If you are lucky enough to share your life with a dog you will probably eventually ask yourself, “How will I know when to say good bye?” Making that decision is the hardest part of living with and loving our dogs. We’ve been lucky enough to have three wonderful dogs in our lives. Sadly, we’ve said goodbye to all of them and the process was different each time with only one letting us know she was ready to go.
Saying Good Bye to Jasmine
Our first dog, Jasmine, was 16 and had doggy dementia and hind end weakness when we started considering if it was her time. We kept waiting for her to give us a sign or look to let us know she was ready, but she never did. Because of that, we waited too long to make the decision. That’s not to say she was in pain or suffering, but she didn’t have the same quality of life as she did a few years prior. She was still interested in going for walks, but couldn’t go very far despite using a harness to support her back end. Jasmine no longer played with toys. She spent most of her time sleeping and struggled to get up from laying down. In her last few weeks she decided she did not want to eat her dog food so we fed her whatever she would eat. At night she paced and wandered around the living room for about an hour every few hours all night long. This is probably why she slept so much during the day. Despite this she gave kisses, wagged her tail, wandered around the backyard with her sister, Anna, and seemed happy to be with us. We finally decided she did not have a good quality of life and it was time to say goodbye. We should have made the decision earlier, but we kept thinking she would let us know she was ready.
Saying Good Bye to Anna
After that experience we decided it was better to say goodbye a day early rather than a second too late. That’s not to say we did anything prematurely, just really looked at the quality of life over our grief. With Anna we made the decision when she was 12.5 and her quality of life started to decline. The last three months of her life she had a brain tumor that caused seizures which we controlled with medication. Unfortunately, that eventually stopped working and when she had several seizures in 24 hours we decided it was time. We made the appointment for the end of the week and gave her the best last week. We did all her favorite things – walked on the beach, took a walk at a local park, let her run off leash on the bike path, ate ice cream and cake, played with her sister, lounged in the sun, and enjoyed our last few days making memories for the rest of our lives. When the time came to take her to the vet we brought her little sister, Karlie, so she would understand where Anna had gone. We celebrated Anna until the very last moment and then sent her off to get her wings. Although it filled us with sadness, we knew we gave her the best life, the best last few days, and happy memories to take with her. This time we got it right and said goodbye before her quality of life was impacted too much.
Saying Good Bye to Karlie
Karlie is the only one who told us when it was time. She was 14.5 and had geriatric onset laryngeal paralysis polyneuropathy (GOLPP) which slowly took away her mobility. We adapted and fought the disease for nearly two years before other issues came up. She wasn’t feeling well off and on for several days. Eventually she mostly stopped eating and had some nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Despite a visit to the vet, the only diagnosis was anemia caused by a chronic condition. He prescribed meds and we decided to try them, but on the second day she told us she was ready to go. When I took her out in the morning she stood next to the fire hydrant and stared off into space. I said “It’s time, isn’t it baby girl?” She struggled to walk across the street and down the alley so I carried her. Once inside and settled on her bed I spoke to my husband and we decided it was time. We made the appointment for that afternoon. Although we only had a few hours, we made the most of them and took her to the beach, which was one of her favorite things to do. We gave her as much love and attention as we could and sent her off with a lifetime of memories. We loved all our girls, but this goodbye was the hardest. Despite that, we made the right decision and gave her the dignity and grace she deserved by saying goodbye on her terms.
Making the Decision
So how will you know when the time is right to say good bye? How do you make the decision? We suggest looking at your dog’s quality of life. Some things to consider are:
- Can your dog do the things he/she loves, even if it’s slower or for a shorter amount of time than previously?
- Is your dog eating and drinking?
- Is your dog in pain that can’t be controlled by medication?
- Is your dog able to pee and poop normally?
- Does your dog spend most of his/her time secluded from everyone?
- What are your dogs favorite things to do? Can he/she still do these things?
There are many online resources for assessing the quality of life of your dog. Listed below are a few. You might also want to ask someone you trust, who knows you and your dog, for their honest opinion. When you are caring for an aging dog it’s hard to see the decline. Someone who has not seen your dog daily may see things in a different light and be a bit more objective about when to say good bye.
Here are a couple of videos that give great information about making the decision.