How do we know when it's time to let our family pet go? It's a tough decision and almost impossible for some, but I feel like it's something we can give in return for all that they've given us.
Our pets are often very stoic when they aren't feeling well. They don't have a "poor me" attitude. Instead they just figure out on their own how to do what they want to do with this new hiccup in their life.
When we start to notice something isn't right with our pet we set out to try and fix whatever it is and hope that it will work. So, what if it doesn't work or what if it isn't fixable? What then?
As our dog, Zoe got older the typical things started happening - her eyesight was getting worse, and her hearing wasn't so great anymore, but she never stopped running the fence when the kids were out at recess (she was a border collie and herding kids was her life). During her last 6 months or so something told me that she might not be with us for much longer. I would come down the stairs every morning, see her laying on her bed and think to myself, 'It's ok if you don't wake up, Zoe'. That might sound harsh, but I wanted her to go as peacefully as possible. Maybe it was a little selfish, too... I wouldn't have to make any decisions as to the timing of things.
Zoe was one of those tough dogs who never ever complained. During her last visit to the vet I told him that I did not want Zoe to ever suffer and I asked him how I would know when it was time to let her go. He told me simply that I would know. The day came when Zoe let me know that she was ready. There was no mistaking it and all I could do was thank her for that final gift.
Last week a good friend of mine had to go through this process with her own dog. Unlike Zoe, her dog was one of those dogs who throughout her life had one thing happen after another - allergies, diabetes, that wicked eating glasses, socks and cell phones syndrome... But, Jersey was one of the happiest dogs who ever lived. Always smiling, always giving kisses, always wanting to be with you (and on you!). She was Hermes' best dog park buddy when they were youngsters and Hermes even had a sleepover once with Jersey. Jersey loved everyone and if you aren't afraid of big dogs I guarantee you would have loved her, too.
It's never easy, but sometimes the best thing we can do is to let them go. We tell them we love them, say our goodbyes (and some people feed them 3 hot dogs - can you see the smile on Jersey's face? ) Then we picture them as we want to remember them... happy and healthy and goofy and tirelessly loyal... and carry them in our hearts forever.