The Last Lesson We Learn From Our Pets, Ctd

Ike's final days...

Readers continue to contribute to the popular thread:

Thanks for this post about Dusty. I had to put my very first dog down a few months ago, and it continues to haunt me. Ike started to have issues with the steps in my home, then couldn’t make it without my carrying him, then his system just starting shutting down. I sent my mom this picture [above] and she was on the next flight from D.C. to LAX.

I brought her to my home only long enough to pick up Ike, then go to the vet. There wasn’t much they could do, so the deed was done. I didn’t think I would weep like I did, and I find that when I see a death scene in a movie or TV show, it all comes flooding back. I really appreciate your affection for dogs in general and your beloved Dusty in particular.

Another advises:

There are vets who will come to your home to administer euthanasia. It’s much preferable to taking her to a vet.

Many readers chose that path:

I remember the day my wife and I looked at each other and recognized the day had come to “put down” our gentle springer spaniel of 14.5 years. Part of me desperately wanted to chicken out and not be there for it, but it’s really your duty to do so, after all the loyalty the dog has given you.  It helped that the vet arranged a house call. The kids, to my surprise, asked to be present and were. There was no great moment or storybook lesson, but it was peaceful, quiet and right. I won’t like it any better when our spry young rascal reaches his time, but I won’t dread it so. A lingering lesson, yes. Dang dogs.

Another reader who decided to have a peaceful death at home:

Our first dog, Wolfgang, was very special.

He had a strong sense for how we felt, and did what he could to comfort and console when appropriate.  He was diagnosed with lymphoma 15 months before he died.  We were not yet ready to release him and so spent a small fortune on chemo.  Mostly that 15 months was good; we treasure those times.  80% of the time he was the dog we always remembered, although easily tired.  He was not in any particular pain.  He nonetheless experienced “crashes,” about a week after a new chemo treatment, and each time we helped him through it.

The last time he crashed came before a weekend.  Weeks before, an x-ray disclosed that the lymphoma was back and spreading.  The vet offered to board him, but we wanted him at home.  On Monday, he would see a canine oncologist to administer another drug.  But Wolf stopped eating and drinking.  We did our best with a turkey baster to try to get some fluids and mashed up superfood into him. On Sunday afternoon, the sun was out, and I carried Wolf out to our backyard, where he had an hour of surveying his realm, poking his nose into the breeze, etc.  I stayed with him overnight, lying with him on the floor.  I started to lose it at one point.  Wolf kissed my hand and rolled over as best he could to get a tummy rub.

My wife relieved me at four in the morning.  Wolf died in her arms within the hour.  Wolf was waiting for her, as he was always a momma’s boy.

It’s not for everyone and every situation, but I’m glad we kept Wolf at home.  He died where he was happiest with the people he loved.  And we did not have to make the hard choice about inducing his death.  It’s hard to imagine a better passing.  It would have been different had he been in pain, but there was no evidence of that.  Yes, it demanded a lot of our time, but really, if you can’t spend time on those you love, what’s the point?

I experienced a far different death when I had to go to the vet’s and give the instruction to put my sister’s dog down.  The dog had collapsed and was in pain, and it was the right call.  Nonetheless, I was sad that my sister wasn’t there (she was on the East Coast) and that Sadie passed on in a clinic rather than at home.  I have since heard of at least a couple of local vets who will come out and administer a lethal injection in the home.  Clearly most vets will not do that, but I’d recommend finding one who does before the issue becomes critical.


Okay, I never thought I’d send you a pet picture, but for the sheer ridiculousness of this, here’s our beloved Bob:


As you can see, he was patient with my daughter’s dress-up games, as well as a loving “mom” to our cats (and us).  We were luckier than most of the readers who’ve posted on this thread, since we found a vet who came to our house to put him to sleep. And thank God for it; Bob just HATED the vet, and the thought of him spending his last hour on earth in terror was too much.  Our vet was loving and gentle, so Bob drifted away happy and comfortable as I held his head in my hands.

Another reader:

I’m proud to say that we gave our dog Princess a good death.  It was the least we could do after her years of loving us. Princess was a 14-year-old German Shepherd / Border Collie mix that weighed 60 pounds healthy.  But in her last year, she dwindled down to 45 lbs.  She suffered from incontinence, hearing loss that led to anxiety, and frequent bouts of diarrhea.  I thought I cared about our carpets until she reached this stage of her life. I never imagined that changing a doggie diaper would be part of my daily routine.

About two weeks before, she simply stopped eating much of anything, then ten days later, she stopped following us around the house to spend all her time in her bed.  In Portland OR, we have a mobile vet service that specializes in in-home euthanasia.   When it was clear to us that it was time, we called them.

It was a sunny, warm day for October in the Pacific Northwest.  Princess died in her favorite spot on our front porch, in the arms of my husband while I stroked her head.  A week later, we planted her ashes in a bed of new daffodil bulbs. We still miss her very much, and we travel too much to have pets now, so she’s never been succeeded. Still, when my time comes, I hope that I have a death like hers.


A few years ago, our dog (a Westie) was in very rough shape. We had probably waited WAY too long to take this step, and he was suffering. Then, on a Sunday morning (when all the veterinary offices were closed), he could barely breathe, was panting in a panicked manner, and seemed to be pleading to us with his eyes. My ex-husband was beside himself and nearly in hysterics, so he was no help. I called a 24-hour emergency vet number and asked if it were possible to somehow put our dog to sleep at home, so as not to prolong his suffering (capped off by a traumatic car ride, which he always hated). The vet said something along the lines of, “Well, I cannot tell you how to euthanize your pet, because that would be illegal. What I can tell you, however, is that a strong dose of Benadryl has a narcotic effect of dramatically slowing down the heart and lung function. Best wishes to you.”

So that’s what I did. Two or three capsules’ worth emptied into a dab of wet dog food. We were able to snuggle with him until he relaxed and then simply, slowly, stopped breathing. The next day we took his body, which we had wrapped in a blanket with his favorite toys, to the vet so that he could be cremated.


Just read your post about Dusty and the inevitable question of “when.”  Two weeks ago we put down our much loved, nearly 17 year old chow, Sammy.  You recognize elements of the downward slide and you willfully shut out others.  But he didn’t operate on that plane.  He knew.  And he told us.  He stopped eating, even the beloved treats, and then started to fall down and was incapable of getting up.  To be blind to those calls would be willfully cruel.

We called an incredible vet, Hannah, who comes to your home.  She lets you sit on the floor with your pet’s head in your lap and the process begins.  She administered the shots, Sammy gave a final kick and with that said good-bye.  She has the pets cremated and scatters the ashes in an apple orchard.  There is great comfort in that scenario.  So if you can find a NYC vet who offers this service, Andrew, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It soothes the human caretakers and I like to think it’s easier for beloved dogs.

Many readers are also sounding off on our Facebook page. One popular comment:

We help our dogs to die painless, dignified deaths when the time comes. Yet we do not allow the same for humans. A shame!