Friday, September 11, 2009


Probably the hardest part of being a pet owner is when our beloved animal’s life nears its end. When faced with the unavoidable many of us chose to take our dog to the veterinarian and have our pet’s life end as humanly as possible by having him put to sleep. Then there are others who chose to let their pet die naturally.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a dog die naturally unless it didn’t recover from a medical treatment or surgery. Ideally (if there is such a thing), I would prefer he died peacefully in his sleep. It’s when he doesn’t that many of us find ourselves in the unenviable position of deciding to have our veterinarian end his life as gently as possible.

Many years ago, I read an article about having this procedure done by your veterinarian. It scared the hell out of me. In this article it said, make no mistake about it, your animal doesn’t die a peaceful death. It said that he feels the pain in his heart until it puts him out of his misery. I don’t know how true this was, but hopefully we’ve come a long ways since then. It is my understanding that the veterinarian gives the animal a stronger dose of anesthesia and sometimes a second one until the animal succumbs and passes.

I know of three people who did not own German Shepherds and all three of them would not have their animals put to sleep. They believed in letting nature take its course and letting the animals die on their own. Two people owned a dog and the other a cat. All the animals lived very long lives. Two of them said to me, “God brought them here and he’ll take them when it’s their time.” I hesitantly voiced my unpopular opinion but ultimately I knew they would do what they thought best for the animals that they raised. One of these people grew up on a farm so was very familiar with animals and the ebb and flow of life. She saw animals born and die all the time, so she came from this mind set of letting nature have its own way. I on the other hand objected because her old cat refused to eat and literally starved himself to death. He lived like this for 2 – 3 weeks. Her cat now rests in her backyard with a headstone marking his grave. The one dog just went into seizures and then was taken to the vet where he died with his owner by his side. The other dog on the last day of his life let out a “death” howl and fell over and died.

Like many other pet owners when faced with this “life or death” decision, I would find myself day after day saying, “Not today. I’ll deal with this tomorrow. Just not today.” Then the day would come when “today” was the day. These are some of animal owner’s worst days. We are of the belief that we love our dogs so much that we don’t want them to have to suffer and we do the kindest thing that we can for them. It’s time to say goodbye! We have our veterinarians help take them to the other side. Then someone will say to me, “You’re not God. You shouldn’t be making that decision.” For a moment or two, I may feel a tinge of guilt and may even find myself beating myself up for it. But in the end, I feel that I’ve done the last best thing that I could for an animal that gave me so much and deserved to have his life end with dignity and as pain free as possible.

Owning an animal leaves you in a position of responsibility for the life and care of your pet. He has no voice. We are the guardians of his life and in many cases of his death. Deciding whether or not to end the animal’s life is a matter of personal choice. The choice is never easy, but many times we have no alternative. It is not our place to judge someones decision about whether or not he should end his pet’s life. I may not like what someone decides to do with their pet by letting it suffer and die on it’s own, but when I decide to have my beloved dog sent back to his maker, I do so knowing that I’ve weighed all of my decisions and that this is the one I do to show him one last time how much I love him. Does it mean that I love my dogs anymore than those who let their animals die on their own? No, it’s just my choice and it’s one that I have to live with.

Many pet owners will chose to have their dogs remains cremated and put in an urn. I did this with my first show dog. We took the urn and buried it in front of the dog runs so he would always be with us and the rest of the dogs that followed. Some people chose to bury the dog’s body in the backyard. Others buy a headstone and have it engraved. And then there are still others that bury their animals in a pet cemetery.

I’m not right and the other guy is wrong when it comes to deciding what to do when our animals last days draws to an end. Once again, it’s a personal decision. We both loved our pets and they lived as long as they did because of the loving care that we gave them. We both loved them……we just loved them differently.

Expenses covering the death of an animal: depending upon the vet (office visit, needle, urns, disposing of animal, etc.) over $100. Grave stones and a pet cemetery will run you hundreds of dollars.

My rating concerning taking an animal to the vet to humanly be put to sleep: (4), choices for remembering a pet – grave stones, urns, etc.: (4)

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