I had had my furry family member since I was nine years old and therefore, had him through a lot of tough situations. From deaths in the family to teenage heartbreak, he was always a great listener. He was there whenever I needed a silent, but loving, presence and was never judgemental. He was always there for me – so I knew when I started to see those tell-tale signs of ageing, that it was time for me to support him.
Dementia/cognitive dysfunction in dogs can be hard to diagnose and even harder to treat or manage long-term. We tried many different things but of course, you can never cure this, only prolong life expectancy, and that’s what we did. We were able to have at least four extra years with him. He was almost 18-years-old when we decided it was time to let him cross the rainbow bridge, and it was one of the most difficult decisions of my life so far. He went peacefully in our home surrounded by friends and family, and I couldn’t ask for smoother euthanasia. So what did I learn from this experience?
- You’re never ready for this, never. Even when you know it’s coming, even when you prepare yourself every day, and even when you finally make the decision. You’re still not ready and that’s okay.
- You’re going to miss them for a long time, with every ounce of your being. It’s been almost an entire year since I made that decision and I still tear up as I write this. It gets better over time, but never easier. They are such a big part of your family, and it’s hard to lose that family member.
- You are strong enough for you and them. You don’t always think you can be, but you can when it counts.
- The veterinarians hurt too. The doctor who came to my home to do this was so compassionate and kind through the entire situation. At the end of it all, he hugged me with tears in his eye. They know the connection that clients have with their pets. They have that connection with their own and often, with client’s pets as well.
- When the decision is made from a place of love and empathy, for medical reasons – it’s the right decision. Don’t feel guilty. You know your pet the best – we can give you the medical information, you know how they are home, their regular routines, what they look like when they are happy and pain-free, you’ll know when they are not themselves. You should never feel guilty for providing relief from suffering/pain.
- And finally – it’s okay to move on. There is no set time frame for how long to wait after losing a pet – you decide when you’re ready. For some that’s two days, for others, it’s two years. You’ll never forget them, but it’s okay to fall in love with another furry family member. They’ll help you remember the good times from your previous pets. They will never replace, but will only create a new spot in your heart to fill with love.
Written by Dartmouth Veterinary Hospital