“How old is he?” “Wow. They don’t live much longer than that, do they?” “Have you thought about putting him down?”
When your dog is old and sick, the end is pretty much all you can think about. Your heart is breaking and you’re preparing yourself to come to that decision in a way that spares your dog unnecessary suffering while giving yourself time to feel as peaceful as possible about letting him go.
The last years and months we share with our geriatric dogs are among the most bittersweet times in dog lovers’ lives. We know, from the moment we choose these guys as puppies or meet their limpid stares at the animal shelter, that our hearts will be torn apart someday. What makes it so much worse is that the older they get, the sweeter they get, and when they reach absolute critical sweetness—you simply cannot love them any more than you already do.
The bond that we form with animals is unique. The loss of an animal can have an impact on you that are as great as or even greater than the loss of a family member or friend. The bond is what makes our interactions with animals rich and rewarding, but also what makes the grief process so complicated.
Sometimes well-meaning family and friends may not realize how important your animal is to you or the intensity of your grief while their life is coming to an end. Comments they make may seem cruel and uncaring. Be honest with yourself and others about how you feel. If you or your family member have great difficulty accepting your animals end of life and cannot resolve feelings of grief and sorrow, you may want to discuss these feelings with a person who is trained to understand the grieving process. Your veterinarian certainly understands the relationship you have with your pet and may be able to suggest support groups.