Saying Goodbye to a Pet

How do you know when it’s time to say goodbye to a pet?

How do you know if your family pet is ready to die? Can you ever really know? And, most importantly, how do you bring yourself to make the decision that the time has come to let them go?

This last question, more than any other, will cause any owner to hold back from putting their pet down. When our pet is suffering from an illness, our first impulse is to do whatever we can to help. Thankfully, advances in modern medicine mean that there are many treatments available that can assist or completely rid pets of their conditions so that they may continue to enjoy a happy, healthy life. But eventually, all pets will reach a point when there is no treatment available that will relieve them of their pain, and all that is left for them is to continue to survive beyond a good quality of life. Once all possible avenues have been explored, when does the time come to finally say enough… and goodbye?

How do I know it’s time to say goodbye?

The truth is, there is no way of knowing the “right” time to put your pet down; this decision has always been unique to the pet and its owner. But for Ainslie De Sousa, she knew the time had come when her cat, Mia, who had been diagnosed with cancer, no longer acted like herself: “[Mia] had been a lap cat all her life. . . she still enjoyed our company and wanted to be around us, but the tumours began to weigh her down and she no longer had the energy… Seeing this transformation of my once vibrant, attention seeking lap cat, I knew it was time to put her down. She could no longer do the things she enjoyed and I didn’t want her to live out her final weeks suffering, it wouldn’t be fair to her memory.”

Am I making the right choice by letting them go?

Making the decision to euthanize your beloved pet will be the hardest thing you will have to do. Although waiting until the very end might make it “easier,” it is important to keep your pet’s best interests in mind. If there is nothing left for them but pain, it may be time to let them go. “Although Mia’s death was a difficult decision, I know that my family and I had made the right choice,” says Ainslie. “But feeling the tumours grow bigger every day and watching her grow more tired and ragged, I knew that it wouldn’t be right to extend her suffering because of my selfish reasons… Thinking it through, I knew I would never forgive myself if I let her reach that point and I had caused more suffering that could have been preventable. That’s when I knew that putting her down was the right choice to make and it was her time to go. I was no longer thinking about myself and my needs, but I was now thinking about her needs.”

How can I cope after my pet is gone?

The grieving process that comes after the loss of an animal is both difficult and natural. While the process is different for each person, it is important to remember that you do not need to face your loss alone. For Ainslie, the healing process involved keeping busy and honour Mia’s memory. “Shortly after her death, after [my family] had some time to process she was truly gone, we made a collage of some of our favourite pictures of her; we had a custom-made stone with her paw print in it and we kept her collar. All of these things were framed and are now hanging in our home. Reminiscing about her funny personality and sharing all the memories we had created over the years made it easier to let go and accept that wherever she was, she was no longer suffering and in a better place.”

Photo courtesy of Amanda Tucci

Amanda Tucci is a copyeditor for the summer 2016 issue of On the Danforth. In her spare time, she can be found reading YA fiction or talking about her fantastic experience as an exchange student in England. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

One Comment

  • Laura

    As a memento for my boyfriend after he lost his cat–the first one he picked out for himself at 6 years old–I commissioned a Christmas ornament with the face of our beloved Gingy on it for him. I think that was probably the best gift I’ve ever given anyone. I am still crying thinking about her over a year later, but it’s important to remember that they are never really gone because they live in your heart and your memory.
    Great article, Amanda!

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