I recently had a client ask me how they would know when it’s time to help their dog Buddy cross the Rainbow Bridge. As you know, I’m always preaching the PAW Method. The biggest part of that is Piloting. You are Buddy’s pilot to the very end. You will be strong and help Buddy when the time comes. He is relying on you to make a decision, but remember, he doesn’t need a perfect decision. He doesn’t expect you to be infallible.
My boy Darwin circa 2005
So the answer is, there is no correct time. You are trying to balance your need for Buddy with Buddy’s quality of life. There is no precise moment when the scales tip, and suddenly Buddy’s life is too painful to justify not leading him to the Rainbow Bridge.Points to consider:-You may find that everyone feels free to tell you what to do, but the responsibility for this choice is yours. This can be more difficult when a couple disagrees, but it can still weigh heavily on a single person.
-Your veterinarian is trained to save lives. That’s what they do, and that’s why you go to them. But all they can do is delay, not prevent. No veterinarian should make you feel guilty for choosing not to pursue treatment, even if you can afford it.
-If your veterinarian is advising euthanasia and you’re reluctant, closely examine your own motives and see if they’re for your benefit or the dog’s.
-People often say, “You’ll know when it’s time.” In many cases that’s true, but not always. I say this from personal experience.
-Choosing euthanasia is not “playing God” any more than providing medical treatment to save a life is.
-Euthanasia ensures that you’ll be able to be with your dog at the moment he passes so he’s not alone. However, you don’t have to be there with him. If you feel you cannot remain calm, it’s sometimes best for your dog that you not be there. It’s okay to say your goodbyes at home and have a someone who isn’t as emotionally distraught take Buddy for the final vet visit. Remember, he’s going to mirror your emotions, and if you are having a hard time controlling your emotions in a scary place like the vet’s office, he’s going to feel that. Don’t let anyone judge if you should or should not be present: that’s up to you.
-Most people believe it’s better to euthanize your dog a day too early rather than a day too late.I went through all of this with Darwin many years ago. I wish I could say something to make it all better, but the truth is, I can’t. If you are already at this stage where you are asking me when you know it’s time to put down a dog, it’s most likely that you are already there. You are only now trying to cope with the acceptance aspect. Don’t deny Buddy his right to a dignified ending. He’ll still be there for you until the day you are reunited at that Rainbow Bridge.
So take a picture with him right now (you’ll want it later). Compare it with the pictures of him from a year ago, and you’ll see the difference. He may need your help. Give it to him that help. You know he would love you enough to do the same for you. That’s what dogs do…put their humans before their own needs. Now be a dog, and put his needs before yours. At that point, he will give you his final gift: his gratitude for being the best Pilot you could have been for him, and loving him when he was with you, and keeping him in your heart when he find that Rainbow Bridge.
This is the last picture I have of Darwin (2009). We said goodbye a few days later. I still miss my boy to this day, and I am grateful that our bond was so strong that I still miss him, but I know I merely need to look into my heart to find him. And there he is, clear as day, with that silly grin on his face, the hopeful "do you have a treat" look in his eyes, and the smell of yesterday's romp in the lake still clinging to his fur. Yes, you're still a good dog, Darwin. Mom misses you and we will see each other again in time. Until then, you're safe in my heart.
If tomorrow starts without me, and I’m not there to see, If the sun should rise and find your eyes all filled with tears for me; I wish so much you wouldn’t cry the way you did today, while thinking of the many things we didn’t get to say.
I know how much you care for me, and how much I care for you, and each time that you think of me I know you’ll miss me too;
But when tomorrow starts without me, please try to understand, that an angel came and called my name and took me by the hand, and said my place was ready in heaven far above, and that I’d have to leave behind all those I dearly love.
But as I turned to walk away, a tear fell from my eye, for all life,
I’d always thought I didn’t want to die. I had so much to live for and so much yet to do. it seemed almost impossible that I was leaving you. I thought of all the love we shared and all the fun we had. If I could relive yesterday, I thought, just for a while, I’d say goodbye and hug you and maybe see you smile.
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio