The Long Goodbye

Can anyone really explain the bond between a pet owner and his pet?  That seemingly supernatural link between animal and human is one that crosses natural boundaries.  However they do it, your pets know you and, at times, what you are thinking or feeling.  Stranger still is the fact that sometimes you even know their thoughts and feelings.

This is especially true if you’ve had your pet for a long time.  That bond, and the comfortableness between human and beast, only grows stronger the more you share your home with them.  It is because of this closeness that we find ourselves at a teary-eyed loss at the end of their short lives.

Sometimes we may feel it unfair to fall in love with a four-legged, furry friend only to have our hearts broken when we have to put them to sleep.  It is because of our desire to keep our animals close that we may put off as long as possible their euthanization.  Despite our understandable motives, that prolonged humanity may well do more harm to the animal then good.

Quality vs. Quantity

As an animal gets older, particularly if they begin to develop the ailments of old age that pets often do, their quality of life diminishes with each passing day.  Dogs that would run circles around your yard as puppies now curl on their beds, only to rarely get up to go to their food bowl.  Cats that would at one time chase and play with any dangling string now only stare at the material as you wave it in front of them.

Natural aging causes all of us to slow down and this is normal.  Our goal should be to make the animal as comfortable as possible during this transition from youthful vigor to aged inactivity.  However, it is not simply growing old that is at issue here.

Often times our pets develop health problems that accelerate their decline.  When this happens, because we love them, we may try to prolong their lives as long as we can through medicine and treatment.  Ensuring that our animals are getting the proper care is good, but when does that delaying of the inevitable sap their happiness and quality of life?

Knowing When To Say When

As a pet owner, barring a catastrophic accident resulting in your pet’s death, you will be faced with the hard decision of when to put them to sleep.  Facing that time with clarity of mind is perhaps the most loving thing that you could ever do for your animal.

For instance, an animal that is losing weight, losing its bowels and losing its will to live despite veterinary care is an animal whose existence has turned from happy to miserable.  Out of love, none of us would want to see them suffer in this way.

It is because of this that we should pay close attention to the warning signs of that approaching time.  If we are honest with ourselves about the quality of their life and we love them, we will do the right thing.

Until then, enjoy your pet to the fullest.  Hold them, cuddle them, and play with them. 

As always, they will give you better than they get.