Pets and the Responsibility of Euthanasia

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A tie that binds every pet lover.

Most pet owners face the decision to euthanize at some point. Situations vary, but all require two things. Deciding and coping.

It’s an uncomfortable topic, but it’s one of the most important moments we experience with our best friends.

It’s a moment we all become stronger.

The pictures herein are from friends who’ve lost their loyal companions.

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I’m inspired by their strength and remarkable stories. Thank you all for allowing me to include photos of your little angels.

Anticipation and excitement.

In 1999, my then-partner and I brought our first puppy home.

We both grew up with dogs. We understood the responsibilities of owning one, but never had our own.

We were prepared for Denver’s arrival well before we picked him up. We setup his crate, bought the necessities, and mouthfuls of toys. We hopped in the car; five hours later, Denver was home.

All in until the end.

I expected to outlive Denver. Most owners do, but in the beginning, I wasn’t thinking about the end. That day was so far away. I had plenty of time…look! Puppy!

I hit snooze.

Two years later, Marco arrived. Another puppy!

Snooze.

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We knew they would impact our lives, but didn’t realize how deeply. After they settled in, we finally understood the heartbreak that came with them.

Denver was 12 when we put him down. Marco was 14.

I’m awake now.

Having been through it twice, here’s what I can tell you about euthanasia and pet loss:

Saying goodbye will never be easy – Both were equally hard. I was – and always will be – present. Even Marco was in the room when Denver passed. That wasn’t the plan, but it was special. That’s another story.

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The responsibility was mine – At times, I wished someone would tell me what to do. Procedures, surgeries, scans, tests, medication, chemo, euthanize – your vet will advise you. Ultimately, it’s your call.

You can be thrown a curveball – Hidden ailments aren’t always diagnosed when there are no symptoms. In these cases, you may be faced with a decision within days or, sadly, hours.

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When deciding, put them first – With Denver we wondered, ‘too soon?’ With Marco we wondered, ‘too late?’ Health issue or age, you will know when it’s time. You’ll see it in their eyes. They will tell you. Decide, don’t look back, and don’t beat yourself up.

“It’s okay to let them go on a high note.” – Denver’s vet of 12 years said this. She helped us realize it was okay to let him go before we had no choice. He didn’t look sick. Regardless, his seizures were bad, more frequent, and he’d been on medication for 18 months. He was a different dog.

Make memories until the end  It’s your turn to be there for them. Comfort them with your voice and touch. Don’t leave anything left unsaid as if they understand every word.

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Allow yourself to grieve – I felt the void. I cried a lot. One minute, I’d be fine and fully breakdown the next. Triggers were all around me, but they weren’t. I rode waves of emotions until they simmered.

Keep their memory alive – August 30 is Denver’s day. February 17 is Marco’s day. Anniversaries aside, they’re always in my heart. I reflect with those who knew them. Eventually, the tears became laughter and smiles.

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I wouldn’t change a thing  I think about them everyday and the memories they helped me create. They experienced life with me in ways nobody has. Our souls are connected forever.

Coping and time.

Pets and death is an unfortunate reality. It’s a moment you will carry for the rest of your life.

Over time, my emotions evolved. They hit hard, subsided, and occur less spontaneously. It was a painful lesson and I’m emerging more grateful than ever.

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The inevitable question.

People asked me, “Will you get another puppy?” I kept asking myself, “Was it worth it?” Dogless, I saw the whole picture. Unequivocally, my answer is yes.

That’s when the new adventure began.

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