How I Knew When It Was Time to Say Goodbye to My Pet

There’s only one thing about loving a pet that always feels unbearable and never gets any easier…the decision and time for euthanasia. Even though I’ve been through it before, it had been 14 years since I put my Golden Retriever to rest. Sanchez’s final decline was very fast, and my emotions around the situation had me doubting my ability to make the right decision at the right time.

My beloved Labrador was six weeks shy of 14-years-old when he very suddenly got ill on a recent weekend. He had been in recovery from E. coli the last six months, and whenever anyone asked me how he was, I said “Great!”, because I thought he was. Sanchez was eating very well, he’d put back on the weight he lost, was eager to train with me nightly, and was rolling on his back asking for tummy rubs multiple times a day. But, he was also definitely slowing down significantly. He was sleeping a lot and his lifestyle completely changed. He no longer wanted to be outdoors often and had lost his interest in going with me on trips to the beach. He would often choose not to greet my piano students coming to the house, or greet me when I came home. He just became a home buddy, and he seemed content with his new lifestyle.

But, looking back, I now realize that he was telling me that he was preparing to leave his body. While test results showed that he didn’t have cancer, and his blood work showed that his body had completely recovered from E. coli, his spirit never fully did. It took its toll on him. When he got suddenly ill recently, he no longer had the desire to fight. He was clearly communicating to me that he was done.

While tormenting myself on whether I wanted to put him through more testing to get a full diagnosis, I read a quote from a blog that I had written: “I’d rather be a week early than a day late.” I remembered that line while taking him to the vet for a second day of fluids. But, he simply didn’t want to go in for treatment. He looked at me, and I suddenly remembered that look from my Golden 14-years-ago. He said, “Thank you, but I’ve done my work here. It’s time to let go.” So, instead of going into the clinic for treatment, I spent some time with him outside and entered the back door into their beautiful compassion room.

Euthanasia itself is really a beautiful procedure. I had his special music playing. While I was an emotional basket case leading up to the vet coming in, once I was confident in my decision, the experience was quite peaceful. The grief since then has been intense. But, I’m comforted in knowing that I gave him a great life and, in the end, gave him the biggest gift of love possible, loving him enough to do what was best for him, not what was best for me.

X-Rays showed that he possibly had an obstruction that would have required surgery. I knew that putting him through surgery was not what he would have wanted. And, I couldn’t ignore the look he gave me when he communicated that he was ready. I’m very grateful I didn’t keep him alive long enough to get a full diagnosis. Because, ultimately, I did what was best for him.

When the heaviness of the grief lifts, I know that he is still with me in spirit, even when I can’t see his body. I’ve guided others through this painful process by telling them, “you’ll just know when it’s the right time.” And, it was the right time, because it wasn’t a day late.

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Jim V
Jim Ven1 years ago


Jerome S
Jerome S1 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Telica R
Telica R1 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Richard A
Richard A1 years ago

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Ty W
Ty W1 years ago

I dealt with this situation as well. When I was in high school, Otis, a Doberman Pinscher, got pancreatic cancer, and only had a 30% survival rate even if the surgery he needed was successful. He was no longer eating, constantly in pain, and was not his usual self. He left his body at 8 years old, and I will never forget him. He was a beautiful being, and was a 110 lb ball of love. I also recently lost my other childhood friend, Max, a Yorkshire Terrier. In his late years, he was blind, and had lost a good amount of teeth and hearing, but still enjoyed laying by the fire and sleeping next to my parents. One morning, he lost the ability to stand on his own anymore, and we too, had to say goodbye to Max like we did with Otis. Thinking about them both again now I become a little teary eyed. I hope their spirits are at peace now, and these two dogs have shown me what it means to be truly selfless and loving of everyone.

Alan M
Alan M1 years ago

Sorry I can not read the article.
I still find it very hard getting over the death of my late faithful German Shepherd, Ben, I still think of him every day and still make the mistake of calling my now rescue dog Cain his name without realising.
My Ben Was put to sleep 29/08/2011 - how long can one grieve.

Carl R
Carl R1 years ago


natasha s
Past Member 1 years ago

When that comes it's so devastating. I've lost several over the yrs+it def doesn't get easier. My babies are buried in the rose garden so they're never alone. I still talk to each one everyday. Also believe my other kitties know they're there too.

Cat c
Cat c1 years ago

sad but thank you

Erika C
Erika C1 years ago

very touching