We’re grappling with a tough decision. Should we euthanize our sweet girl, Tess?
We met this 13-pound ball of fur nearly 18 years ago. She was one of maybe seven puppies living in a stinky pen set up in a graduate student’s apartment.
We were on a mission.
After a particularly traumatic experience with Bart, a psychopathic biter, we wanted a laid-back female. Yappy and enthusiastic, she proved to be the perfect choice. With her coal-black eyes, snow-white hair, and gentle nature, this little Westie became a little sister to my three boys.
But the quality of her life has diminished dramatically.
She can’t see.
She can’t hear.
She’s cognitively impaired.
And her hind legs are weak.
She’s tumbled down one steep incline on our property and came within inches of dropping over another. Formerly a fervent barker, especially when someone came to the door, Tess is now eerily silent. My husband can’t remember the last time she greeted him, wanting to lick his ears.
Time for Compassion
Friends and our vet say we should show compassion. Euthanize her, they kindly suggest.
We don’t know what’s worse: Deciding to put down a dog that still eats and drinks, even though she spends most of her life sleeping inside a crate, or being shocked, like my sister-in-law recently, when her beloved dog unexpectedly died.
My husband and I don’t want to play God, and that’s why we’re avoiding the decision of whether to euthanize. We’re praying Tess goes quietly in her sleep, without any help from us. Whenever and however she passes, though, we know we’ll mourn and miss her.
Why We Grieve
Meteorologist Rob Gutro, an unapologetic animal lover I’ve known for years, understands this grief. In his most recent book, Pets and the Afterlife 3, Rob made a point I’d never considered. Scientific studies have proven dogs and cats are as intelligent as average 3-to-5-year-old children.
“As a result, when they pass, even at 14 or 15 years of age, in our minds they’re still 3-to-5-year olds,” Rob says. “As adults we know that children should outlive their parents.”
Rob’s books address the loss of pets and subsequent grieving from a different perspective. He believes animals communicate with us from the afterlife.
Whether you agree or disagree, I mention Rob because of his compassion. Some of the people he’s met—particularly introverts—will consider ending their own lives when their best friends die. For that reason, his latest book includes advice from a psychologist on ways to cope.
“My purpose is to help people,” he says.
Back to the Decision
I wish someone would help us. Why can’t we make the call? Are we seeing her as a child who should never die before us?
“You’re going to doubt yourself,” says a good friend, Kathy, a cat lady. A few years ago, she had to decide the fate of Moe, her aging cat suffering from dementia and failing kidneys.
Even so, when the time came, she couldn’t be in the room when the vet put Moe to sleep. That job fell to her son, who said, “I’ll do it.” For him, being with Moe was the final act of love.
Kathy thinks the time is nearing. “It’s the most loving thing you can do.”
The Decision We Made
Exactly one month ago today, we came to terms with the inevitable.
We couldn’t bear taking Tess to our local animal hospital, with its harsh fluorescent lighting and institutional smells. This was not the place where her long life would end. So, we called Lap of Love, an in-home veterinary hospice service.
Due to Dr. Allie’s gentle ministrations that Sunday afternoon, our sweet dog passed comfortably after eating several pieces of chocolate brownie. She died exactly as we had hoped, at peace while sleeping in her bed.
I know her deteriorating mind and body are now restored. We made the right decision. She’s in heaven, licking someone else’s ears.
Wow. I’m so sorry for your loss. I feel your pain because I’ve been through the same situation with my son’s pet. I, like Kathy’s son, stayed with my cat until she passed on. Knowing my son was in heaven to meet her made it easier for me. I considered it an act of love for my cat and son, since I felt like I was part of their reunion.
Tammy, thank you for your continued support. All the best to you.
So sorry for your loss. It is like having another child. But, when their quality of life is so diminished and she can’t tell you if she is in pain or not happy, it is time to let them go to Doggie Heaven. She sounds like she was a joy to your family the past 18 years.🐶🥰🥰
I thought I would never miss her excessive barking, but when she stopped, it felt like a piece of her had disappeared. That was the first sign her quality of life had diminished. Frankly, I think we had done her a disservice. Thanks for reading and posting.
I’m so sorry for your loss. That’s one of the toughest decisions you ever have to make. You gave her a life that any dog would envy
She was spoiled rotten, but then again, so is Georgie. Thanks for tolerating him and his howling at night.
Once again you made me cry. So sorry for your loss. Love you.
Love you, too.
Sweet Tess. It’s a daunting and painful decision but the last act of love and kindness as animal parents. As always, thank you Lori.
Thank you, Cindy. There is no such thing as a spare, but Georgie sure fills the hole. So thankful we have him to distract us from losing her.
Mary G Scro
sorry for your loss, Lori! Been there, done that, never an easy decision. what you do in love from your heart is what makes a decision right or wrong. Looks like you found the right one for you.
Mary, thanks so much for reading the story. We did make the right decision. When I think back, it hurts knowing we hadn’t done something sooner. Hope you’re well.
Oh, Lori and Kevin! I was so sad to learn of Tess’ passing. My first thought was of when I nearly lost her in the snow and being so scared of your wrath if I couldn’t find her! I am so sorry for your loss as I know how much she meant to you all. I hope Roscoe stayed close to you over the past month as you grieve. Love to you all, Jayne
My wrath??? Come on, girl. Mmm…maybe you’re right. I remember getting a little agitated. We ended up giving Roscoe to Drew. (He needed a pet!) Georgie, Ty’s dog and your devoted bed mate, has given us incredible joy. Thanks so much for commenting. Tess really was a sweet old girl.
Have never had to make this decision and don’t envy it. However, if ever faced with this choice will think back to your healing insights.
PS Love the gravestone!
PPS Georgie is more like a teenager, not child. Haha.
A recalcitrant teenager! We should ground him.
I know that decision was extremely difficult for you and Kevin. Glad you were able to create the situation that suited Tess best! She can run and play and bark again! Don’t you know she’s hanging out with Ty! ❤️
I think the same thing every time I think of her and Ty, which is everyday. Thanks for reaching out.