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About putting your pet down

October 3, 2012

I have to write this post. You don’t have to read it – it’s something I went back and forth about, but then decided that it might be a kind of public service announcement so you can prepare if you need to.

First of all, thank you for all of your kind wishes on Goldie’s passing. I know there are a lot of dog lovers and just kind souls out there. I thank you for every thought, word and prayer. It helps to have so many people who love my dog – those who knew her in person and those who just followed her adventures on my blog.

Ok, now to the hard part. I didn’t think about this and it has been the hardest thing and I hope I can help someone else get through this if they have to do it.

Goldie did not want to die. She struggled.

I had some fantasy world idea of euthanizing my pet. I could have taken her to our regular excellent vet, but I had heard that the Ventura County Humane Society was a wonderful place full of compassionate people who love animals, and indeed it was.

I didn’t want to have Goldie’s last trip be a trip to the place she had been poked and prodded so often. She knew what the vet was and did not want to go there.

So up we went to Ojai. Here’s what I thought would happen – the person would gently inject my dog with something who would make her sleep. Goodnight dear dog.

Here’s what happened – deep breath. We put Goldie up on a tall, towel-covered table and I had to wrap my arms around her to keep her from biting the lady, especially when the Humane Society lady had to poke her again after one vein did not work. I had to hold her as she struggled hard to get out of my grasp. I didn’t get that one final peaceful moment with her.

As soon as the drugs hit, she gently slumped down and lay there until her heart stopped a couple minutes later.

The hard part only lasted a minute or two, but I have seen it 100 times in my brain. I just did not know, so I figured other people wouldn’t, either, since no one talks about it.

My dog was tough and scrappy, and even though she was in pain and skinny and decrepit and barely able to walk, she fought like hell. She wanted to survive.

I’ve had a couple nightmares where she’s hurt and bleeding and running loose and I can’t catch her. I figure that is related to that experience.

Please don’t worry about me – I have great moments, too. Happy memories, beautiful photos. We had a great life.

I don’t want to freak anyone out and make you not want to be with your pet at the end. I just want you to know, in case. Because no one told me.

  1. Rachel permalink
    October 3, 2012 16:37

    One of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced is saying goodbye to my Neppie like that, indeed.

  2. October 3, 2012 16:46

    This made me well up. Gah. It’s a hard truth. Sniff.

  3. Gretchen permalink
    October 3, 2012 17:02

    I’m so sorry. We had our Lily put to sleep due to bone cancer, and she was healthy and strong otherwise. The vet came to our home because Lily was SO stressed at the vet. And.. I had forgotten how she struggled and cried every time she’d ever had blood drawn, and I had to hold her head while she cried until the drugs worked. The only thing I’m sure of is it would have been worse to be in a little exam room at the vet’s office. I like to think her last feeling was relief when the pain from the cancer subsided and she relaxed, and me cradling her head. It can also be very peaceful, we’ve had 4 dogs put to sleep, all old, and Lily was the exception. It is hard to get over.

  4. Jessie permalink
    October 3, 2012 17:18

    Thank you. For the courage to write this. I always think being prepared is the best way to go into a situation. You’re one awesome lady.

  5. madge permalink
    October 3, 2012 17:24

    Oh, Goldie. But of course she did. Sending you much, much love.

  6. Gretchen permalink
    October 3, 2012 17:28

    PS – I am SockMonkey61 on Twitter. I always feel like a stalker when I end up commenting on blogs and Twitter and don’t say who I am.

  7. October 3, 2012 17:40

    It’s not always like that. I’m glad you wrote about it.

    Three years ago today I had the vet come to my house to put Emily down. She was in pain and she wasn’t eating, not even the best stuff. She didn’t struggle but it was still awful and I still hate that fucking vet and I still miss her in a way that’s physically painful.

    I’m so sorry your girl had to go.

  8. October 3, 2012 17:45

    Thank you. I totally second what Jessie said.
    I have to admit, I chickened out and made my husband take my cat to the vet while I was at work. I said my goodbyes the night before and that morning before I left; I couldn’t be there with him.

  9. October 3, 2012 17:54

    Thank you for writing this. I hope that day is a long time away for us, but I now feel a tiny bit more prepared. Rest in peace, sweet Goldie.

  10. October 3, 2012 18:01

    My husband brought our black lab to be put down in May because after I had to bring our yellow lab to be euthanized… I just couldn’t do it again. That, and because I knew she would go in there with tail wagging and a final burst of energy to fool everyone and I probably would have brought her home. And she did. And the techs left the room, gossiped about my husband and this dog who CLEARLY (to them) didn’t need to be put down (which he overheard), and then had to be lectured to by the vet that yes, this dog deserved some peace. There was a loooong history of pain and illness. But it was so hard. He still hasn’t totally recovered.

    What I’m trying – badly – to say is, I get how difficult it was. Every experience is different but they’re all so incredibly hard on everyone. I’ve been thinking of you a lot since you posted on FB about Goldie’s passing because I know how much you loved that dog.

    Even if you did insist on using a flexi-leash on her. *wink wink* xoxo

  11. October 3, 2012 18:01

    I’ve seen euthanasias that could have gone better and others that went perfectly. When I had to put Hercules down, I had the mobile vet come to my house. I brought his blanket out and she gave him a shot of morphine to help calm his panic (his heart was enlarged and he was having trouble breathing, which frightened him). Before long, he started to relax, and I petted and held him while he started to settle down on his blanket. He laid down, I kissed his nose and held his head until he started to drift off to sleep. After he was sleeping, she injected him with the drugs that stopped his heart. He peacefully breathed his last and I laid there with him on the floor until I felt like I had memorized the feel of his fur and his smell, then I wrapped him up in the blanket and took him outside to bury him. It never gets easier to go through those last moments, and I don’t wish it on anyone. Especially if your companion doesn’t go peacefully – the first dog I had to euthanize it went a lot more like what you describe with Goldie, and that was really traumatic for me. 10 years later I remember it like it just happened.

    Hugs to you, Sue. I know it feels empty without her.

  12. October 3, 2012 18:03

    Oh Dear. I linked to you in tomorrow’s post. Hooper started having issues this week. He’s going to be fine for now, but I’m not ready to go through that with him. Not now. Thank you for your candor. I know it’s not easy to write about. Sending you some major love.

  13. amyurquhart permalink
    October 3, 2012 18:18

    I didn’t know, either, when I took my first cat to be euthanized. It’s terrible and the fact no one told me how it would be, even the vet, made it worse. Your post will definitely help prepare some people for the struggle. You’re brave for writing it. I’m so sorry. 😦

  14. October 3, 2012 18:49

    The hardest part is knowing WHEN. And I don’t think any pet lover ever has that definitive moment where you know it’s best for you and best for your dog. It would be a lot easier if that were the case. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. Even when everything goes smoothly, it’s literally THE hardest thing. Makes my husband weep. Makes my vet weep. Makes me weep. Unfortunately, it goes with the territory of being a humane and loving pet owner. Thank God for people like you.

  15. October 3, 2012 19:27

    I didn’t want to read this. Or rather, I was afraid to read this. But I wonder if a vet would say that Goldie’s struggling against being held at the end was a natural instinct. I had a similar experience when I had a bet come over to put my cat down. She was 19 years old and decrepit, bit when the vet came near her, she became a screeching banshee until the drugs took effect. I’ve felt badly about that for years, but I don’t know what would have been better. I’m thinking to euthanized animals that were peaceful…a friends dog where we sat on the floor with the dog and the vet came and sat with us. So maybe when I have to do it in the future, I’ll forget the comfort of the vet and the examining table and get down on the floor.

  16. Mon permalink
    October 3, 2012 19:32

    Thank you for this post. And I am so sorry for your loss. It is tough. My Killian paced the room and threw up….it was unnerving. So they had to clean up before they came in again with the drugs. But, the people were wonderful and compassionate as I sat there bawling and snotting all over. Peace and blessings to you and your sweet girl Goldie.

  17. October 3, 2012 20:41

    I have had to do this for three cats, and with one it was hard like it was for Goldie. I have written about the other two because it was dignified, but with Cochese there were never words for it. He had diabetes and was extremely violent… I was ashamed afterward even though I know it wasn’t my fault.

    I’m glad you wrote this, and I can imagine it must have been hard to dredge it up this way. I think most people do get the gentle experience and don’t know that it might go this way. Certainly none of the three vets who handled my cats’ euthanasias ever said so.

    • Gretchen permalink
      October 4, 2012 07:59

      We had to have a very old cat put to sleep just a few months after Lily (see above comment). I asked the vet to sedate her a little first (she used a little gas of some kind) because I knew they would have trouble finding a vein and the cat would fight, and I couldn’t go through that again at that point.

      • October 11, 2012 07:00

        Next time…which I hope is a long, long way away, I will ask for sedation. That seems the kind thing to do.

  18. Al_Pal permalink
    October 3, 2012 21:04


  19. October 3, 2012 21:43

    The floor…that’s just what we did. We had to carry him in on a stretcher. He had gone from gimpy to not being able to stand up in about 48 hours. My husband and I sat on the floor of the vet’s office and said our good byes, then the vet came in and sat on the floor with us and made sure he was relaxed and comfortable.

    And gah! We are probably within a month of having to do it once more – third dog in 2 years. I’m not sure my heart can handle having any more dogs. Both have been peaceful so far, but if anyone is going to put up a fight it will be Taffy.

    • October 11, 2012 07:01

      Oh man. Sending you hugs and good thoughts.

  20. October 4, 2012 09:08

    Thank you for writing this – but OMG I am sitting at work crying – with my sweet 13? year old Shadow lying beside me. Even though I have only had him 7 months – I am not looking forward to the moment he will not be with me. It is terribly hard –but death is not easy at any time. Remember the good times and as Goldie is in heaven – all her pain is gone. She is so happy and waiting for you – her wonderful mother who saved her life when you adopted her and gave her such joy!

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