“The misery of keeping a dog is his dying so soon. But, to be sure, if he lived for fifty years and then died, what would become of me?” ~Sir Walter Scott
The worst part about being owned by a dog is that they simply don’t live as long as we would like. Advances in medical science and nutrition have given dogs longer lifespans then they had a few decades ago, but the average lifespan of a dog is still tragically short.
Some dogs lose their life at a young age due to illness or accidents. It can be especially difficult to see a life cut short at such a young age.
When you get a dog, you have a certain plan for him. Whether it’s to be a companion, a helpmate or even another family member, you have a basic idea of what you want. To lose a dog unexpectedly is very difficult. It is made worse because you can’t prepare and often have no closure.
Some dogs die peacefully after a nice, long life. None of us can control aging, terminal illness or death. These are all part of the great cycle of life that is beyond our control. The only thing you can do for your dog is be there for her. Make her as comfortable as possible, provide for her and shower her with all the love that you feel. And in the end, know that you did all that you could. The death of an old dog is not a tragedy. Not if you gave her your all during life.
Unfortunately, sometimes it is up to us to make the decision to end the life of our faithful friend. Truly, few, if any, decisions are more difficult to make. Your dog depends on you to do what is best for him and sometimes, sadly, that means putting an end to his suffering. No one can tell you which path is the right one to take (though many people will try). As long as you are acting in the best interest of your dog, then you are doing the right thing.
If you find yourself faced with the decision to ease your dogs final transition, ask yourself the following questions:
Does your dog have a terminal illness?
Is your dog in pain beyond what medications can help?
Will more treatment improve his quality of life, or simply prolong it?
Can your dog control his bodily functions?
Does he still have an appetite?
This is a very difficult decision to make and it is made worse by all the emotions surrounding it. If you answered yes to most or all of the questions than maybe it is time to speak with your vet about euthanasia. Whatever you decide, as long as you are acting in the best interest of your dog there is no need for guilt.
Coping with Loss
Anytime a loved one passes can be a dark and difficult time. It can sometimes be worse when that loved one happens to be your dog. Some well meaning people will tell you “Oh, it’s just a dog, it doesn’t matter” or they’ll tell you to just go out and buy a new one. People think of dogs as ‘man’s best friend’ but few seem to really understand what that means. It can be harder to lose a dog than a person because the level of support that you need may be absent.
There is absolutely nothing that I can tell you that will take away the pain that you will feel when you have to say good bye. If such words existed I would say them a thousand times.
Some religious traditions teach that your dog will greet you in Heaven or that they will come back again in another form. These beliefs can certainly make it easier to cope with such a loss. Some people find that making memorial can be helpful. Scattering Fido’s ashes in his favorite park or even in the backyard may bring some peace. Getting a memorial stone is a nice way to remember. Placing photos around your house or making a scrapbook may be helpful. Donating to your local humane society or animal charity in his name may bring you peace and help benefit other animals.
Some people find that it is helpful to get another pet to ease their loss. Others will never get another pet again.
There is no wrong way to grieve.
Find people who understand your loss, it can be very helpful to talk with people who have been through it all before. Talk with family and friends, members of the clergy or grief counselors. Letting out all the pain and hurt you feel can be of enormous help.
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….
If Tears Could Build a Stairway
If tears could build a stairway,
and memories a lane.
I would walk right up to Heaven
and bring you back again.
No farewell words were spoken,
No time to say “Goodbye”.
You were gone before I knew it,
and only God knows why.
My heart still aches with sadness,
and secret tears still flow.
What it meant to love you –
No one can ever know.
But now I know you want me
to mourn for you no more;
To remember all the happy times
life still has much in store.
Since you’ll never be forgotten,
I pledge to you today~
A hollowed place within my heart
is where you’ll always stay.