Let’s continue with the theme on the Rainbow Bridge, and how we can prepare ourselves when our pet is ready to cross over. Death is inevitable. It is not something we want to discuss because when we prepare for the loss of our pet, it makes it real, tangible. But…we need to talk about it, and we need to ensure our pet’s last days are filled with love and comfort
My 16 year old Alaskan Malamute, Roc, gave us plenty of time to prepare, but my 18 year old, DSH, Aprilia, gave us only a couple weeks. Malamutes life expectancy is right around 12 years, but Roc lived well past his “expiration date”. As he aged, his muzzle greyed, his eyes clouded, and his hips gave him trouble. Close to the end, I noticed he had a couple seizures, and he had accidents every day. When my husband and I saw that his legs would give out on him and he couldn’t get back up, we decided it was time to call the veterinarian. Aprilia, on the other hand was healthy up until the last month of her life. She was a spry little girl who had clear eyes, a clean coat, and who didn’t have any arthritis in any of her joints. I took her to an emergency vet because she stopped eating and it looked like she was constipated. A steroid shot worked for a couple of days, but then she quickly deteriorated from there. I knew I had to take her to the veterinarian when she was laying on the bathroom floor in a pool of her own urine.
Every pet is going to be different, but I hope these tips help you prepare for the loss of a pet at any stage.
Quality over Quantity
One thing I had to remind myself of when faced with the question of euthanasia was if my pet’s quality of life was still good, or if it had decreased. Was he or she suffering, or could we prolong their life for a bit more. How do you determine a pet’s quality of life? The dictionary defines quality of like as “the standard of health, comfort, and happiness experienced by an individual or group.” My cat, Abel, was in the beginning stages of kidney failure, and I knew for certain that if I didn’t let him go, he would continue to be in pain and would likely pass away within a week or so. Because the likelihood of suffering was so great, I chose quality over quantity. I did the same for Aprilia. Knowing her age and that she was truly going to suffer if I kept her alive, helped me make that decision.
Quantity is only the number of years your pet is alive. Our pets should live forever, right? Unfortunately, we haven’t found that magic pill or that new technology where we can keep our pets happy and healthy on a continuous basis. And, as our pets cannot speak human (although, the videos of dogs saying “I wuv you” are super cute…) we need to put our pet’s needs ahead of ours. Don’t extend a pet’s life just because you don’t want to lose them. When you do this, you make it harder, not only for your pet, but it extends the grieving process for you.
The time is near, and you know you need to look at options. Where do you begin? The first step is to talk to your veterinarian. They will be able to give you information on keeping your fur baby comfortable, but will also give you information on how euthanasia is carried out. They cannot make the decision for you, but they will all possibilities and a good vet will give you their honest opinion. Do not be afraid to ask questions or voice any concerns you might have. The veterinarian is there to help you, and they understand what emotions you are going through.
Research is important as well. You are able to choose whether you would like to have a veterinarian come to your home or if you would prefer the euthanasia be done in the office. You can also determine whether you want to be present during your pet’s euthanasia and if you want to keep his or her ashes.
Prior to your pet’s death, make good/happy memories with them. Some people have made bucket lists for their pet and captured their adventures along the way. Some people will take their pet and feed them their favorite meal or even special treats. Take pictures and talk to your pet about all the amazing things he or she has done for you. Give hugs and kisses and maybe a few more snuggles. There are so many ideas you can do to help make a hard experience a little easier.
This is the most important key. Your pets love you unconditionally, and they would travel the earth to be by your side. Do not leave them to die on their own or in the arms of a stranger. They want to know that they are still loved by you and that you are there when it is time for them to cross over the Rainbow Bridge. It will not be easy, I assure you…but it is extremely important that you are there with them until the end. When you are there with them, it eases any fear or stress they might have. It also allows your face to be the last one they see before they begin their journey.
This was a tough post to write because there were so many memories and emotions present. Preparing for the loss of a pet is devastating, but it is necessary to be able to make the right decisions in a tough time. Keep the idea of quality over quantity in mind as you prepare. You will probably question yourself on if you made the right decision, or you might tell yourself they weren’t ready yet. Trust your gut on this one, because chances are, you picked up on your pet telling you they were ready to go.
Most of all, remember your pet loves you and holds no ill will towards you. You are going to be harder on yourself then they are, but you will heal over time. And remember, they are waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge.