When to say goodbye

Pets are wonderful creatures to have around and they quickly become part of the family.

They participate in all activities, they go places and they are ecstatically over-hyper happy when we the owners return home – unless you of course own a pet snake, ant farm or bigfoot.  As soon as the door opens to the house all hell breaks loose.  They bark, meow, purr, bit jump, chirp, whistle … anything to get your attention, which may involve tripping you as you walk with a huge a mount of groceries.

We are a dog family and have had three dogs in recent years – all at the same time.  It becomes rather crowded when you have three kids like we do.  And, with three dogs you can knit an Aran sweater (traditional Irish sweater) during the heavy shedding season, which seems to be all year round.

The kids have gradually become really close to the dogs. I’m still amazed with the level of patience our dogs have displayed over the years.  I’m talking about the kids poking their eyes, picking their noses, pretending they are horses, pulling of ears (tail and hair) and generally exploring the dogs anatomy sometimes using toys and/or sticks.

Just as us, the dogs get older and move less.  It gets a little more difficult getting up, they sleep in most days and rarely run around the garden like puppies.  The kids can see the transformation, but have up until now been unaware or perhaps they don’t understand that animals all go to heaven at some point.

But, when do you start preparing yourself, your kids and dogs for the final goodbye?

Our first dog passed away in the beginning of 2011 after having suffered a few minor heart attacks and damaged some nerves in the lower back.  I couldn’t stand seeing her suffering and when she couldn’t move any longer I decided to go to the vet one final time.

Back then, the kids were a little upset, but I think we the parents were more affected by the loss.  These darn pets become such an important part and saying goodbye can break even the hardest person.  I’ve met many “strong” men who have broken down in tears when that day came.  I’m certain my dad (who I see as my hero) shed a little tear when he had to take the family dog to the vet a final time.

The dog will not exactly tell you “mate, please put me down!”. If they could choose they would stay as long as they could.  It’s the responsibility of us humans to determine when their life is no longer worth living, meaning that when the animal is in pain or discomfort, then we have to be humane and put it to sleep.

It sounds cruel and why not invest some money in getting the dog some treatment?

We do try to help the dog as much as we can, but at some point you are spending money on keeping the dog alive, despite it not being able to move or being in constant pain.

Some months ago the family lab, who has been getting slower/older, started to have health problems.  We visited the vet and spent a small fortune on some tests and some medication.  It helped him for some time, but he was still getting worse.

Lately he started to display pains when getting up and he was gaining weight + was breathing heavily and heaving.  Back to the vet!

After a few tries, we finally found a brilliant down-to-earth vet, who assessed our lab and gave us the verdict without huge fees.  His days were numbered and we had to prepare to put him down.  *slap* smack on the face.  How do you tell the kids?

This time, our oldest daughter knew fully what was going on. There were plenty of tears, screams, hugs and other emotional outlets.  She demanded that we keep him alive, but when we told her the costs of doing so (and his chances of surviving such procedures) she started to understand.  Through the wall of tears she did mutter that she wanted him in a box, if that would be alright.  At least she didn’t ask for him to be stuffed!

It pains me to even consider driving him to the vet, but deep inside I knew it was the right decision.  He was not enjoying life anymore and he was in pain.  He’d be much better off in heaven, playing with his “sister” and my dad.

In the end, we decided to keep him with us for some extra weeks, just to give us some more wonderful memories with him.

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