The Dreaded Decision, When it’s Time to Say “Goodbye”

Photo credit:  redwolfoz/ / ccby-nc-sa

Photo credit:  redwolfoz/ / ccby-nc-sa

I’ll start out by saying this question has always haunted me. My very first dog lived to be 17 1/2 yrs old. Towards the end she became incontinent and needed to wear a diaper, at 16 she lost her sight and at 17 1/2 she had a stroke.

I would ask my vet every step of the way, When?
When will I know that it is time to let her go? 
Of course, veterinarians will not decide for you. They will guide you but are very careful not to tell you when it’s time. This was torture for me, I wanted to know WHEN! 

Like all dog owners, you don’t want them to suffer, you don’t want to wait too long, what is this quality of life thing they talk about? How is it measured? I didn’t have the slightest idea and in my opinion, I waited too long to understand my first dog didn’t have a good quality of life. It took her having a stroke while I was away, for me to say, OK it’s time.

photo credit: Anna Holden Robertson

photo credit: Anna Holden Robertson

Another dog I had, Piper was a young greyhound, just 4 yrs old. She abruptly had kidney failure and we found out during that diagnostic process that she only had one kidney. Again, I repeatedly asked the veterinarian for any guideline that it was time. She had stopped eating any dog food whatsoever, but would devour boiled chicken and vegetables and treats. As long as she was eating “something” we were “OK”. She had her good days and bad days, which made it all more difficult because one day she would act like herself and then the next day she would seem totally miserable. She lived another six months after diagnosis.

I must say, I do think all of my dogs have ultimately indicated they were ready. Until it happens you don’t understand what it is but it has happened with every single dog, eventually.

We had a lab mix, Zoe who was also 17 yrs old when she passed. She deteriorated slowly, and we often wondered if it was time, but the day we were told we had to express her bladder several times a day; it was evident that was not going to work for her. We proceeded to try to express her bladder, and she gave me a very definitive look that said, “Hey, no more. I’m miserable.” 

Figuring out the “right” time, or even if there IS a “right time” is tough. I would have to recommend “going with your gut,” asking yourself, is this for ME? or Them? What is their everyday life like? Are they eating? Are they playing? Do they get any enjoyment out of life? Pain! Are they in any pain and does medicine help or not?

Piper was probably the hardest dog for me to figure out. She was a strong, determined girl and she wasn’t consistent at all. We discussed over and over when would be the “right” time.

When we finally decided Piper was ‘ready” we took her to our vet, who had supported us along the way and had, repeatedly asked WHEN? We need to know. Our Vet only said, “I don’t think you did it too soon!”

So my friends, though we wish our beloved dogs would live forever, we lose them way too soon. As long as you have a dog, you will have to make “that” decision.
Ask yourself:

  • Am I keeping him/her alive for Them or me
  • Are they in PAIN, unrelieved by medications or is medicating them too traumatic
  • Are they able to enjoy normal activity-(going for walks, chasing balls?
  • Are they eating, drinking?
  • Do they have control of their elimination processes? 

And Then Let Them Go When the Time is Right!

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