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Euthanasia -- the decision to put a beloved animal down

BlueBeard

Zooville Settler
Hard topic. Large dog lifespans are so short compared to ours. Have had to make this decision many times. A mantel full now of "rainbow bags" of cremains and clay-cast paw prints.

Never gotten easier. One of our earlier dogs made the decision for us. One last trip to a favorite hunting place, she died in my wife's arms, stretching out and expiring. Vet suspected a tumor on her liver had ruptured. She was in such agony, so much pain. Vowed not to go that route again.

The next one, a female yellow lab -- my most beloved dog of all time. Truly amazing. I could write pages and pages in tribute. But she was begging me. I could see it in her eyes. Panting hard 24/7, and her eyes looking in mine, begging: "Please, old friend, make this stop. Can't you see how hard it is just for me to exist?"

Her lung capacity was down nearly 90 percent, the vet said. Nothing he could do for her. And so the vet counseled me -- not telling me what to do -- but I knew without a doubt he was totally hoping I'd make the "right" decision, suggesting, "Who are you prolonging her life for? Her? Or you?"

I still see her relaxing, hearing the panting stop, her eyes closing, head lowering... the weight of her growing heavy in my arms. Lying her down, peacefully now asleep. The doc and his stethoscope. The pronouncement, "She has passed."

And bawling like a fucking baby. Unable to drive. Wracked with agony. Chest about to explode with rage. "I did this. I ordered my companion's death."

Even as the needle entered her leg, inside me I was raging against myself: "No! Take it out! Stop!"

The ultimate betrayal. I'd have given my life to protect hers for 12+ years -- then in one fell swoop, I took hers.

I'm there again. Just before Christmas I had to face that decision again. Congestive heart disease. Atrophied rear end. He had been falling down stairs for many months. He had made it a year longer than I thought he had in him. I couldn't believe how long he kept going.

And then increasingly incontinent. For months, every, single, time, I walked into the room, there was crap all over the dining room and living room. And in my chair. He'd be standing at his bowl eating and it was falling out of him. He no longer "hunched" to crap or raised his tail. It would just drop from him. Full of arthritis, the strain of getting up would be associated with crap. I don't even think he could feel he was crapping, he was probably having that much pain. The pain meds, when he was on them, didn't seem to do much. Couldn't really tell. And for the past month, he just didn't even get up any more. Didn't even wake up, most of the time. I'd smell the odor and turn him to find he'd been sleeping in his own diarrhea. I'd struggle to get him to the bath in the beginning, sometimes twice a day. In the end I made a little wash station of a bucket and took it to him, bathing him in place.

The light thump of his tail and pressing of his head against me, appreciating my attention to him, being with me. Still loving his life with me. Still my best friend. He still seemed happy to be with us. Unlike the first lab, I never saw his will to live leave his eyes.

Leaving for a trip over Christmas, I asked the vet to schedule an exam before I boarded him with our younger dog while we were gone. Hearing the news, facing the decision, hearing the vet say, "I fully support a decision to euthanize, if you want to do that today." Tears welling up. Couldn't even tell my wife on the phone. Had to text it to her through blurring tears, welling up and splashing on the floor.

Same feeling again seeing the needle slide so easily in, raging, again, within myself. Stop. No. I didn't say this. I didn't command this. How could I be doing this to my friend?

His ashes and his paw print have joined the others on our mantel. And it's still tearing my heart out.

So after this long introduction, establishing the context, here's the dilemma. Here's what the vet told me that I'm still not comfortable with.

She said: "None of us wants to do this. We really, really wish our animals would take the decision from us. We all hope they'd pass on their own. But the truth is, in my years of being a vet, that only happened once. The reality is, we wait too long. We wait until they have lived in agony for days or weeks or months. And then the crisis comes when we finally know it can't wait a minute longer -- which usually comes at 11 pm or midnight or later. And you have to rush them here, and wait for the vet to arrive. It's an absolutely traumatic experience for everyone. I suggest, in general, it's better that you don't wait until the last minute. It's much better when our pet is actually having a good day, a good moment, and can appreciate that you are here, holding them. They cross over in a warmth and love. I can't cure what's wrong with him. I can't make him better. I can put him on pain medication until he dies on his own. He won't be in pain anymore, but you're not likely going to see much change in this dog. I mean, it's possible. But it's just as likely that he's still going to be lying in his own excrement."

In short, she said, "You'll be prolonging his existence, but not his life, really. Not really."

When do *you* make the decision to put an animal down? Or do you? How many of you can't do it? Or if you can, what are the "signs" you go by that it's time?

And how do you get past the part where you did this. That animal that put so much trust in you, you put it down?
 
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Gigelina

Citizen of Zooville
As a zoophile you just have to accept these things and live with it. It doesnt and shouldnt have to be harsh for the animal like a vet trip - There are order to home vets who can do it at home, or then again you can just use your own weapon.
 

BlueBeard

Zooville Settler
As a zoophile you just have to accept these things and live with it. It doesnt and shouldnt have to be harsh for the animal like a vet trip - There are order to home vets who can do it at home, or then again you can just use your own weapon.
I was told that once. A vet said it wasn't legal, but she'd look the other way, saying it was as humane, if I took my dog to our favorite hunting spot and, while my dog was looking at the horizon, shot her in the back of the head with a .22

Nope. Of Mice and Men is one of my favorite books, but no, I still can't do that to my friend.

Have you done it that way, though?
 

HyperWoof

Citizen of Zooville
My family has always put down the pets at home. It's hard....really hard. But it also is more... I don't know how to describe it but it doesn't feel as clinical? It's personal and it leaves the choice fully up to you. There's nothing wrong with bringing your dog in to be put down of course. But for my own personal values I feel like like i'd be ashamed that i'm letting someone else do what should be my duty between me and a loved one

I understand why you would want to prolong your dogs life, truly. The way I look at it is that dogs live day to day. Humans always have another goal they are trying to reach, that's why we hang onto life so dearly and want to go as long as possible to see our goals or milestones fulfilled. Dogs don't have those ambitions, they aren't thinking about tomorrow, or a year from now, everything is one day to a next.

Even if your losses aren't recent, I hope you have nothing but fond memories and no regrets for those you had to let go.
 

BlueBeard

Zooville Settler
Thank you. The last memory is of whispering into his ear, "Go find []name withheld]. Play again as you once did here." And some consolation in seeing him, at last, comfortable and resting easy as he transitioned to the afterlife (as most of us trust/hope that there is one).
 

Bloodwolf

Zooville Settler
Hard topic. Large dog lifespans are so short compared to ours. Have had to make this decision many times. A mantel full now of "rainbow bags" of cremains and clay-cast paw prints.

Never gotten easier. One of our earlier dogs made the decision for us. One last trip to a favorite hunting place, she died in my wife's arms, stretching out and expiring. Vet suspected a tumor on her liver had ruptured. She was in such agony, so much pain. Vowed not to go that route again.

The next one, a female yellow lab -- my most beloved dog of all time. Truly amazing. I could write pages and pages in tribute. But she was begging me. I could see it in her eyes. Panting hard 24/7, and her eyes looking in mine, begging: "Please, old friend, make this stop. Can't you see how hard it is just for me to exist?"

Her lung capacity was down nearly 90 percent, the vet said. Nothing he could do for her. And so the vet counseled me -- not telling me what to do -- but I knew without a doubt he was totally hoping I'd make the "right" decision, suggesting, "Who are you prolonging her life for? Her? Or you?"

I still see her relaxing, hearing the panting stop, her eyes closing, head lowering... the weight of her growing heavy in my arms. Lying her down, peacefully now asleep. The doc and his stethoscope. The pronouncement, "She has passed."

And bawling like a fucking baby. Unable to drive. Wracked with agony. Chest about to explode with rage. "I did this. I ordered my companion's death."

Even as the needle entered her leg, inside me I was raging against myself: "No! Take it out! Stop!"

The ultimate betrayal. I'd have given my life to protect hers for 12+ years -- then in one fell swoop, I took hers.

I'm there again. Just before Christmas I had to face that decision again. Congestive heart disease. Atrophied rear end. He had been falling down stairs for many months. He had made it a year longer than I thought he had in him. I couldn't believe how long he kept going.

And then increasingly incontinent. For months, every, single, time, I walked into the room, there was crap all over the dining room and living room. And in my chair. He'd be standing at his bowl eating and it was falling out of him. He no longer "hunched" to crap or raised his tail. It would just drop from him. Full of arthritis, the strain of getting up would be associated with crap. I don't even think he could feel he was crapping, he was probably having that much pain. The pain meds, when he was on them, didn't seem to do much. Couldn't really tell. And for the past month, he just didn't even get up any more. Didn't even wake up, most of the time. I'd smell the odor and turn him to find he'd been sleeping in his own diarrhea. I'd struggle to get him to the bath in the beginning, sometimes twice a day. In the end I made a little wash station of a bucket and took it to him, bathing him in place.

The light thump of his tail and pressing of his head against me, appreciating my attention to him, being with me. Still loving his life with me. Still my best friend. He still seemed happy to be with us. Unlike the first lab, I never saw his will to live leave his eyes.

Leaving for a trip over Christmas, I asked the vet to schedule an exam before I boarded him with our younger dog while we were gone. Hearing the news, facing the decision, hearing the vet say, "I fully support a decision to euthanize, if you want to do that today." Tears welling up. Couldn't even tell my wife on the phone. Had to text it to her through blurring tears, welling up and splashing on the floor.

Same feeling again seeing the needle slide so easily in, raging, again, within myself. Stop. No. I didn't say this. I didn't command this. How could I be doing this to my friend?

His ashes and his paw print have joined the others on our mantel. And it's still tearing my heart out.

So after this long introduction, establishing the context, here's the dilemma. Here's what the vet told me that I'm still not comfortable with.

She said: "None of us wants to do this. We really, really wish our animals would take the decision from us. We all hope they'd pass on their own. But the truth is, in my years of being a vet, that only happened once. The reality is, we wait too long. We wait until they have lived in agony for days or weeks or months. And then the crisis comes when we finally know it can't wait a minute longer -- which usually comes at 11 pm or midnight or later. And you have to rush them here, and wait for the vet to arrive. It's an absolutely traumatic experience for everyone. I suggest, in general, it's better that you don't wait until the last minute. It's much better when our pet is actually having a good day, a good moment, and can appreciate that you are here, holding them. They cross over in a warmth and love. I can't cure what's wrong with him. I can't make him better. I can put him on pain medication until he dies on his own. He won't be in pain anymore, but you're not likely going to see much change in this dog. I mean, it's possible. But it's just as likely that he's still going to be lying in his own excrement."

In short, she said, "You'll be prolonging his existence, but not his life, really. Not really."

When do *you* make the decision to put an animal down? Or do you? How many of you can't do it? Or if you can, what are the "signs" you go by that it's time?

And how do you get past the part where you did this. That animal that put so much trust in you, you put it down?
You can’t know true love until you know true pain.
I have been there. I will be there again 5 to 8 years. My boys 5 already.
 

UR20Z

Citizen of Zooville
I was told that once. A vet said it wasn't legal, but she'd look the other way, saying it was as humane, if I took my dog to our favorite hunting spot and, while my dog was looking at the horizon, shot her in the back of the head with a .22

Nope. Of Mice and Men is one of my favorite books, but no, I still can't do that to my friend.

Have you done it that way, though?
Yes. Both dogs and horses.

It's never any fun, but too often, it's the only right thing to do. The only thing you can do is ... well... do it and move on.
 

Tailo

Zooville Settler
When do *you* make the decision to put an animal down? Or do you? How many of you can't do it? Or if you can, what are the "signs" you go by that it's time?

And how do you get past the part where you did this. That animal that put so much trust in you, you put it down?
I can't answer these questions yet, @BlueBeard, just offer my condolences for your losses.

My dog goes through something very much akin to your male lab ... instable hind, sometimes collapsing, incontinence, congestive heart disease, severe osteo-arthritis. The anti-inflammatory drugs had almost killed him two and a half year ago by causing a bleeding ulcer in his stomach. He's basically deaf and doesn't see well anymore either. Within the past months, he almost suffocated twice from mucus he couldn't clear from his bronchia.

But it seems to me that he still wants to live despite his troubles. He's enjoying every meal and always wants to be with me. So I am washing the sheets and we keep on. But it could change any day now ...
 

BlueBeard

Zooville Settler
Keep us posted. You're right where I was. The old dog just seemed to be enjoying life with me despite his inability to... well, enjoy anything. Confused most of the time, when standing, would "miss the door," stand with head lowered, pressing against the wall, waiting. Waiting for me to open the wall for him. I'd have to nudge him gently, move him, line him up with the door. His tail would flick once, as if to say, "Oh yeah. THAT door." Then shuffle stiffly through it. ... It was so hard to watch. But I loved him so much.
 
Have had to endure this a couple times, and I loathe the thought of it approaching again.

In some ways I think we let our last girl go too long, but even then at the end she didn't want to go. That made it hard, but the worst part is that her eventual passing was on my mind constantly, but I convinced myself I was preparing mentally for her inevitable absence. In the end it didn't soften the blow any, and in retrospect I feel like dwelling on it as much as I did robbed me of time we did have. That's a mistake I am trying very hard not to make again, but it's tough going sometimes.
 
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