Saturday, March 15, 2014

Knowing When It's Time To Say Goodbye. And When To Tell Everyone Else To Keep Their F***ing Opinions To Themselves.

Spring Arrives! March 15, 2014

It has been a long road. So long that I had to go back to this blog to find the first official date that I started blogging about Savannah's end of life journey (April 2013).

I have had many, many sleep deprived and sleepless nights. Worrying, carrying for her, and trying to keep her calm and happy. It has reinforced what I practice in my day to day life. Pets are a human beings responsibility. We each have different levels of what we are willing to do, provide, and sacrifice. I have learned that I cannot use my measuring stick as a reference for others. It is a personal choice and if you are going to be a veterinarian to help pets you have to understand people have differing viewpoints, beliefs, and limitations.

I get asked "How will I know it's time?" a lot. If they are asking me to describe the medical course of events of their pets unique medical condition I can clearly and concisely articulate what will happen in the body, how it will affect their health, behavior, abilities, and in many cases offer a crude estimate of the time frame. But as far as you knowing when it is time to say goodbye, to make the conscious choice to put your pet to sleep, well, that is a bit stickier discussion.

Here's what I tell my clients.

I understand your concerns and your difficulty with this decision. It is an intensely personal choice. In general many of us decide to let go when we feel our pet has little to no little quality of life left. This can be measured by their ability to stand, walk, eat, drink, urinate or defecate. Or when the bad days outnumber the good days. When I, as the vet, can't alleviate pain, or reduce suffering I turn the decision over to the caretaker.

As we have taken this journey with Savannah I know that my husband would have put her down a year ago. When she lost the ability to know, or comprehend, her house training skills he would have given up on her.

I have had endless discussions with my friends, family, and husband about when to call it quits for her.

Here's what it comes down to,,

  1. Savannah is still eating, drinking, peeing and pooping. The basics. When she no longer does one of these I will reconsider putting her to sleep.
  2. She still knows who I am. I pick her up and carry her with me about a dozen times a day. Every time I do I get her trademark sniff and kiss. Her way of saying "thanks mom!"
  3. She can walk and enjoy the outside. She can't run and she can't walk far but she ambulates for all of the things she needs to; getting to her bed and water bowl.
  4. When I can no longer calm her anxieties, fears, or give her times of peaceful rest. This has been a challenge, but today was a good day, and tonight is yet to come.
  5. I can manage her. I have a small army of people who help. She is never left alone, and so far I continue to have the help to continue this..(I am so lucky to have friends, family and a clinic full of compassionate people).

When it comes to making the decision to saying goodbye to your pet it should be done with them, and their best interest in mind. Keeping them here when they are suffering is not fair to them. They are dependent on us to care for them every step of their lives. Some people have a very difficult time deciding, the pressure of the decision is too great, and their fear for the loss blinds and paralyzes them. I have debated this almost everyday of the last year. As for today Savannah is happy. She spent much of the day outside in the sunshine. 

Is her quality of life what it was a year, or two ago?, no. Is her life more dependent on others?, yes. But she is my dog, no one knows her better than I. I am prepared to make a decision to end her suffering when I think that she is suffering. To the casual bystander who doesn't know her, or know me, I ask that you be supportive of me as I make a terribly difficult decision, and remember that I am the one who has to live with her loss, the decision to end her life and all of the ripples of these for the rest of my life.

When you are facing letting go please remember that ending suffering is ALWAYS an act of a responsible compassionate person. Be strong, put your pet first, and never let someone else tell you what to do. 

If you have a pet related question, or want to share your pet experiences, stories, photos, or advice with other pet people find us on It is free for everyone to use.

You can also find me at the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice, or on Google+.


  1. I really enjoy reading your blogs. They are very informative and interesting.I

  2. And your puppy is soooooooooooooo cute!!

    1. Thank you Stephen..

      She is adorable! I agree!