Sunday, April 14, 2024



HomeNational Animal NewsChoosing The Day To Say Good-Bye Is Sometimes Impossible

Choosing The Day To Say Good-Bye Is Sometimes Impossible

Nobody who loves animals enjoys saying the final goodbye. In fact, it is this final heartwrenching moment that can push the most steadfast animal lover to say “I just can’t do this again.”

Sometimes our beloved companions pass away on their own. And sometimes we have to choose humane euthanasia because our pet’s quality of life has deteriorated so much that it really is the “right thing” to do. There are various resources for people who are trying to make the best decision they can. Things like a weighted list of questions that provide insight into quality of life issues. Or making a list of your pet’s favorite things to do and when most can no longer be enjoyed, deciding that it is time to say goodbye.

But what about the situations when things are not clear-cut? When the health of your pet is good, but for one reason or another, life for your pet and his/her family is HARD.

Our family is living in this nightmarish scenario right now, and we have been for quite some time. Our oldest German shepherd, Chesney, was inexplicably paralyzed four years ago. Her paralysis was sudden and completely unexpected. Though her veterinarian gently suggested euthanasia, we were not ready, so we worked with her and after several months, she regained some of her mobility. Suffice to say, the entire family was thrilled. She was never back to normal, and we jokingly described her walk as that of a drunken sailor, but she could get around on her own.

Fast forward to this year. Age is taking its toll on her, as it does for every senior animal. The mobility she regained four years ago has deteriorated greatly. At 12 years of age, she is tired. She can no longer feel when she has to poo…which means we are cleaning up messes almost daily. When she goes outside in the morning, she doesn’t make it to the yard before she starts to pee on the aggregate patio. Daily, I am cleaning off the patio with detergent and/or enzyme cleaner. Despite my best efforts, the stench of urine prevails. We have not had anyone come to visit at our house because we never know when she will have an accident – nothing says “great dinner party” like a fresh pile of dog poop in the house.

She cannot have ANY treats. For whatever reason, anything that is out of her normal diet creates explosive diarrhea. We have had moments this summer that would destroy most people. It is hard to even describe the messes that we have cleaned up. Because of Chesney’s limited mobility, we used to rely on treats to give her enrichment. Filled Kongs, different chew bones, things of that nature – but now we can’t. We can’t even give her pain medication because they also cause stomach problems. Though Chesney has no obvious signs of pain, she surely has aches and pains because of her age (I am 52 and I have aches and pains!). But we are unable to give her anything to address discomfort.

Chesney basically moves only when we help her move. She drinks when we hold the water dish for her. She goes out to the bathroom when we assist her. She mostly sleeps in one spot throughout the day. Her world is very small.

Now we are faced with the change of season. It is cold in the morning and the rain will soon be here. Eventually, it will be at or below freezing, and at that time, cleaning off the urine will be impossible. And at that time, it will no longer be possible to wash urine off of her body when she falls into it. We have laundry going constantly – washing her blankets and towels when they are soiled.

Our house is horrible for an old, disabled dog. The only access to the outside area in the back is through our kitchen. She lays on a huge blue tarp, with her therapeutic bed and blankets on top – in our kitchen.  The only access to the front yard is down steep stairs through the front door, or steep stairs through the garage.

After reading through the aforementioned issues, one might think “this is a no-brainer, it is time to put your dog down, she is clearly suffering and has no quality of life.” On paper, you would be correct.

But in person, it is not clear-cut. Three months ago I made the appointment to have the in-home veterinary service come to put Chesney down – but my gut screamed no and the appointment was canceled. Days later, Chesney went to the veterinarian for a urinary tract infection and the doctor commended us about how healthy she was. She said that she looked amazing for a dog who was 12 years of age and disabled. She commented on the lack of sores on her feet or body (from laying down all the time) and noted that her bloodwork was great. DAYS after she was going to be put down.

Chesney is healthy, but she is disabled.

And she is hopelessly devoted to our adult daughter. When our daughter is at work, Chesney basically does nothing but sleep – sometimes so deeply that you might think she is just going to peacefully pass away. But when our daughter comes home, life comes back into Chesney. She bounces (as much as she can) on her front feet, barks, grabs her toy, and her eyes light up. She is happy.

We are in a no-win situation. This is not an old dog suffering from cancer. This is not an old dog suffering from kidney or liver failure. This is not an old dog with a spleen that has ruptured. This is an old dog who is the equivalent of an old person who cannot get around well anymore, but who still enjoys being alive.

We don’t have the answer, and we don’t know what we will do in the next few weeks when the weather deteriorates. Daily we pray for the sign that will tell us what to do, but I am not hopeful that the answer will present itself. Many people who have been through this before (ourselves included) will tell you that “you’ll know, you will get the look and your pet will tell you,” but this is not the case (so far) with Chesney. We are patiently waiting for “the look.”

To everyone out there in the same situation, I feel your pain. This.Is.Hard.




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  1. My heart goes out to you, I have been through similar with a couple of my Shepherds. They are stoic and it’s hard to tell if they are suffering or not. They love us so much they don’t want us to worry or be sad. I will keep you in our prayers. Making that decision is the hardest part of loving a Shepherd.

  2. My disabled German Shepherd “gave me the look” and I took him, within the hour, to the vet to go to sleep. I was beside myself, I wasn’t ready for him to go, but it would have been cruel to not abide by his wishes. I will never forget the years he gave me unconditional love. I am so sorry that you are going through this, but your pup would want to to be at peace with your memories.

  3. I feel your pain, and know exactly how you feel. I was in the same predicament with my furbaby. That day will live with me forever. Although not a Shepard he was my heart and soul and had Spanky as a pup. He had congenital heart failure. I called the vet twice and canceled. I too had heard about “The Look”.
    When I finally had to make that choice, I had to wait three days. The anticipation of what was going to take place ate me up inside. On the second dry I cried all day at work explaining I just needed to be with my baby. I loved and held him close to me that whole day. On the third day as he sat in the back seat so pretty, I just watched him through my rear view mirror.
    When we arrived the vet took him back to get him prepared. She came back with this little thing in his leg and commenced to tell me how this was going to work and take place. They put him up on the table and gave him an anesthesia to make him sleepy. I leaned over holding him, tears streaming down my gave face, telling him how much I loved him. When she gave him what they use he peacefully fell asleep dieing in my arms.
    I just screamed OMG what did I do repeatedly.
    That decision for me was like taking a life from one of my children.
    I was ANGRY!!! Why didn’t the vet try to stop me or question if I was sure, if I was ready.
    I know I did the best thing for Spanky, it just wasn’t the best for me.
    Because I loved him so much I had a beautiful necklace made with his picture on the front and on the back of says “My Hearts and Soul” and the date he died. I never take it off. I have had furbabies in the past that have passed, but none impacted me like him.
    So with that being said even though you will see that look, and make that difficult decision, you will always ask yourself that one burning question.
    DID I MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE? For your furbaby the answer is yes. We never want to let go of something we love so deeply. His memories I cherish. I still haven’t gotten another one even after this long and I intend to and I will love and spoil it just as much but in my heart there will never be another Spanky . 💔
    I will keep you in my prayers and for your precious furbaby. 🙏

    • He is a “he”. A new dog is a “he” or a “she”. Not an “it”. Not a “something you love”. A someONE. I don’t understand people considering themselves animal lovers but still seeing them at the point where they are things.

  4. I lost my adult cat adopted from neighbors whove moved to a rogue racoon this Sept.
    We were close Im used to animals dying by old age, disease BUT torn up by a wild animal is so Hard
    He was an outdoor cat day 1
    Was 16, black male long hair
    Too quiet without pets around

  5. My 18 year old Norwegian Forest Cat mix Gizzy threw up the kidney medicine as well as the diet food and the water he drank for 3 days, that was when I knew it was time to let him go on August the 1st 2022, his patchwork brofur Thori & me miss him.

  6. I really feel for you. ((hugs))

    I was literally in the same situation 25 years ago and my heart still breaks missing my sweet Shepherd, Friday.
    She was skittish from past abuse (abused dog adopted from shelter) and bolted into the road one day – getting hit by a car. From then on it was as you describe… healthy happy dog for the ‘top half’ – wonky… drunken sailor walk with accidents for the other. I did physical therapy on her and cooked her foods, etc.. etc… but I lived in a 3 floor walkup in the Bronx (!) One day her legs just couldn’t make it up the stairs anymore and I didn’t think carrying her was the answer (quality of life issues).

    Some suggestions to consider that may help:
    *Doggie diapers.
    *An indoor box to relieve herself (to eliminate urine on steps and temp. fluctuation issues).
    *A Doggie wheelchair (?) might help you give her walks and improve her life so she’s doing more than just lying around.
    *if you know what her diet needs to be, just stick to that. It’s easier for everyone. <3 Love and time are the best treats anyway. Maybe play soothing music when you’re away or something?

    If she’s not in pain and you’re willing to do the work necessary for a disabled pet these things might help you. Don’t let anyone tell you what you ‘should’ be doing – follow your heart and you’ll know when the time comes to consider alternatives. In my case I did have to put her down, and I clung to her telling her I loved her while she kissed me as she faded… I still cry about it. Do what’s in your heart… this is the most awful time for any pet owner – just do right by her and you’ll know.
    Remember: all dogs go to heaven. 🙂

    Best of luck to you!

  7. In these situations, If a pet is in pain I don’t hesitate to euthanize, otherwise, if the pet is deteriorating, after having seen how their condition can easily go to one of great suffering overnight- if the end is coming, I try to euthanize while a pet is still alert and has some quality of life- I don’t want the pet to suffer or for its last memories to be of pain. I have come across too many people who otherwise seem reasonable but selfishly force a pet to keep living- because they can’t bear to be without the pet… And then they carry on about how they don’t know how they will go on w/o their deceased pet- instead of being glad for the time hey had together and for the fact that the pet is now free of suffering. And then there are those people who refuse to euthanize and instead allow their pet to languish and die naturally- I often wonder if its not only possibly related to religious beliefs, or the fact that they selfishly want the pet alive and with them for as long as possible, but in some cases I think the humans also want to save on Vet costs and so rationalize their behavior… I recently had a man tell me that a few months earlier a certain cat he had adopted from me 7 years earlier, had died “peacefully” in the bed the cat had made in the family’s closet (a sign it wasn’t feeling well)- unbeknownst to me, this man had neglected dental care on this Persian over several years, despite his agreement to take proper care of her upon adoption, and despite my warnings; one day he had noticed the cat was sick, it had jaundice. After a single visit to a Vet to confirm the cat was ill, the man took the cat home to die, refusing to treat the illness or to euthanize; he would claim the cat had died peacefully at home, but in this case, w/o meds, the cat suffered; I think he was also too cheap to pay for euthanasia, yet came up with the money to cremate the cat and take her ashes home, expressing how after 4 months the family still had not moved the cat’s belongings, as if she were still there. Makes no sense, to selfishly pay for ashes but do little for the cat when alive. I will always regret adopting to this man, though I had gone to inspect the home, received a Vet reference… Writing about this as the story relates to the subject of euthanasia.




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