Painful Decisions to Make – Euthanasia

One of the most challenging decisions a pet owner can face is whether or not to euthanize their beloved pet. It certainly was for me when our 14-year-old golden retriever, Goldie, started to show signs of ongoing, untreatable pain.

Ultimately the decision was our responsibility as Goldie was not able to make the decision herself, and it was painful. It brought up feelings of guilt, grief and regret. There was fear around letting Goldie go and doing the right thing by her.

I knew the only way to make this decision was to make it a heartfelt and informed one. I read all the relevant information regarding Goldie’s illness, researched further online, talked to all the people who could support me in it such as friends, family, local rescue groups and, of course, her vets.

I found our trusted local vets’ knowledge and opinions very important. I knew from all the warmth, love and care they had shown our pets over the years that they had Goldie’s best interest at heart. (Plus, you would only choose a career like vet science if you have an innate love of animals, right?) Her vets were both knowledgeable and compassionate, and Goldie and I needed both.

Sometimes we have to let go.

‘We have to let go. Hanging on is not love. Dogs and cats did not come into our lives to suffer, or to stay beyond their time because of our wants or needs.’ (Going Home, Finding Peace When Pets Die, author Jon Katz)

Goldie was 14 years old and her back legs ‘gave way’ due to degeneration of the lower spine. This caused her to show signs of great pain. She was only able to move by dragging herself along with her front legs. She would be panting with a grimaced face. She was unable to urinate or defecate without soiling herself.

The medication wasn’t making any real difference for her.

My husband, Nicholas, and I finally made the decision to have Goldie euthanized after Nicholas saw her crawling down the hill from our home to our office still wagging her tail at seeing him.

That was it. We didn’t want our gorgeous, beloved Goldie crawling around in extreme discomfort and pain.

Our young sons Charlie and Alex had seen Goldie’s deteriorating condition and that night we discussed with them our plans to have her euthanized the next day. We arranged to take Goldie to the vet after we had picked them up from school, and to have her euthanized in the back of our wagon so we could bring her straight home to bury her.

Nicholas and the boys said their good-byes to their beloved Goldie and I stayed with her as the vet and vet nurse came to the back of the car to euthanize her.

I held dear Goldie’s head and looked into her eyes, saying “God Bless You Goldie, God Bless You Goldie” over and over until she died.

We took Goldie home with us and buried her at a special site under an amazing 200-foot gum tree close to our office with incredible sunset backdrops.

Although we made a conscious decision about Goldie being euthanized, I remember waking that night in fear and panic, saying to myself ‘What have I done?’. We could not bring her back. She was gone.

I was thankful, because of the heart-centred work Nicholas and I have practised for more than 20 years, to know to breathe into the fear and sensations in my body, giving space for a peaceful feeling to eventually wash through me.

It was challenging, but the peace came. Peace for Goldie and peace for me. I wish you and your pet that same peace.

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Recommendations for pet-owners dealing with euthanasia decisions:

– Keep yourself informed – start with your trusted vet; read and request all the information you can around your pet’s illness
– Seek support – from family and friends; a breeder; a rescue group; your vet
– Ask your trusted vet:
• Do you think my pet needs to be euthanized?
• Do you think it’s time?
• If not, will you let me know when you think it is?
– Stay in touch with your heart – I can help you connect with or clear any blockages