and that it's the best thing for her. All the research we've been doing says we have to do it, and the entire family has come to terms that this is what we have to do for her. The hard part is deciding an actual date to say goodbye.
    Be glad that you are even able to say goodbye.
  • If you are not sure that it is time, start by upping the pain meds, regardless of the effect on her liver. At this point in her life, comfort is more important. I give my elderly dog Rimadyl and Tramadol, and that seems to keep him comfortable. (He is not having any ill effects from the Rimadyl so far.) He gets an antacid (Tums type) and a famotidine (Prilosec type) so that he doesn't get a tummy ache. My vet says they can have as much Tramadol as they need, and it's inexpensive at your human pharmacy. I get Ben's prescription at Kroger--$8 for 60 pills. If Rimadyl is not an option, try Metacam.

    I assume she's got an orthopedic bed, but if she doesn't, get her one.

    If additional meds can't improve the quality of her life, then it is probably time to send her over the Bridge.

    Some people find it helpful to plan a "perfect day" for their pet, insofar as the pet is able to enjoy it. This could entail a car ride, taking her to a favorite outdoor location and just hanging out, camping out on the couch together, having a steak dinner--whatever. You know her best. Do it while she can still enjoy it, but don't necessarily regard it as a commitment to put her down. You can give her the perfect day without having made up your mind.

    (((((Pepper)))) I know this is a quandary. Just do the best you can.
  • lauraj__cincinnati, your advice is excellent, and very sensible. I kind of made a similar decision about myself recently. I was struggling to stir the oil in a new jar of natural peanut butter, the non-hydrogenated, healthy kind. I always hate to do this and it's been getting harder and harder with my arthritic hands. Then I said, "I'm 74 years old. That's old enough to eat hydrogenated, easy-to-spread peanut butter!" So I gave the new jar of the oil-separating kind to my fellow health-nut friend, and switched to the other kind that spreads easily. Oh, joy.

    Pepper9873, I had an elderly Samoyed who developed such severe arthritis that he cried a lot of the time. I gave him Rimadyl and Condroitin/Glucosamine and he was better with that. But when I lost my job, I had to discontinue the Rimadyl and I felt terrible. When I came home one day from a substitute-teaching job, I found him lying on his side, stuck half in and half out of the doggie door. Although it was early in March, the temperature was 90 degrees in that sheltered spot. I knew then that I had waited too long. I have no idea how long he had been stuck there with no water, unable to get himself upright to get to the water dish. Furthermore he had soiled himself completely, which for a fastidious Samoyed was probably worse. I pulled him back into the house, helped him to stand up, and cleaned him up and gave him water and his favorite food. He felt so much better when cleaned up, I could see it. The next day I took him for his final visit to the vet. It was gentle and peaceful, and the vet said, "Oh, he was ready to go."

    I'll be facing a similar decision soon with my almost 19-year old cat. It's never easy.
  • kurtkurt Member
    ive had to put my dogs to sleep for various reasons in the past as well, one had cancer at only age 5. the other one had a stroke at 13..which was ancient for a shar=pei. in both cases we looked at it as if it was us personally, and we all felt like quality over quantity. i still feel this way about myself. i personally have no interest in living to be really old if my health is bad, i cant do anything and im miserable. you might be alive, but you aren't really living. if shes suffering..and only you really know her, it might be hard as that is.
    if i may offer one more item. with the first dog, i whussed out of being in the room when he was put to sleep and ive regretted it ever since. the second one, i held her as she slipped away and as painfull as it was, i felt better knowing the last thing she knew was my comforting hands petting her so, if you can do it, stay with her as she goes to sleep
  • I had to go through this last year and it was the most heart wrenching thing I've ever, ever had to do. My boy was 14 and had had major surgery at 12 on a knee and was developing hip problems as well. I think maybe I held on a little too long because I didn't want to let him go. I feel as long as they still have a good quality of life, that they eat and are somewhat active and you can tell they still have happy times, it's okay to hang on. I agree with Lauraj to be sure you work with your vet to keep them pain free. My Buddy was on Rimadyl and Tramadol and Robaxin for the last year of his life. He did well after surgery and then one day he quit eating and quit wanting to be with his people and I still kept trying to fix him. I tried to force feed him and looking back, I realize I should have let him go when he quit enjoying his food and quit socializing. He slept constantly. I held on probably 3 to 6 months longer than I should have. If your dog still enjoys eating and walking, she still has a fairly good quality of life. Just don't wait too long. Also, I agree with Kurt. I am so very happy my daughter and I were with Buddy when he was euthanized. He died in our arms while we talked to him and kissed on him and it was the right thing for us. I'm so sorry you have to go through this, just do what feels best for you and her. Let us know.
  • I have been there with cats and horses. He will tell you when it is time. When it was time for my 19 year old orange tabby who hated vets, she tried one last time to bite the vet. Through her tears the vet said "if she had not tried one more time to get me then I would know that we had waited too long". It is never easy, but as I said, they have a way of telling you that it is time.
  • You know my heart goes out to you. I had to make the same choice for my 15yr. old Aussie that was my best friend and so smart. "Jamie" meant so much to me and we had enjoyed so many great years together. But she got suddenly unable to function well and had accidents(which horrified her) I had to do the right thing and let her go. So I held her in my arms unable to stop crying and kiss her goodbye while the vet first gave her an injection to make her unaware of what was happening so I could just be sure she would feel no pain. She just went to sleep and that was in 1999, and as I write this I'm crying again it still hurts so much still, but it was time she had no quality of life left and I wanted her to go with dignity. So it sounds like it's time to let your best friend go & meet her again someday at the "Rainbow Bridge". I know Jamie will be there waiting for me. It's so very hard to do and I wish you the best. So sad for you and your family as well. :( Please let us know if you need anything.
  • DivasMom, You make me feel better if you still cry after your Jamie died in 1999. My boy died in 2012 and I thought maybe it isn't normal to cry so much still.
  • @ louisecastello: Oh it's very normal to still cry and feel very bad about losing a beloved part of your family, be it a dog, horse etc. Sorry about your boy also. I have pictures of Jamie up all over the house and some days I still can't look at them w/o bursting into tears. It never goes away I guess. They were just such a big part of our lives! :)
  • LyndaKLyndaK Member
    Pepper, I have had to make the decision that is facing you so many times in my life. Horses, cats and dogs.
    Sometimes I have had no choice and other times I had to try and make a decision that was in the best interest of my beloved friend.

    I have a border collie/aussie that I adopted through the Aussie Rescue in 2002. I had to put down my beloved heeler/aussie cross for which there was no hope. I missed that little dog so much that I searched for another dog for about 6 months when I saw Meggie's picture on the Aussie Rescue site.

    About 9 months ago something happened and she lost total use of her back legs. In that there was a remote possibility that it was nerve damage from slipped disc, I opted to let nature take its course and see if she would get better. I picked her up and carried her outside 4 times a day. She would scoot around in the yard. She was still Meggie and she still had a wonderful appetite and she was in no pain. Slowly over the course of 4 or 5 months, she slowly got better. First she was able to sit, then stand for just a few minutes then take a few steps. We still had to pick her up and carry her up and down the steps to the outside. Today she is not 100%, but she can now run out the door and down the steps and if she does not over do it, she does not wobble anymore.

    It has always been my thought that as long as pet still has a good appetite and pain can be managed and they still get excited for a cookie, I do not make a decision to voluntarily put them down.

    I think animals tell us when they are ready to let go. We can see it in their eyes and see that life has ceased to be a joy to them.

    So, in reference to your dear baby, if she were mine, I would not make that final decision just yet. As long as she is still enjoying life, I would not put her down.

    I pray that for your sake, that she just slips away in her sleep one night.

    And one thing I might suggest, is when that time comes, many vets will come to your home and put your baby down for you. I have done that several times and believe me, it is far less traumatic for you and the pet. Another suggestion is that when you have that final step taken that you ask your vet to sedate her before giving the final injection that stops her heart. If they do that, your baby will not react physically to that shot that stops her heart. Another thing we do is have the burial spot picked out and the grave dug. Some vets even have cardboard caskets that you can bury them in.

    It will hurt, but she will live on forever in your heart.

    God bless and know that there are many of us that are with you in spirit while you go through this.

  • L_Q_Q_KL_Q_Q_K Member
    edited June 2013
    My husband and I have lost a lot of dogs over the years, but our Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rocky, was the hardest one to let go. He had canine osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and had we decided (we had the financial means to do such a surgery) to amputate his leg and, truth be told, his long term prognosis was 6 months at best. Would we want a ticking clock for the next 6 months or however long we had or should we just say goodbye?

    We opted to say goodbye. Rocky had been giving us signs that it was time. The most obvious one was weight loss. We wanted to remember Rocky before excrutiating pain took over his life. We wanted to be there when Rocky took his last breath. We didn't want Rocky to "just go quietly into the night".

    We had Rocky's vet come to the house. Rocky drifted off to lala land in the only home he ever knew cradled by the two people who loved him most. No cold steel tables, no cold concrete floor. When it was over, our vet wrapped Rocky in one of his favorite blankets he loved to kick off our bed. The vet took Rocky back to his office and later to a crematory to be cremated. His ashes were returned to us within a few days.

    Our vet gave us some sage advice. If we opted to amputate, the dog wouldn't care that he was now a tripod. Dogs aren't vain, humans are. He also said that humans delay euthanization because WE aren't ready to grieve. Leading your beloved dog to the bridge, and being there for his last breath, is the most humane and loving thing you can do. Your dog will let you know.

    I truly feel your pain and I hope that whatever choice you make is the right one for your pet. You may find some solace in having your pet cremated and the ashes returned to you. Our vet also made a clay imprint of Rocky's front paw.

  • I also chose to have my boy cremated and also got a clay imprint of his paw. My problem now is that I have become obsessive about his remains being near me. When I go out of town, I feel I have to bring them with me and at home, I want him in the room with me. I think I'm getting a little better about it and yes, I know it's strange, but gosh the whole thing is just so hard to deal with. I love all of your stories, though, and I think all these stories will help Pepper when she has to make the decision about her dog. It always helps me reading other people's stories.
  • caseycasey any racetrack with camera in handMember
    Pepper- I'm a registered vet tech and I get this question all the time. First and foremost, your sweet dog doesn't look at time the way we do. They live in the moment. Everyone here has given you great advice. Her quality of life at this point is most important- if she's eating, is happy to see you, wags her tail, she's a happy dog. True, she's not moving as fast as before, but as we age, we don't move as fast either. Something you can ask your vet would be if you can give her omeprazole or famotidine along with her anti-inflammatory (Rimadyl?) and any pain meds. There is also a liquid product called Sucralfate that will coat her stomach and protect it from the meds, however, it has to be given separately as it will also bind the meds and she wont be able to absorb them. The accidents also happen as she is losing muscle tone (again, age does that to all of us).

    Things to watch for- if she stops eating (#1 clue that it's time to say good bye). If she begins to have seizures, if she can no longer walk without crying out in pain, or if she gives you "the look" I can't explain it, but when it's time, they will just look at you, and you know in your heart that it's time. It truly is the kindest thing you can do for them.

    Before anyone starts to make the decision, talk to your vet, or several different vets. See what they offer as far as euthanasia goes. Some vets will let you be with her. THis usually requires placing an intravenous catheter, which costs more, but ensures that the euthanasia solution is delivered quickly, and into the vein. Some hospitals offer cremation services, both group and private (private also costs more) and may have info for pet cemeteries. Also, find out if it is legal for you to bury her at home (that varies state to state and county to county.) Ask them BEFORE you make the final trip to explain the procedure and what you as the owners expect to see. If you aren't ready for it, it can be even more stressful. Use the term "euthanasia" as opposed to "put to sleep" True story- had a client ask us when her dog was going to "go to sleep and wake up again" and we weren't sure if she understood that the procedure would cause her dog to die. None of us used the term "put to sleep" but her family had used it and she was truly confused. Find out if they make paw prints for the family members. It's a nice memento. Also, if you want some of her fur, ask. Most techs are happy to shave a bit of fur for the owners.

    Lastly, talk to her- tell her how much you all love her, and let her know that if she's ready to go, to let you know. I have done that with every one of my animals that I had to have euthanized, and believe me, though it doesn't make it easier, I knew in my heart, that they had told me as clearly as they could that they were ready to "be done". I truly feel for you and your family, and I pray that when it's time, you will all be able to be with her to say your goodbyes
  • See? This is why you ask the experts =) Here I am telling you to end your dogs' life because, based on MY experiences, that was the proper course of action. But based on what truly experienced individuals are suggesting, if you can protect your dogs' quality of life..... It's worth the risk, I'd most certainly take it if I had the choice.
  • LyndaKLyndaK Member
    Casey, I am sorry and no offense to you, but I would not use a vet that would not let me be with my pet while being put to sleep.

    As to going quietly in the night...YES that is the best we can hope for not only our pets but our members of our family as well.

    As someone who watched their 28 year old sister-in-law die an agonizing death and who was in the room with one of my best friends when she slipped slowly and peacefully away from breast cancer, I can tell you from first hand experience that dying in one's sleep be you two legged or four, this is the best that we can hope for.

    There is no one who is more committed to pets or horses dying peacefully and not wracked in pain than I am.

    Regarding the sedation before the final injection, I have seen poor cats and dogs react to the medication. And when I say react, I mean muscle spasms that can be small ones or violent ones.

    At the end of the day, each person has to make the best decision that is in the best interests of their pet or horse.

    I just put a horse down a few weeks ago that I had taken in 10 years ago. I knew that the day was quickly coming that she was going to lay down one night and not be able to get up again. When that morning came, I called my vet and asked them to come to the farm and put her down. While I was waiting on the vet, I made my dear friend as comfortable as I could. We talked and I brushed her and she ate one last bowl of grain. I put a soft cloth under her head and took a few minutes to clip a piece of her tail.

    When the vet came, she did exactly as I asked and my dear girl slipped slowly, gently and quietly away with me holding her head and talking to her. That is what she deserved from me, death with dignity and in peace.

  • Louise Costello, there are several companies that will make crystals or jewelry from your pet's ashes. Perhaps you should investigate this. You could have a lovely pendant made that would always be close to your heart. Just google "jewelry made from pet's ashes" or "cremation jewelry" and see what pops up.
  • Pepper, thinking of you today in regard to your dog. Nothing else to say that hasn't been already been said by everyone here. Only that it hurts so bad to lose a beloved member of the family, and we all know that. Please know that we are thinking of you and your beloved friend, and praying for you all. With love, Joyce
  • Pepper, you've gotten excellent advise from the forum people; actually, we've all benefited from your post and responses. All of us have and/or will face your situation. Gentle thoughts go out to you and your family.
  • I'm so sorry to hear about your dog friend. I have loved and lost many pets (dogs and cats) in the past, and it hurts so much every time. Whenever I took one of my beloved pets on their last car ride, it felt like my heart was being torn from my chest, and I sobbed all the way home. I ALWAYS bring them back home with me to bury them on my property. If you can do that, I strongly suggest doing so, and give them a proper burial. It will help you with closure. As far as when it's their 'time'... you will know. Also, give yourself time to mourn your dog, but get another pet in six months or so. You are not replacing the loved pet you lost, but you will be giving another wonderful dog a great home and a family to love. Their lives are way too short, and they bring us so much unconditional love and joy while they are with us.

  • I'll share this anonymous quote from a poster I saw....'It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them, and every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live log enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become a generous and loving as they are'.

    Peace to all.
  • Thank you casey, DivasMom, Joanna_TX, kurt, L_Q_Q_K, lauraj_cincinnati, louisecastello, lovehorses, LyndaK, MaryfromMichigan, QueenZFan20, RebornRuffian12, Springsmom83, VA_in_CA, and Voltige for your thoughts, advice, well wishes, prayers, stories, and time. You don't know how much they mean to me. I wish I can give you all a big hug as you've all been so thoughtful, considerate, and helpful. I know some of you might not share the sentiment, but please don't take offense when I say God bless you all.

    My whole family had a meeting, and though we haven't set a date, we've come to the consensus that Tasha will at least get one last summer, as she seems to be enjoying the warm weather. And even though she doesn't like car rides, when my dad has a free weekend we're going to take a day trip to Letchworth State Park as she enjoyed exploring around there the last time we took her. The car ride will be a forgivable offense after she's spent the day being able to drag whomever is holding the leash where she wants to explore.

    The family is hoping that she will pass during the night, but we're still preparing ourselves for having to make the choice for her. We all have different opinions on what to do with her remains and who's going to be where when the day comes.

    Our vet does allow family to be present when they give the injections, and they also offer home euthanasia. We don't know if we want to do it at home or at the vet's office, but my sister and I both want to be with her for the first injection. I'm not sure if I could handle being there when her heart stops, but I can be at peace knowing that the last thing she was aware of was that at least two of her humans were with her and that she wasn't alone for the entire process.

    We know we don't want to bury her whole in the backyard. We don't plan on living here forever, and we would want to be able to take her with us if/when we do move.
    My dad wants to take her to a taxidermist, though that's not going to happen as the majority vote says that's just far too much to wake up and see your dead dog lying in the corner. My mom flip-flops between not wanting her body back and cremation. My sister and I both want to cremate her. I personally want to put her ashes into something that's sturdy, but not necessarily extremely decorative. We have a lilac bush in the backyard that she loves to lie under, and I think it would be nice to bury her ashes underneath the lilac bush and buy one of those stone kits and use that to make a grave marker for her. Then if/when we move we can easily take the stone, her ashes, and the lilac bush with us.

    I know a few of you have asked this, and she was prescribed Rimadyl. I took a look at the pill bottle earlier because I didn't know the name off hand. Per last instructions, he says that we can give her the Rimadyl if she looks like she's really being bothered by the leg, and I will ask about other measures that we can take to make sure that she's not hurting.

    Thank you all again for being so supportive. You've definitely helped with the process, and have brought up really helpful things that you tend to forget about when you're too focused on something.
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