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Putting My Dog To Sleep

April 25, 2010

If you cry easily, you may want to skip this post.

One of my first pictures of Cecilia

I decided to blog about my experience putting Cecilia to sleep because there isn’t a ton of information on the net (I know, I looked).  It is a tough decision and a hard process.  I wanted to share my experience in the hopes that it might help someone else facing a similar situation.

Cecilia Summer 2006

I think the hardest part about the entire process is knowing when to say goodbye to your pet.  In some situations this is simple – your dog has a catastrophic event that makes this a no-brainer.  Debby experienced this with her “perfect poodle” Oliver.   The rest of us watch our dogs gradually decline and have to make that agonizing decision on our own.   Pendy summed it up well in her comment: 

That’s one of the most heartwrenching decisions I ever had to make, and the days leading up to it were, frankly, way worse than the days after.

I did not have a singular moment where it became crystal clear that it was Cecilia’s time.  She had a seizure about a year ago, and I spent the last year closely observing her for signs of pain.  You have to watch closely for this as dogs instinctively hide pain (in the wild it is a sign of weakness). 

No weakness here, Feeder. October 2006

Cecilia developed a limp as a result of the tumor.  It hindered her ability to fully extend her leg.  This did not appear to cause her a lot of pain initially.  However, towards the end I noticed her placing more weight on the stronger front leg.  Her weakened front leg began to shake when she stopped to pee.

I worked with my vet to keep Cecilia as comfortable as possible this past year.  We put her on painkillers in December and upped the dosage when she exhibited signs of discomfort.  For Cecilia signs of discomfort included reluctance to go up and down stairs as well as increased restlessness (she couldn’t get comfortable lying down).  When I called the vet to up her dosage the last time and he told me she was maxed out, I should have realized then that it was time.  But it still took me a few days to wrap my brain around it.

On an adventure - September 2007

The hardest thing for me to comprehend was that it was OK to let Cecilia go even though she was still having good days.  In fact, it may have been kinder to let her go early rather than prolonging her suffering.  When you think about the alternative, this makes sense.  After all, how awful would I have felt if I had come home from work to find her yelping in pain, not knowing how long she had been that way?

Spring 2008 in West Virginia

I'd find her this way after work - 2008

My vet – Light Street Animal Hospital – was incredibly compassionate when I called.  Cecilia had been under Dr. Trujillo’s care, so he already knew her health issues and did not question my decision.  He walked me through some options (cremation, etc) and suggested that we do the procedure in the late afternoon. 

Faithfully fulfilling her band dog responsibilities - March 2009

On Thursday my neighbor C (Bella’s mom) volunteered to come with me.   Having a friend there was so incredibly helpful.  I highly highly recommend it.

Thursday I came home from work early.  The weather was beautiful, so Cecilia and I did one last walk together.

Ready to go Feeder.

I gave her a last meal of chicken.  We arrived at the vet’s office to find the waiting area completely empty.  I have to believe that they did deliberately.  The room had been prepared with a soft quilt on the examination table.

If you are unfamiliar with euthanasia, it is a two step process.  First the vet gives the dog a shot for sedation.  Then hair is shaved from the foreleg and a second shot is administered to stop the heart.  We distracted Cecilia with Grandma Corbi dough.  The vet warned us that Cecilia may throw up and that this is normal.  (It was about that time that I started second-guessing the chicken dinner and Corbi dough, but fortunately Cecilia did not have any trouble that way.)

I was surprised by her reaction to the sedative.  Here’s a quick tangent:

Almost 20 years ago I had my wisdom teeth out which required full sedation.  I remember getting the shot and counting backwards from 100.  Just before I passed out I startled, began crying uncontrollably and reached for the nurse.  The last thing I remember is the nurse stroking my arm and telling me everything would be OK. 

After Cecilia received her sedative shot she stood up on the table.  She was very restless.  Then she put her little paw on my shoulder and jumped into my arms.  I wonder if she was having a reaction similar to mine so many years ago.  I got to hold her and comfort her as she fell asleep.  It was really hard, but also a great privilege.  She gave me so much in our time together.  I’m glad I could be there for her at the very end. 

Federal Hill Park - April 2010

The vet shaved her and administered the final shot.  Very quickly she was gone.   Neighbor C helped to gather all our things and we walked home together.  Walking into an empty house was hard.

I believe that I’ll see Cecilia in heaven.  I have a niece who is already there who would have turned seven last  Wednesday.  It is a great comfort to me to think of Cecilia and Anneliese exploring and playing together.  Think of all they’ll have to show me when I arrive.

I hope that you all will never have to face a decision like this.   But if you do, I hope that you’ll consider staying with your pet through the end even though it is difficult.  I will never regret that choice.  Cecilia deserved it.

My last picture of Cecilia - April 22, 2010

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2010 9:48 am

    Oh, Juice. I had to make the same decision with my cat, the wonderful Mr. Horkheimer, and I know how hard it is. But don’t you kind of wish we had the option for ourselves? I know I do. I wish if I got really ill and I was really suffering, someone could opt to just give me a nice shot and then hold me while I went to the great beyond, like you did for that sweet dog.

    I just hope no one emails you that Rainbow Bridge poem. Every time you see that one, you will need 850 Kleenexes.

    You did the right thing. I know you know that. I am just telling you so you know it again. Cecilia was precious.

  2. April 25, 2010 11:50 am

    I’m going to comment before I even read it ’cause I know I will get weepy! I thought about you Thursday and what you were going through. 😦

  3. debby permalink
    April 25, 2010 6:12 pm

    Beautifully written, Juice. And you are right. Very little is said or written about this.

    A long time before I had Oliver, I had a standard poodle named Charlie, and he got bone cancer. And the vet said, you will know when its time. That was the torturous part for me. Is now the time?

    But you were right in saying that dogs experience pain differently than us. I think that is especially because they don’t feel sorry for themselves like we do. I think you chose just right. But its still hard.

    And you were right. I cried all the way through this this morning, and now I am crying again. But that’s okay. Sometimes its worthy to cry. If only dogs weren’t so very loving and kind.

    P.S. I was fascinated by the evolution of Cecelia’s ears through the years. Much love to you.

    • Juice permalink*
      April 25, 2010 6:57 pm

      Debby, I wondered about her ears too! Was it increased confidence and love, or a physical reaction to the cancer, or something else completely? It’s one of many questions I’ll have for Cecilia in heaven. Going through pictures also reminded me of how quickly that tumor grew. 😦

  4. April 25, 2010 6:22 pm

    I am so, so sorry that you had to say good-bye to Cecilia. I’ve never had to make that call myself, but observed my parents do it twice, to great pain and heartache. As hard as it was, I do know that you did a great kindness for your beloved pup.

    Sending you lots of love!

  5. April 25, 2010 7:37 pm

    I have made that call more than once and I thought about you from Wednesday onward. Staying there with them is the best thing to do. I’m so sorry.

  6. Erin on the West Coast permalink
    April 25, 2010 9:52 pm

    Oh Juice, I’m so sorry.

  7. April 25, 2010 11:06 pm

    Jeez, I hope I can see through the tears long enough to get this out. Ripped my heart apart. I’m crying so hard and trying to be quiet because everyone in the house is asleep (thank goodness).

    I am so so sorry you had to go through this, but you did a wonderful thing by posting your story. I’m certain it will help countless pet owners.

    I just don’t know what else to say – I hope Cecilia will find Daisy (my dog in high school) and Luke (the dog my husband had when we first got married – best Lab in the whole world) so they can all frolic and play together!! I love the thought of your niece playing with Cecilia in heaven – very beautiful.

    I wish I could give you a great big hug right now, Juice. (((((((((((((((((hugs))))))))))))))))))

  8. MizFit permalink
    April 26, 2010 6:20 am

    Im so so so sorry.
    We had to put 2 dogs down in close proximity to each other (uh datewise not physically) and I havent yet gotten a new pet.

    its so hard.

  9. April 26, 2010 7:42 am

    I rescued and abused bulldog when he was three. He was such a good dog. I had to make that phone call, too, when he was about 10 (that’s old for a bully!) Your friend who said the days leading up to it were the worst was right. But it was the right thing and I stood by him, because I promised him when I got him, that he would never have to be alone and afraid. You did Cecilia a great favor by being there for her.

    I’m sending hugs, too.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I know it can’t have been easy.

  10. April 26, 2010 9:12 am

    Oh! I am so very sorry, Juice! This is one of the most difficult things a pet lover must face. I still mourn my dear old Terrible Tootsie LeRoux. We had to help her transition at the age of twenty-one seven years ago. She had been with me half of my life.

    Hug and peace.

  11. April 26, 2010 10:37 am

    I am so sorry to read this, though it was beautifully written and such a wonderful tribute to a loving dog.

  12. April 26, 2010 12:23 pm

    This story really touched my heart and made me cry. I know how much Cecilia is a part of your life and this was a hard decision for you. We have too dogs who are 11 and 10 and getting older by the day. It is so hard for me thinking about the time to come.

  13. Brooklyn_Friend permalink
    April 26, 2010 1:37 pm

    Hi Juice – my internet was down all weekend so I had to wait until I Monday (work) before I could get online.

    Pets are incredibly special, aren’t they?

    They are the one “being” you can be completely open and allow yourself to be 100% vulnerable with. You can give them all the love you want without fear of rejection or disapproval or consequences…..and then have all that LOVE reflected back at you. No one else – friends, parents, siblings, lovers, significant others, has that power…no matter how perfect they are. Sometimes they’re bound to disappoint you and you them.

    But a pet? Never. They look at you with complete trust and love in their eyes. They squint their eyes and purr or smile (literally) and wag their tails. You may have a ton of things going on in your life but to them? You are the epicenter of their lives. And to be honest, I miss being loved like that.

    The one thing I’ve come to realize is that everyone handles things differently and has different time frames for letting their heart heal (in all matters – not just a loss of a beloved pet). My friend M had to put her dog down, bawled, and went and adopted another dog one week later. Me? I’m still crying over Mr. Riki and it has been a year. Does it mean that M loved her dog any less? Of course not. But that’s how she dealt with her loss.

    I’ll try to send you an email today (from work) because I owe you one.

  14. April 26, 2010 4:11 pm

    oh, i didn’t want to cry… i was goign to be strong while i read your post.

    i’m so sorry to hear that you have to make that tough decision… i’ll miss your posts on cecilia greatly.

    *hugs*

  15. April 27, 2010 11:49 am

    I’m SO sorry to hear. I loved that dog and I don’t even know either of you. I’m typing in tears because I can’t even imagine what that’s like. I’m afraid I couldn’t really read it, I just had to skim. I’m working on a dog rescue website right now and I can’t even search for images without getting upset. I know that your sweet girl is happy at the giant dog park in the sky, free from pain and ageless forever. Take care my friend!

  16. April 27, 2010 8:38 pm

    Hope you’re doing okay. This was so sad to read, but thank you for sharing it. Our pets are elderly, and you’re right, it’s hard to judge when the time is right when there are good and bad days. I’m certain that Cecilia felt comforted by your being there, and that you will be reunited someday.

  17. sparkles permalink
    May 4, 2010 10:23 am

    J. – it has taken me awhile to be able to read this story. you know i loved cecilia before we even knew she existed (enter one very special pre-cecilia christmas ornament). you’re a brave, wonderful girl – as was she. i’m devastated by your loss but inspired by your ability to rise to the occasion and to take away the important lessons from the experience and share them. xo, S.

  18. May 6, 2010 1:48 pm

    Thank you for sharing this story. I must admit it had me reaching for the tissues. It was beautifully told, and a testament to your love and commitment– I hope that when the day comes for my sweet pup to pass, I can also hold her in my arms.

  19. February 18, 2011 5:54 pm

    It’s hard losing a dog, or any pet for that matter. It really hurts to lose them, especially when you have to make the decision to put them down. 😦 I’m so sorry for your loss.

  20. Allison permalink
    November 14, 2013 11:09 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story about Cecilia. When my 14 year old mix, Sarah, was declining two months ago I searched out other stories online for experiences about when to put a pet to sleep, and found your blog. Your comment that it was ok to let go even if your pet was having some good days really comforted me. I think your story really helped me choose the right time to say goodbye. Sarah was my walking buddy, my companion and support while my husband was deployed, she snored, she loved wearing sweaters, she ate anything in sight, and she loved to snuggle under the covers. Cecilia and Sarah were good dogs :-). Thank you!

Trackbacks

  1. Good Monday Morning to Blogland « debby weighs in
  2. Putting My Dog To Sleep « all things juice :: doglore.net

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