Pet owners have a special relationship with their pets. When we connect with a puppy or a kitten, a baby animal or an adult rescue, we don’t ever want to let them go. We share our lives with our pets, and they trust us to care for them — just as we trust them to make our lives more meaningful.
But part of the responsibility of being a pet owner is making the decisions that your pet just isn’t physically and mentally capable of making. That includes the toughest decision of the entire owner-pet relationship: when to say goodbye.
While some pets pass without any action from their owners, others may need help to get a peaceful end to their lives. If you’re struggling with knowing when it’s time to say goodbye to your pet, here’s what you should know.
Quality of life matters
The years that you have shared with your pet have been wonderful — for both you and your pet. But, as your pet ages, life might not be as good as it once was. In their old age, pets can feel real pain and may no longer be able to experience the things that they once loved: your dog may no longer be up for long walks or playing in the yard, and your cat may no longer be able to perch in his or her favorite spot. Your pet’s joys in life may diminish. To an extent, this is a natural part of aging; but, when things get really rough, your pet may be ready to say goodbye.
It’s important to think about your pet’s quality of life. Your pet spends every day doing certain things, and he or she does not have the option of reading a book or playing chess when running around and playing get too painful. Loving your pet means monitoring their happiness and quality of life, and when your pet’s favorite things are out of its reach.
Making a tough decision
Your pet has no way of telling you when it’s in pain or when it is ready to say goodbye. You have to judge these things based on your pet’s behavior. In some cases, the situation can be clear: a rapid deterioration in your pet’s quality of life is hard to miss. But, in other situations, your pet’s decline might be slow and spread out over months or even years. It can be hard to take a step back and see how far things have really gone. In such cases, it’s a good idea to consult with your vet and to take neutral questionnaires that help you grade your pet’s quality of life on an objective scale. You may realize that your pet is no longer experiencing the joys that he or she once did — and that the caring thing to do would be to say goodbye.
Only you can decide if it’s time to say goodbye to your pet. But working with pros and with neutral materials can help you gain important perspective and be more sure of the decision that you do make. While you would never want to rob your pet of quality years, you should be mindful of not waiting too long: a pet in pain is not right for anyone. When your pet is ready to say goodbye, you need to show it love by preparing yourself to say goodbye, too, and then helping your pet find its peace.
Remembering your pet
You can’t stay in the company of your pet forever, but you will always have the wonderful memories. When you’ve made the decision to say goodbye to your pet, turn your thoughts to memories and memorials. Choosing to cremate your pet is a tasteful choice that allows you to honor your pet in a variety of ways. You don’t have to use traditional cremation — sensible and respectful alternatives include hydrolysis, say the professionals at VIP Aquamation, which uses water rather than fire. You can then choose to bury your pet’s ashes, display them in an urn, or spread them in a spot that has meaning to you, your loved ones, and your pet. A favorite park or a backyard spot can make a peaceful resting place, and will give you a spot to go to when you want to think about and remember your pet. You may decide to add a plaque or a stone marker. You may even want to write an obituary. This is entirely up to you and how you want to remember your pet.
Saying goodbye to your pet is immensely difficult, but it is an act of love. You will always have the gift of memories of your pet, and you will be able to honor them with a tasteful and beautiful memorial spot or monument, knowing that they are at rest.