Monday, March 1, 2010

When the Time Is Right

The deed is done. Heidi quickly expired as the drugs coursed through her veins. She lay her head down cradled in Della's arms and the light went out.

People have often said to me, in relation to knowing when to euthanize an animal companion, "You'll know when the time is right." As someone who has had a menagerie of cats, dogs and rabbits throughout my life, I'm here to tell you that such a sentiment really is not true.

Since our animals friends don't speak our language, none of them have been able to say to me, "Hey, it's time. Let's do it." So, as the human caregiver, we're always left to wonder did I wait too long or am I having this done too soon?

In Scruffy's case last year, both Della & I thought we had waited too long. She was in lots of pain and was hardly eating. I think we both were hoping for a "miracle"; one which was not going to come. She had become so weak that I had to carry her to the car for that last ride.

In Heidi's case today, I wonder if we were too quick. While it's true that Heidi was hobbled, partially blind and deaf, and had lost bladder control, her appetite was fine. She got excited when she became aware that we were going on a ride, though I had to lift her into the backseat because she no longer has the ability to jump and had to help her out of the car when we arrived at the vet's office.

For his part, our vet -- who is a kind and gentle soul -- told us he thought we had made the humane decision. He said she didn't look well at all and didn't try to dissuade us. Still, it's difficult being the one to decide life and death.

Is there ever a right time? I don't really know.


  1. When we love them, the right time is when we decide it has to be. I think to stay with them and be there when they get the shot, they don't ever know it's the end and we are there for them. It's a shame we cannot really communicate with them and ask what they want but in a case like this, with loss of bladder control, it wouldn't matter. It's sad and doesn't hurt less for knowing it is what should be done. My sympathies for your loss. It never gets easier.

  2. Is there I right time, I don't know neither...

  3. Hi Trey,
    They do let us know. Communication with loved ones does not require words or our spoken language. I released Ceasar last January after a long bout with cancer. He was seven.I look forward to sharing that energy again. He showed me the TAO.

  4. The master came because it was time. He left because he followed the natural flow. Be content with the moment, and be willing to follow the flow; then there will be no room for grief or joy. In the old days this was called freedom from bondage. The wood is consumed but the fire burns on, and we do not know when it will come to an end.

    Chuang-tzu writes of the death of Lao-tzu

  5. i'm sorry. there are no easy answers.

  6. Rain,
    The default protocol in our household is that our animals NEVER go into to see the vet for the last time by themselves. While it's extremely difficult for the living to watch an old friend die, we go because it's for their comfort, not ours.

    And I believe you're correct about the creature not knowing it's the end. Cradled in your arms, they probably think it's just another shot. I'm confident the situation is less traumatic for them because the people they trust most are there soothing them.

    Of course, our animals DO communicate with us in a myriad of ways, but we don't always understand each other. If say a dog or cat is sick and there are no obvious indicators of what the problem is, then we're often in the dark. We know our friend is suffering, but we don't know why.

    What you've written is true for much of life!


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