When Is Your Dog Too Old?

Okay, so I know that pets aren’t people, but as I watch old age making life hard on Shadow, it brings up a very unpleasant subject. I mean she has a little trouble walking, and it’s harder for her to get on and off the sofa and bed than it was even a  year ago. And she’s definitely hard of hearing now.

This was a little over five years ago, shortly before she became a member of the family. Even then she wasn’t especially young, as evidenced by her white beard.

But…putting her ‘to sleep?’ I can’t help it, it makes me wonder if that’s ever the right thing to do. We don’t euthanize the elderly humans in our nation (nor should we ever consider it!).

So what make it okay to do it to our four-legged family members?

Is it really to spare them? Or is it because caring for aged pets makes life too difficult for us? Is it too stressful? Too messy? Too hard?

Why is it okay for us to decide that they’ve lived long enough and….’it’s time?’

Just the thought of driving her to the vet’s office, knowing she trusts us to do what’s best for her…with the intentions of ending her life…is enough to make me cry.

I’ve never had to make a decision like this before, and it’s so much harder than I ever dreamed it would be. I’m not ready to say goodbye. I’m not sure I ever will be.  How am I supposed to know when the time is right? Can anyone tell me that? And how do you make yourself get in the car for that last trip, knowing you’re not going to be bringing her home again?

How do I prepare for that moment when I say, all right, give her the shot? Just asking for some advice is making me fall apart…and they’re only questions. What am I going to do when it’s real?

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10 Responses to When Is Your Dog Too Old?

  1. Tough subject, Kristy. When I met my wife (just about 3 years ago), she had a one year old pup, Layla. Well, Layla “had me at hello.” I love that little dog so much. Neither of us can imagine our lives w/o her. Layla just turned four, so we’re looking forward to many, many years before we have to cross that bridge. We’ll reach that point one day. And when we do, I guarantee there will be a lot of tears. You don’t seem to be there yet, so keep loving Shadow and be thankful for every day you have her.

    • Hi, Steve…
      I’m not sure where the month has gone, but thanks for sharing about Layla. I wish Shadow had been that young when we got her, but the people who worked at the pound figured she was probably 7-8 years old (I think that’s what they said anyway) at the time, which makes her about 12-13 now. I wish we’d been able to have her as a puppy, In all this time she’s only ever barked once, so I’m guessing there was some abuse by one of her former owners. I would have loved to spare her that.

      Anyway, no, I’m not ready, but I’m not sure I ever will be. But she seems to be getting closer every day. I’m going to try some new nutritional supplements and see if those help.

      • If Shadow was abused by her previous owner, I’m sure you made up for it with lots of love. We had to take Layla to the animal ER a couple of months ago and that was scary. I blogged about it (4-Legged Family Members). It really is amazing how they do become 4-legged family members 🙂

  2. Debbie G. says:

    My heart breaks for you, I know firsthand how difficult it is to make that type of decision and how to know when the time is right. I recently had to make that decision for my little dog Zoey. She had been very sick for months and was then diagnosed with cancer. At first she wasn’t in any pain but as the months went by(7 of them) she started to be in pain, medication was able to control it for a short time. Eventually though her pain became so severe that her quality of life just wasn’t there anymore. I then had to make the difficult decision to have her put to sleep. She had been such a wonderful companion who loved me unconditionally and brought me so much joy that in all fairness to her I just couldn’t let her suffer anymore. My whole family went to the vets with me that last day and she was surrounded by all who loved her as she crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. I know that my 17yr old daughter who had passed away in 2007 was waiting for Zoey as she crossed the Rainbow Bridge.I cried for days though afterwards and my heart still has an empty spot that will never be filled. Zoey was such a special little dog who touched many lives and she was happiest when children would come over to play with her and she absolutely loved to ride on my lap as I moved about in my electric wheelchair! It’s now been almost 4 months since I lost her. I still miss her everyday! A very dear friend came over and took some pictures of me and Zoey several days before I lost her. I now cherish those pictures even though at the time my heart wasn’t really in it, my friend knew that a little later I would want those last pictures and I would regret it if I didn’t have them…she was right!
    I’m so sorry that you are going through this, there just isn’t the words to express how sorry I am. I will keep you, your family and Shadow in my prayers. When the time comes for Shadow to cross over the Rainbow Bridge I know Zoey and my daughter will be waiting for her.
    I’m so, so sorry.

    • Hi, Debbie…
      I’m so sorry to hear about Zoey. I know how hard it must have been, because that day is getting closer all the time for Shadow, and I find myself in tears every time I think about it. It’s coming at a really bad time of the year for me. A difficult anniversary is coming up in December, so that’s bad enough. I really don’t want to add another sad day to the list. What I’d really like is for her to bounce back for another year or two. But I won’t be read then either.

  3. Emma says:

    I’ve never been in that situation but I can imagine how hard it must be. If she is suffering, then perhaps it’s kinder to put her down. My heart goes out to you too.

  4. hmcmullin says:

    Having been there, done that I can only say it’s one of the hardest decisions you never want to make. There’s no easy answer, either. You have to decide when their quality of life has deteriorated to the point you would be selfish not to let them go. And they will help you. Our 12 year old bull terrier was suffering kidney failure and we knew the time was close when we’d have to make that decision. She was sitting in her bed in the kitchen one evening, looked at me and was clearly saying “Please. It’s time for me to go.” Many vets will now come to your home so you don’t have to take that last awful trip. My heart goes out to you. Yours will break. Mourn for her when she’s gone and then fill that hole in your heart with the memories of your life together.

    • Thanks, HC. You’re right…I never want to make this decision. I never grew up with pets because my parents didn’t really like them. They weren’t mean to them, they just didn’t want them in the house. So I was surprised at just how much I’ve come to love the ones my kids talked me into getting. This is so much harder than I thought it would be. 🙁

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