Saying Goodbye to Your Pet
Once you decide to euthanize your beloved pet, take the time to say goodbye to the one who brought
you joy. These suggestions help you prepare for your final act of caring.
What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose,
for all that we love deeply becomes part of us.
Preparing for Goodbye
After you make the decision to euthanize your pet and choose euthanasia in the home or at the veterinary hospital, there are some steps you can take to ease the anguish for you and your beloved companion.
1. Take the time to say goodbye. Assure your pet through words and actions how much you love him or her. No one really knows how much a dog or cat understands (my guess is more than we suspect) but by speaking to them gently and explaining very simply what lies ahead—a needle stick, followed by drowsiness, then relief from pain and rest for a weary body—they can certainly intuit the love and caring behind the words.
2. Set aside time to be with your pet outside of medications, treatments and veterinary appointments. It is common to be overwhelmed with sadness or other complex emotions and let precious moments with your pet slip by. Gaze into your pet's eyes, stroke his fur, make a paw print, clip a bit of fur for a keepsake later, or offer favorite treats if your pet can still enjoy them. Take pictures or videos unless you do not want to record the way your pet looks now. Create loving moments while your pet is still alive that will comfort you afterward.
3. You can let your companion animal know that he or she is going to a place with no struggle or suffering. Say how much you love him; how much you will miss him and that he will always be with you in your heart. As you hug and hold him, you can thank him for being such a wonderful and loyal friend. And if it is comfortable for you, tell your beloved friend that you will meet again someday.
4. What you say, and how you say it, expresses your love for your pet rather than your need for a pet. This gives your companion permission to leave instead of trying to hang on for your sake. Read Solo's Legacy for my experience of learning to let go.
I believe that animals understand more of these matters than most of us imagine. And even if they do not, I will give them the benefit of the doubt. Of this I am sure: Our pets will know from our tone of voice that we love them, that we will be with them to the end, and that there is ultimately nothing to fear.
5. If you can, be with your pet when he is euthanized. This is too painful for some and it is important to accept what you can and cannot do. Before you decide whether or not to be present at the time of death, please ask yourself this: As hard as it will be to observe your pet’s death, will it be even more difficult to live with the unanswered questions of not knowing what the end was like? Were the last moments peaceful? Did the end come quickly?
A number of veterinary hospitals did not allow pet parents to be present for euthanasia because of COVID-19 restrictions. Some made exceptions for euthanasia procedures and allowed at least one or two family members into the building.
Most veterinary clinics now have reduced restrictions and clients can be inside with their pets. Still others have hybrid practices, a mix of policies before the pandemic, and COVID-19 protocols. Please call ahead and ask what to expect. If you are unable to be with your pet during euthanasia, take as much time as you need at home to honor your pet and share a loving goodbye.
I have always taken comfort in knowing that the last voice my beloved friends heard was my own. There is no right and wrong here. Only you can decide whether or not to witness your pet’s death.
The Final Act of Caring
The decision to euthanize provides a painless release from agony and can ensure us that the last moments we share with our pets are tranquil, not tormented. The word euthanasia comes from the Greek words eu thanatos meaning 'good death.' Euthanasia is a compassionate response to prevent or stop the suffering of one who filled our days with joy. It is, in the end, our final act of caring.
Home Pet Euthanasia: Preparing for Your Pet’s Euthanasia
Pet Loss at Home: Should Children Be Present?
The Pros and Cons of Euthanasia at Home
What to Expect When a Pet Is Euthanized at a Hospital
Should Pet Housemates Be Present for At Home Euthanasia?
Human-Animal Bond Trust: What Happens During Euthanasia?
When There Is No Time to Say Goodbye
The Ralph Site: Coping with sudden and unexpected pet loss
Good article but best viewed on a desktop due to small print.
Grief and Sympathy: Accidental Pet Death
How to Cope with an Unexpected Pet Loss
COVID-19 and Euthanasia
Compassionate advice for anyone facing this difficult time
Compassion Understood: After Life Body Care
Petfinder.com: Final Care of Your Pet's Body
Cremation Solutions: Cremation Urns for Pet Ashes
Let Your Love Grow | A Living Memorial