by Pam Small, CVT
As our pets age or when they become ill, these questions come to all of us – is it time? Are they in pain? When will I know it’s time? We want them to stay with us forever and no one ever wants to say good bye. However, we all want to do what is best for our pets’ well-being.
When my dog Connor was only 10 years old, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a bone cancer. I went through all these questions. What can I do, what’s best for him, what is his quality of life? His cancer was in his jaw. There was talk of surgery, radiation, and other things. This is where it gets hard. How much do we do for our pets? We want to do everything for them, but when is it time to stop? This is a question each family has to answer for themselves and their pet. We made our decisions based on what was best for Connor and then it was a waiting game.
While Connor was happy and appearing healthy, I decided the best thing I could do was to sit down and think of what Connor liked to do. What did I believe made him happy? So I began to make a list. As long as he was still getting enjoyment from those activities I felt I knew he was doing okay. But what things would let me know when things were not okay? So I wrote a second list of things that I did not want to see happen, things that showed he was doing poorly or was unhappy. As an example, due to the cancer being in his jaw, was he still eating and drinking?
So now I had these two lists, my Pros and Cons. Making the lists seemed simple enough to help me through all that was to come. I just had to enjoy my time with Connor. I would check in with the list on a daily basis. I made sure the Pros list was still showing signs of being longer than the Cons list. Now for those Pros, modifications were deemed acceptable to me. An example of this was “Greets us at the door.” This did get harder for him as time went on. Getting up from laying down took longer but he stil made it to the door. Towards the end he did not get up but he raised his head and wagged his tail, showing excitement that we were together again. Walks was another one, and as time went on the walks became shorter and shorter until they became rides in the convertible with the top down and the wind in his hair. I accepted these as still pros and cons. This is when I decided that the list can be flexible but still aid me. He may not get up to greet us but he could still get up when he needed. He was still able to go out in the yard, but fetch was harder. However, he was still able to get up and go out. Connor still loved to cuddle and he was eating and enjoying time with our family.
Then came the day when the Cons outweighed the Pros. We knew it was time and our lists had helped us decide. Now the question was how did we say goodbye? What did this look like for our family? So we sat down with our kids. Who wanted to be there, who felt uncomfortable about being present? We made a plan. We figured out a time frame, knew who was going to stay with him and who wasn’t. We knew what we wanted done with Connor after and all that entailed.
The day came sooner than planned, but that was okay. We still knew the rest. We got in the car and headed to the vet clinic. Our son wanted to stay with his dog the whole way through this and be there for him. Our daughters, a bit younger, decided to only stay with him until he was sedated. They said their goodbyes before the end. My son and I stayed, petted him and told him he was loved. It was peaceful. Afterwards we placed his urn y our front door so that he could continue to greet us all as we arrived home.