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.