Putting my old dog down - Need wisdom

wjsmallAugust 20, 2014

I posted here 8 months ago about our old dog - even then, we were aware that she was not in good shape and were beginning to think of putting her down. Fast forward eight months. We still have our girl but know the time is fast approaching when we will have to say goodbye to her.

Our now 17 year old Jack Russell is almost completely deaf, quite blind, and suffering from canine dementia. She poops and pees in the house with abandon, no longer recognizing that she should be doing these outside. Thispooping/peeing in the house has gone on for 2+ years. She can walk but her gait is unsteady, and she can no longer navigate the one step we have going from inside to outside. We have two other dogs who pick on her so she needs to be separated from them. And she barely acknowledges us and rarely allows us to pet her. Her day is pacing, sleeping, eating (which she still loves), drinking, and pooping and peeing in the house.

Both my husband and I know it is time to put her down. We live in the NE and there is no way she could handle another winter. Our floors are being refinished in two weeks and we all have to move out for 24 hours. The two younger dogs can be boarded, but this poor old dog would be traumatized by being sent to the kennel. Two years ago we took her to the Adirondacks and she was traumatized the entire time because it was an unfamiliar environment, even though she used to love it there when she was young and healthy. A kennel stay would do her in.

So we are thinking of putting her down in the next week or two. I am already guilt-ridden and feel as though I am betraying her - what right do I have to choose to end her life? Her life is not a good one - when she was younger she was a dog who truly loved being a dog - there is nothing left of that dog - but I still question whether I have the right to make a life and death decision.

I am obviously struggling and would love input form others who have been there. Thank you.

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I am so sorry you have to go through this, I know how hard it is to make that final decision. It would be so much easier if we could only ask them what they want.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:12PM
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Yes, one is going to struggle with this decision, as it is a huge one....and everyone has a different opinion on it. You have provided a great life for this pup, and as you have stated, the quality of life is no longer there. I believe you are truly doing ur friend a favor. Yes it is not a fun decision, nor a fair one, but it is the right one. Especially how traumatized she could be if you have to kennel her. Hang in there, I know its a huge decision..even if it is the correct one.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:17PM
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I'm with airforce guy, we had our much loved 16 yr old collie cross put down two years ago and not a day goes by that I don't think of him. It hurt us very much to let him go but it really was the kindest thing to do, he was no longer a happy dog, he would wander outside to do his business and forget why he'd gone outside. We would feed him and he would go back to his bowl 10 minutes later begging for more food, having forgotten he'd already eaten. With the benefit of hindsight, we really should have let him go months earlier but we were selfish and didn't want to let him go and I regret it to this day. I only hope that you find the strength to say goodbye sooner rather than later. Give her a huge hug and let go peacefully.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:30PM
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I feel if you're not certain, you shouldn't do it yet. My vet said it is just unmistakeable when it needs to be done and he was right. The pet will tell you. The life literally goes out of their face and you can just tell. This happened with both my dog and my cat and I just knew it was time. It was an awful experience, my heart goes out to you. Put off the floor refinish and try to keep him in a small space with lots of newspapers.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:49PM
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I'm so sorry.

'we really should have let him go months earlier but we were selfish and didn't want to let him go and I regret it to this day.'


Animals aren't capable of 'telling' us when their lives are more burdensome than joyful;
they just don't have that capacity.

& while we're waiting 'to be sure', our animals, stoic by nature so that they don't give a hint of vulnerability to predators, are suffering.

By the time they 'tell' us, they're so miserable that they just can't mask it any more, & they've been miserable for far too long.

As zqnmegan said, it's far worse to feel guilt & regret because we've let it go on too long than to feel sadness because we did what we signed on to do when we got that pet in the first place.

It's our job;
better to do it than to torture ourselves with indecision & to let our beloved pets linger on in a miserable half-life.

Again, I'm sorry that your dear pet is at the end of her life here, & I wish you strength & grace.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 8:57PM
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Putting down your old down is a hard decision for you to make because you love your Jack Russell so much. He was with you for 17 years and it's not easy to forget all the bondings and the memories that you have shared. I just hope you will make the right decision.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 9:24PM
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I feel it's not so much a right, but a responsibility. Your well-loved pet is counting on you to take care of her - feed her, water her, care for her - and that includes letting her go when her quality of life significantly declines.

I understand feeling guilty about doing it when you believe she can live a few more weeks or months. But with the impending disruption to her life, now is the time. Knowing how miserable she would be away from home, it makes sense to spare her that pain, confusion, and distress. Let her go in peace.

Before we euthanized our 13-yr-old arthritic lab, all I saw was an old, feeble, skinny dog who needed to be carried up and down the stairs. After he was gone, I remembered him as a young, healthy, active dog who could swim for miles, leap into the air to catch a frisbee, and carry his leash in his mouth to take himself for a walk. I suspect you have the same sorts of wonderful memories of your dog.

Hugs to your pup and your family.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 3:43PM
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No matter how much it hurts, it sounds like it is time to let go.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 8:45PM
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Thank you for all your thoughtful replies. This morning my husband found her sleeping on her bed which was urine-soaked - she had gotten up, peed next to the bed, the bed absorbed all the pee, and she was sleeping in it. This is the second time in a week or so this has occurred. This is no way for a once vibrant dog to live. We have decided to put her to sleep next week - to let her go before things become so bad that she is in true pain/distress. :-(

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:52AM
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Only you can judge if she still is enjoying life (overall) vs just enjoying eating.
I remember putting down the first dog I ever had that lived long enough to need to be put down (farm life can be hard), it was a traumatic experience, but there was no doubt in my mind that life was terribly hard on him, when it took 3 or 4 tries to get up and get down again, with falling in between. I cried every time I thought of the dog for months. To top it off, my mother fell terminally ill shortly thereafter, and probably sometimes I didn't know who I was crying for.

I also (personally) believe that you shouldn't let it go on so long that you're regretting the dog (which I would be after 2 years of poop and pee). You should let go while you still love and respect the animal...not try to keep it beyond that point (again, that's a personal evaluation).

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 8:08AM
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It's time. You look her square into the eye while the euthanasia is being administered and hold her hand. It's peaceful for your dog and for you.

Your vet will give you all the time you need to stay with her and my advice is to tuck her tongue back into her mouth and take as many minutes as necessary to be with her.

You're doing the humane thing. When a dog doesn't recognize you and cannot control its bowel movements and won't go outside, she's telling you that it's time.

All my blessings to your family.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 8:23AM
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i'm so very sorry you are facing this decision. without a doubt, it is one of the hardest things we will do in our lifetime.

when the time comes, hold her in your arms and as she drifts off to sleep, let the love in yours eyes be the last thing she sees.

(((hugs))) i have been through this too many times to count and i often ask myself why i continue to bring new dogs into the fold. i know it is because i treasure them, no matter how long or short of a time they are with me, and to not have them is to not experience the love, companionship and sheer joy they bring to my life.

wishing your girl a peaceful journey. you will see her again some day.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 10:35AM
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wjsmall, I understand your suffering, I'm the one writing about my cat having seizures since Wed. and I'm already considering euthanasia, partially because the vet brought it up... I guess I'm wondering why we are responsible for this, as we keep people alive at all costs, so why is it with animals we have to be the one to pull the plug, it doesn't seem fair... I wish they could just peacefully die in their sleep before it gets too bad.... my last dog had several seizures in a day, we found cancer had metastized in his lungs, it was all very quick and we put him down. I only realize now how that was a blessing because it was quick, hard as it was at the time. good luck with your dog... you'll do the right thing

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 7:48PM
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Belladom, having lost my mother last year to COPD and related complications, and having her in such bad shape that she couldn't eat for a month, drink for more than 2 weeks, and talk for three weeks. In which case she broke her leg trying to get out of bed (no idea why...since she couldn't talk)...it was a relief for us (and no doubt for her if she could have understood) when she finally passed.

I wish our country allowed MORE of 'I'm ready to die now, vs continued suffering' for people. Of course, I wish pets could understand and tell us it was their time too.

It's a horrific thought to think about...but the flipside is also pretty horrific.

This post was edited by dbarron on Sat, Aug 23, 14 at 19:54

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 7:52PM
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barron... My mother was diagnosed at 85 with cancer and died at 86, my dad had congested heart failure at 91 Both were relatively healthy till the last months... I'm glad I didn't have to make the decision for them... but had it gone on for years that would be different... It was a relief when they passed because they weren't who they once were but I think a little time of aging is normal, even healthy and helps us let go too ... there's a fine balance... Back to animals I think if they are in pain or unable to function then it's time... but often it's this in between phase that is painful and uncomfortable .... it usually doesn't last long with animals but seems like it does...

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 8:46PM
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my husband fought a valiant and painful battle with kidney cancer for 21 months before he died. while home with hospice, i had enough morphine on hand to kill a herd of elephants. i am thankful that he never asked me to do "it" because i'm not sure i could have said no.

when it comes to my animals, i always make a list of the things they really enjoy doing...car rides for ice cream, going for walks, taking the trash to the dumpster (don't ask me why but every dog i've ever had relished that!), climbing up onto the couch or jumping up into bed with me...when i have to cross these things off the list, i know it's time. that is the only way i can make peace with myself when i say good-bye to them. *sigh*

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 10:46AM
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Michaela .:. thegarden@902 .:. (Zone 5b - Iowa)

I am so sorry to hear your story. Our current dog is only a year and a half old and I'm already dreading that day. You should not feel guilty or feel like you are betraying her.

Pets don't have the option to make these decisions for themselves. They fully rely on us to decide what food is healthiest for them, to give them their medications, to protect them.

You are doing this out of love so that she is not in pain anymore.

Will be thinking of you guys.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2014 at 10:16AM
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I pray my dogs just sleep away so I don't have to make that awful decision. One thing I ask of anyone who has to make that decision, PLEASE stay with your pet, hold them during the process, do not make them go the trip without you being right there with them. They will know.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2014 at 3:56PM
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'stay with your pet, hold them during the process, do not make them go the trip without you being right there with them.'


better to be there & feel sadness than to not be there & feel guilt & regret.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2014 at 6:33PM
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I am so sorry. My friend, a vet, says she personally believes that when an animal no longer can manage the very basics, like eating, eliminating in the right area, then it's time.

Your girl has given you many years of her life, and the end should be dignified. No matter what, no matter when, no matter how, "goodbye" always comes too soon.

When we had to put one of our cats down (a decision that gives me much angst), we had our daughter read her a book (one written to be read to cats), give her a last meal, took photos, and sang to her. My daughter was 5 at the time, and when the cat passed away, my daughter said: I wish I didn't love her so much, because then I wouldn't hurt so much.

Help her transition to her new life, just like a midwife ushers in a newborn into this world.

Again, I am so sorry.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2014 at 10:38AM
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I was forced into the same decision. My friend who had gone thru the same thing told me she had medicated her pet to keep her going, even tho the prognosis was eventually death. She realized after the euthanasia that she had kept her pet alive thru selfishness and avoidance of the issue. It's the hardest decision I ever had to make, but I loved my little buddy too much to let him suffer any longer when it was plain his quality of life was none. I feel I did the right thing and am grateful I was able to be with him when he went. I wish you ease of mind in your decision that you're doing the right thing for your beloved pet.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2014 at 10:02PM
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euthanizing a pet I found out was so pain free & peaceful for the pet & I was there with the pet to the end; if only humans could go so peacefully with their loved ones around! Yes, in such painful situations it may be selfish of us to keep a beloved pet alive in such pain & suffering. I had never before been with a pet when it was euthanized but am so glad I did as it seemed so peaceful & pain free! Our local Humane/Animal Control refuses to let the owner be with the pet during euthanasia like they used to ... why? ... have no idea! You have to 'submit' your pet to them & then THEY decide if euthanasia is necessary or not ! Most Vets will euthanize a pet though & let you take the pet home to bury.... over $200 usually!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2014 at 7:07PM
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My advice: understand that second guessing is part of the grief process and that no matter what you choose, its likely you will regret it and second guess yourself....

Im glad some of you found the experience of euth your animal to be peaceful. For me, it was anything but, and I feel I jumped the gun. My vet told me her experience was that among her clients they either felt it was too soon, or too late. We all want what's best and there are some times in life when what's best cannot e known, all we can do is follow our heart.

I would try to tune out other people's definition of what being "too selfish" is and isn't.... including ones posted above. I know you all mean well, but the exact moment (or if at all) to euth is highly specific to ea animal and person.

What is helpful though is to talk to your vet in great detail - what is my animals death likely to be. Can it be a peaceful exit on her own? If so then you might want to google "pet hospice" which is you providing hospice care at home foryour pet with a vets help (you dont take your pet anywhere."

If not, then ask what signs to look for that tell you the time is nigh (unable to breathe, etc.)

    Bookmark   December 2, 2014 at 6:27PM
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'I would try to tune out other people's definition of what being "too selfish" is and isn't.... including ones posted above.'

but you're not the OP.
you know, the person who *asked* for advice & perspective.

'I know you all mean well, but the exact moment (or if at all) to euth is highly specific to ea animal and person.'

Yes, we do all mean well, & we've shared our own heartfelt experiences with OP.

"I know you all mean well" is what's called "damming with faint praise":
it's an insult, implying that we've all caused damage by our blundering interference, which is not the case at all.

Since death is a fact of life & has to come to every thing that lives, euthanasia isn't "highly specific to ea animal and person".
It's very much the same for every living sentient being.

Death is universal;
painless, humane, kind, responsible death is a choice, one that we sign up for when we take on a pet.

As for hospice...
People use hospice because they/we aren't allowed to opt for euthanasia & hospice is kinder than hospitalization.

Hospice includes heavy drugs, pee pads, catheters, oxygen tubes taped in the nose, blood thinners...
When the brain begins to fail, the patient often has hallucinations & feels afraid & confused.

What kind of quality of life does that sound like?

I wouldn't put a beloved pet through what our elderly & ill people go through.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2014 at 7:35PM
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No Sylvia, I am not the OP .... I'm just one of many who offered my own opinion and heartfelt experience - FWIW. I trust OP and other readers will be grappling with the input and various perspectives here.... as well as their own emotions and past experiences around death.... and in the end it'll be what it is, some combination of grief, relief, regret,and love....

My own experience/knowledge is that "good" deaths are indeed possible - one of my dear kitties died of feline leukemia and got progressively weaker/more frail but purred / recognized and wanted me present til the very end....her last few minutes she became a bit agitated and then she passed... it was simply like a wave going through her and her spirit left....

More recently though.... my old calico faced a death that would have been highly traumatic for both her and me and according to my vet could have quite likely involved many minutes, evem hours of her struggling to breathe.... so that led to a different outcome and a rather agonizing decision to euthanize....

Those two experiences informed my view that I dont think one size fits all and that a good talk with a vet who knows you and your animal well is the best tool for making a decision.

Honestly, Syvlia - if I was to choose between one of those two ways of death for myself I would choose the first one - to pass naturally and peacefully - I would so HATE to put anyone through the agony of having to decide what to do ....

But alas.... peaceful deaths are not always possible... maybe even a rarity, I dunno..... I do recognize that!

I apologize if my words came across as insulting - that was not my intention.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2014 at 8:35PM
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