Mini Guide

Consiglio: if your pet is ailing and it’s possible euthanasia is in the future, take lots of pictures and video to record the decline

Consiglio del giorno che ti può essere utile:

I’m writing this in the parking lot at my veterinarian’s office as I wait to get my dog’s ashes.

My wife and I decided on euthanasia for our almost-15 year old fur kid following a five month battle with kidney failure. Our basic metric was, when Glenna couldn’t tolerate food anymore, we would make her last appointment.

This turned out be naive, as Glenna’s appetite declined in stages. We never hit the no-intake threshold before it became apparent that we had to make one of the hardest choices of our lives. (Just for the sake of the narrative: she went over 24 hours before eating ~60% of a meal; the week previous, she had been eating 3-4 full meals a day.) Worse: she was turning down favorite foods that weren’t allowed on the renal diet (we recognized the end was soon, and we wanted her to at least eat for pleasure if not survival); she had all but stopped drinking water (with kidney failure, this is an indicator that the body has given up on living).

She was not doing well, and it was clear a steeper decline was coming. So we made that dreaded last appointment.

I’m rambling a bit (home now, remains returned) and doing self-therapy at your expense. Let me get to the point.

In the initial 48 hours, the pain of my choice was immense. Five months of decline and preparation, and I still nearly had to call a suicide hotline because the emotional current was so overwhelming.

A big part of that was the weight of the choice: was I, were we, right to make that call for her? Did I make the call because the caregiver fatigue was too much and I was tired of having to be sad all of the time? Did I kill my dog because I was tired of her not being fun anymore?

No. Fuck no. My fur kid, my best buddy…she’d reached the end of a tolerable quality of life. I couldn’t let her starve, dehydrate, and fall apart.

Honestly, we should have made the call earlier, but Glenna had huge spirit, and we couldn’t see what hindsight shows.

I’m rambling again. Sorry.

What I’m trying to say is that, at a peak crisis moment, I had to go split-brain and counsel myself that it was the right choice. Eventually I started looking at photos and videos from the last few months, and I saw her decline in a way that my conglomerate, mental-model wasn’t representing to me.

I bumped up my picture/video captures in the final months on the advice of friends and family who had lost a pet. Problem: all my photos and videos were of cute moments that I thought would be comforting. Grass rolls, zoomies, sweet sleeping faces: good shit that I cherish.

What I wish I had, though, are videos of her in the increasingly-regular moments that showed her decline.

The choice to end her life before lazy ass Mother Nature could get around to it was merciful. I know that logically. However, the emotional part of my brain isn’t logical, and it needs frequent reminders that my pain isn’t due to the moment of her death, but the entirety of her loss.

The videos and photos I have of her last months paint a clear but incomplete picture. I wish I had more. Not highlight moments, but mundane stuff. Having video of her increasing refusal of food or the slowing pace of her walks would have helped with the emotional fallout of her death, and my decision to end her life.

My heart goes out to anyone who has, is, or will go through the loss of a beloved pet. This shit is hard.

TL;DR: take lots of video of your pets as they decline, especially if you are considering euthanasia. The brain might need evidence that it was the right call. Catch the good stuff, but some of the bad stuff too.