Remembering Niko

Remembering the journey

When you say goodbye

with 2 comments

Euthanasia is when you take away their pain, and make it your own

How to Decide if it’s Time

It’s so hard to know when the time is right, when you are in the moment. I’ve said it before and will say it again, hindsight is the clearest picture you’ll have. Though I still believe your heart knows when the time has come, and it’s a matter of convincing your mind. Some things to think about to help make the call….

  • Do they still enjoy their usual activities?
  • Do they seem to be in pain? See handout How do you know if your pet is in pain
  • What do I think he/she would want at this point? What would I want if I were in her/his position?
  • Do I have the financial and physical resources it may take to adequately care for him/her as his/her condition declines?
  • Will the quality of life through the treatment and beyond be good enough for the time it afforded?
  • Am I extending their life or prolonging their death?
  • Do I have any questions/concerns about euthanasia that may be preventing me from feeling good about making a decision?

9/26/12 – I read this article today with many tears, as I identified with it so much, as I’m sure you will too.

Deciding When a Pet Has Suffered Enough

The Release

This section was hard to write and may be hard to read, so proceed with caution. This is MY experience with the process of death, MY feelings, and MY opinions.

If you have other animals that are close to the one you are losing, I strongly suggest you let them see the body after euthanasia if at all possible. If you don’t, there is a good chance they may just believe they were abandoned. We made this mistake once with one of our dogs, and she never stopped looking for her friend that we had to let go. She was a different dog from that day out. Dogs (and other animals) DO GRIEVE as well. They may not understand death like we do, but seeing a lifeless body seems to help them accept it more, in my own personal experience. Give them love, affection, and time. There are some other tips online for dealing with canine grief.

I strongly believe in staying with your baby  until they are fully gone – however – I know not everyone is able to do this, and I understand that. A friend in the LymphomaHeartDogs group wrote an email that really touched me, and might help you be strong enough to stay with  your friend though death. You can find her story HERE.

We always have our vets sedate first, so they are relaxed and peaceful before the final shot. If you are looking into their eyes, you’ll know the instant they are gone. Their pupils will dilate (aka ‘blow’) and it’s clear the soul has left the body. I’ve seen this with cats, horses, and other dogs. I could not look into Niko’s eyes. I just held him close and whispered in his ear.

Niko’s grave in July 2009

We were lucky enough to be able to do this at home, surrounded by loved ones. We had laid out sheets over his cool bed  in an open area, so we could just wrap him up after wards. Another unglamorous fact is that they will release the contents of their bladder and / or bowels after being euthanized, so it’s good to put down something absorbent for this, so you are not left cleaning up a mess. You don’t want that as your last memory.

It was July, so it was hot outside, and we let him go at night. We could not bury him until the next day so we opted to freeze his body. I hate getting graphic, but the body starts to break down quickly, and fluids will begin to drain. I’ve seen this with our horses when we had to wait a day to bury them. It’s not pleasant, so you do need to think about what you will do with the body if you cannot bury them right away.

There is this idea that after death, their eyes will stay closed. This is not the case. I’ve seen vets that will glue an animal’s eyes closed for you if you want. For Niko, I just wrapped him up in the sheets so I could only see his nose peaking. The last time I saw his eyes, he was still alive and I’m thankful for that.

The Bill

Most vets will give you an itemized bill. Some will do it at the time of service, some will mail you the bill to pay later. I was prepared to get a bill, but I was NOT prepared to read the itemized bill. Seeing the itemized line items tore through me. On the far left, it lists the pet’s name. So for the 7 or 8 line items on the bill, they list “Niko”. Then they list what the line item is, next to the name. Just seeing “Euthanasia” next to his name as a line item was heart wrenching. I know what I had done…. I didn’t need to see it in text. The feeling of paying ‘a bill to kill my dog’ overwhelmed me.

My suggestion to you is to talk to you vet before hand and request a statement only – or a receipt only. Make sure they know you do NOT want an itemized receipt. This may not upset everyone, but it sure did upset me, and I did not see it coming. I’d love to save someone else the heartache.

Leftover Drugs

If your fur baby was on meds, and you have any left over, ask your vet if they have a drug donation program. Thankfully, my vet does have just such a program. I had leftover Lysodren (cushings) as well as vitamin K and an appetite stimulant. These are not cheap drugs. While I didn’t want money for them, I did want them to be used. There must be someone that could use these. I’m comforted to know that Niko’s leftovers will help another dog in need.

Niko’s tree 4/5/10


Written by rememberingniko

February 12, 2010 at 7:36 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I was not upset by the bill. In fact, they were going to mail it to me, but I just wanted to get it over with. I couldn’t bear the thought of a bill coming in the mail a week later with Gadget’s name on it for his euthanasia. At that moment, I never wanted anything to do with another vet again.

    What was upsetting to me was that Gadget’s eyes flickered a little bit after the sedative was given, but before he was given the overdose to stop his heart. The vet HAD told us that their eyes usually remain open, and that there might be some involuntary muscle twitches — his paws or whatnot — but I hadn’t really taken it in. So, I was haunted by the idea that the first injection paralyzed his muscles, and that the eye movement was him frantic and scared of what was happening, and “trapped inside his body,” unable to communicate, in effect.

    In my case, having the names of the drugs used was very helpful. I looked them up online and was able to discern a fair amount from reading about what kinds of drugs were in the first dose, and their effects. I also emailed and asked the vet for detailed information about what was happening to Gadget, physiologically, when the drugs were taking effect.

    The vet was extremely kind, and very generous with his time in answering my questions. I felt greatly reassured by the information on the drugs and by what the vet told me, in terms of the science.

    I got the impression this is probably an unusual way to cope with death, that not many (any??) other clients had ever asked him this. But for me, the information gave me peace because I felt like I *understood* better what Gadget had experienced. All along, when he was sick, I tried to learn as much as possible (knowledge is power), so I could make the most informed decisions. It was my way of coping. There is such a feeling of helplessness when they are sick, and then when we lose those we love. We can’t bring them back; it’s the ultimate loss of control. Especially as the person responsible for making the decision to end his life, I finally felt at peace with my decision to euthanize when I knew he had truly not been suffering.

    Sharon Wachsler

    November 28, 2010 at 12:39 am

    • Thank you Sharon, for posting your point of view. We are certainly all different, and no matter your preference, thinking about this sort of thing in advance can save a little pain later.


      November 28, 2010 at 7:42 pm

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