A few days ago, one of my clients made the decision that it was time to put her dog to sleep. At the end of 2011, her dog was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and most likely a brain tumor. She has known this day was coming for about six months. Her dog was 15, almost 16. Even so, it was not an easy decision and she is in mourning right now.
Working closely with her vet, at regular intervals they reviewed whether the illness had reached its inevitable end or not. For months, her dog continued along, slowly, but in good spirits, not exhibiting much, if any, pain and interacting with everyone. Last week, her dog rapidly declined and it was determined that “it was time.”
I spent a few hours with her afterwards. We talked about her memories, ways to help cope, when and how to ask for support and what she needed now and in the near future.
We were talking about whether it helped or not to know in advance that time was limited. She said that time had given her some advantages. She had reached out to me early on in the process and we talked regularly about her dogs status, how to cope with such a monumental decision, and having the emotional strength to take care of her other dog while grieving.
I asked, “Of all the things you’ve done to prepare, what has helped you the most?”
She said that she paid in advance for euthanasia and cremation services. She said it was hard enough to take the last car ride to the vet office; she did not want to think about cost or dig around in her purse for her credit card mere moments after losing one of her best friends.
If it is possible for you to make arrangements and plan ahead, it can be emotionally valuable for a number of reasons:
1. The very process of developing an action plan can help provide perspective on the experience;
2. You have the time to consider all options and not just the most readily available ones;
3. Illness can include multiple vet appointments and can be very expensive. If you don’t have pet insurance, discussing financial considerations and options with your vet allows you to make financial decisions while you are not intensely grieving.
Let me know what you think. If you had time to prepare for the loss of your animal friend, what did you do that helped make this difficult process a little bit easier?