How do you know when it may be time?
To start with, this takes a soul-searching look at your pet’s life, considering what things you think your pet took the most joy in. Running in the yard? Playing ball? Cuddling on the couch? Following you around?
Does he or she do these things anymore? Ever? 50% of the time?
Does she wag her tail anymore? Is he eating?
Does she have any bright spots in the day, where you see a glimmer of her former self, even if it’s just for a few minutes?
Usually, when pets have slowed down but are still having some activities that seem happy, playful, or content, we’re in a good place. When we have uncontrolled symptoms of disease like vomiting, diarrhea, not eating, or other signs, the decision can be easier. The hardest time is often when every step looks uncomfortable – when they sleep later, only get up to eat, each trudging step to the food or water is like walking on stilts, and he collapses back onto the bed as though the effort involved just in laying down is painful. They look up at you and just sigh – it’s too much effort to come and greet you. When their brain is there but their body isn’t, it can be hard to know what to do.
You know your pet. Most owners reach a moment, where they look into their pet’s eyes, as I did with my basset hound, and just know. Today’s the day. My Murphy made that choice for me, almost as though he wanted, in a last gift, to spare me that decision. But they can’t all do that, and the last gift we can give to our pets, who gave us a lifetime of love, kindness, and loyalty, is to end the suffering. There’s no right time for every pet or owner. There’s no judgment about how early or late that decision was made. You know your pet.