By: E.J. Finocchio, D.V.M.
We have all thought of that dreadful moment – when is the right time? At least some of us have. This is a sensitive subject that is not meant to offend anyone but to enlighten them. Often times, I am asked to humanely end an animal’s life because of the infirmities of old age. I see up close and personal the anguish, sorrow and tears. Unfortunately for me, each passing of a pet reminds me of the day when I will have to part with my dog, Marvin. What grieves me now is the condition some of these beloved pets are in when they are brought to me. I ask myself how someone could allow their best friend to get in such a deplorable state and tell me they do not want their pet to suffer. To literally describe the condition of some of these pets would be too graphic and disturbing.
A few months ago, I had to put my mom and dad’s sixteen year old poodle to rest. You can imagine the loss to them, being in their eighties; not that being younger makes it any easier. The dog had been failing for months but in their hearts they wanted to wait, in hopes that tomorrow would be a better day. Unfortunately, there comes a time when the tomorrows are no longer better days, only the yesterdays were. I often wonder if the time will come when I will not see the suffering or refuse to accept it because I don’t want to let go.
Personally, I believe in the quality of life more than life itself, but that’s just me. What matters to your pet is also the quality of life, not the length of life because they have no concept of the future.
My time with Marvin is not measured in seconds, hours, days or years. It’s measured in the times we spend down by the river watching the water cascading over the small waterfall, chasing a tennis ball until either I can’t throw it any more or he refuses to bring it back from exhaustion, tracking deer tracks through the snow in hopes of seeing one, or just lying out in the pasture on an Indian summer day watching clouds pass by.
The unconditional love, companionship and friendship they give us for years should be rewarded by a peaceful and dignified ending without suffering. There will always be a feeling of guilt for thinking we could have done better or did we make the right decision. Feelings of guilt, indecision and soul-searching are what I have come to learn is how most people feel and it is okay. What isn’t okay is not letting go because of how you feel and hoping that tomorrow will be a better day.
We all hope that our pets will leave us peacefully in their sleep but that isn’t always the way. Many people have said to me “but I think there is still some life left” and there may very well be depending on how you look upon life. It is amazing how two little words, “let go,” could have such a big meaning. When the time comes for letting go, will you let go? I hope I will, for Marvin’s sake.