When Is The Right Time To Say Goodbye?

Sickness, injury, or old age. These are often the final battles we fight for our beloved pets. Being confronted with the decision to let them pass-on is one of the most painful experiences a pet owner may go through. This is Mandy’s story.

Mandy’s mum Bec says, “We adopted Mandy when she was already 10 years old. We knew what we were signing up for, an elderly dog with strange lumps, an unknown history, and terrible teeth! But we loved her endlessly, and the moment we met her we knew she was ours. She repaid us with trust, so many happy memories and a love we didn’t know we had in us. We are forever grateful we met; although we only had 4 years together, in this time she left an indelible mark on our hearts.”

I knew in my heart that soon she would need us to help her pass without fear, without pain, and with dignity.”

This is Bec’s journey with Mandy and her tips to help you when it’s time to say goodbye to your beloved pet.

Good days journal

One of the most common age-related diseases for dogs and cats is arthritis. We managed to slow its cruel advance, but eventually it caught up with our girl.

We started keeping a “good days journal”. This helped us face the reality of what she was going through. We all celebrated the good days, when she would insist on a chariot ride outside, play with the neighbor’s dog, or scoff her dinner with gusto. We also supported her on her bad days, when her legs were wobbly, her body was tired, and she needed more medicine, comfort and sleep. When there were more bad days than good, and there are no more options left to take, we started to think about what was right for Mandy. She deserved all the good days.

Quality of life list

We noticed Mandy’s interest in doing the things she used to love was waning over time. Once her good days journal wasn’t looking great, we started to focus on her “Quality of life list”.

We listed all the things she still loved to do. Going for a ride in the car. Cuddles in bed. Going for a ride in her pram royal chariot. Eating warm roast chicken. There was a long list! Eventually, we got down to just 3 or maybe 4 items on that list that she could still enjoy. It was heartbreaking to see her quality of life declining so much. One thing that never changed on the list was, “she loves us”.

This list was probably one of the most helpful things we did to really understand where she was at. We loved her so very much, we wanted to keep her going for as long as we could.

Preparing for goodbye

With a deep sadness, we understood that our girl may not make it much longer. We cancelled weekends away, spent more time at home with her, and made our heart-rending plans to help her pass when the time came.

We made a bucket list of “Mandy’s favorite things to do” in her final weeks. I was planning on taking her to see the ocean again, to give her roast chicken dinner every night, to take her for walks in the chariot to her favorite café, and take leave from work so we could spend days laying in bed together. When some families make the decision to say goodbye, they may have a final week together to do all these beautiful things, and this becomes a special memory to help you through the grief. Mandy developed pneumonia and was very sick in her final days. We tried to get through as much of her list as we could, knowing she was in a fragile state, and I felt better knowing I had a plan. All the while we were hopeful of her recovery and more precious time together.

We consulted with our vet about options for helping Mandy pass should we need to make the call sooner than we hoped. We wanted her trusted vet to come to our home so she was in a comfortable environment, surrounded by loved ones. You will find many vets can come to your home to help your pet pass in their bed, or in the backyard in a favorite spot, so their death is not fearful or stressful.

A final act of kindness

Mandy had a seizure. We rushed her to the emergency vet. We were advised that due to her pneumonia, advanced arthritis and now these seizures, it was probably time to say goodbye. Her body just didn’t have the strength to keep going. It was with anguish we decided to euthanise her that day, rather than risk more painful seizures and stressful tests. The emergency vet couldn’t come to our house, so we took her bed down to the garden near the vet clinic, let her sniff the air, feel the sunshine on her face, and lay on her bed next to us. It was there we held her, told her how much we loved her, and she snored gently in my arms as she passed from this world.

Through the despair of losing her, we still had to make arrangements for her little body. The kindness and compassion of the RSPCA got us through. The Pets at Rest team received Mandy that evening, and we were able to take her there ourselves. This was a choice we made, but it is not for everyone. We know she was treated with respect and dignity. Her ashes were returned to us in a beautiful urn we keep close to us at home. Knowing the anguish of goodbye, I am still grateful for every moment we had with her.

Mandy, thank you for your love, your trust and your ongoing presence in our lives. You were the goodest girl, our sweetest panda bear, and your memory is a mighty one that lives on with your family, who love you as vastly as the sky itself.

Helping them pass on without fear, without pain, and with dignity is the final act of kindness we can do for our pets. We hope our story has helped you with your journey in some way.

If you need help to prepare to say goodbye to your pet, talk to our supportive RSPCA Pets at Rest team during your time of need.

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