How will I know when it’s time? You will know

An email I recently received from a reader reminded me of one of the first columns I wrote for The Daily Sentinel.

The woman asked that I address in-home pet euthanasia after she sadly made the decision to relieve her little dog’s pain. Hannah, an almost 14-year-old Havanese, had suffered from diabetes, cataracts and Cushing disease for several years. Even though the reader’s words were filled with sorrow from her loss, she described the peacefulness of being at home when the time came.

Many animals, especially those with chronic ailments, experience extreme anxiety when you drive into the veterinarian’s parking lot. Even animal-loving staff have difficulties reassuring a sick or injured pet usually because they have to pick and prod to determine a diagnosis.

Cats typically detest being crammed into a pet carrier and taken in the car anywhere, but especially to the veterinarian’s office.

As in Hannah’s case, she spent an enormous amount of time at the clinic. Usually her visits required blood draws to determine glucose levels requiring needle pokes. She would shake uncontrollably during the appointments, unable to repress her anxiety.

As Hannah began to decline, her compassionate caretaker knew that she did not want her little friend’s last memory to be a stressful one.

After discussing the inevitable, the doctor offered to perform the euthanasia at home. The email described a serene experience with the little dog being cradled in her best friend’s arms as she drew her last breath. Hannah’s owner conveyed the episode as quiet and peaceful. 

It was actually this exact situation that launched my writing career and eventually this column several years ago.

At the time, I worked as a technician for a veterinarian who operated her business out of a mobile clinic. This veterinarian clinic on wheels is an ideal set-up, providing care for small animals without the stress associated with taking a pet to a standard veterinary hospital. 

That first November I worked there, we received an abundant amount of calls for in home euthanasia. It seemed with every call I took on the subject I was asked, “how will I know when it is time?”

Each time I responded to very similarly: “You will know.”

It is the look in your pet’s eye that often tells you when they can no longer fight their battle, and one of my first columns was titled “When It Is Time.”

I assisted the veterinarian during the procedures, as difficult as that was. Initially, I was a wreck usually crying my eyes out with the client. Eventually, I found an inner strength, and felt I was put in that position to help others in their time of need.

Euthanizing a beloved pet is one of the most difficult decisions people have to make, but mercifully we have the ability to prevent our best friend’s from suffering.

I just read a wonderful article on the Internet from Ultima National Resources LLC that described a veterinarian performing an in-home euthanasia on a beloved family dog. The whole family, including a 6-year-old son, gathered around the sick dog. The little boy sat quietly petting his friend until the dog slipped peacefully away.

The veterinarian and family sat together for a while after the dog passed discussing why animals’ lives are shorter than human lives.

The little boy had been sitting quietly but offered his opinion on the subject. He stated, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right? Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

I think the little guy is far more understanding of the ways of the world than many adults.

Charlé Thibodeau has been passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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