S.B. asks from Omaha, NE on September 01, 2008
Euthanizing a Pet
OK, this is going to be a long one! Our dog, Jordan (beagle/lab mix), is now 12+ years old and is experiencing several symptoms of old age. I feel the end is fast approaching. She is our first (and only) dog--we adopted her as a 6 month-old puppy, when we were married just over 1 year. She has been with us for almost 12 years and we love her like crazy!
Since this is the first time we've had to go through something like this, we have lots of questions. First of all, how much does it typically cost to euthanize a dog? Also, what happens if she would pass away at home? (i.e. Where would we take her body to be disposed of?)
Along the same lines, how to we handle the situation with our children?? I doubt that our younger son (almost 6) will be affected at all, but I do expect to be bombarded with questions about death. I am much more concerned about our older son (almost 11). He is very emotional and was extremely upset when our guinea pig died a couple years ago. I cannot even imagine how he's going to react to losing our dog! How should we handle the situation? Do you think it's appropriate or inappropriate for him to accompany us to the vet? (I do NOT want him in the room when Jordan is put down!) ...or should we have him say goodbye to her at home?
I would love to have advice from anyone who's had to deal with this type of situation.
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So What Happened?™
Thank you for all of your very caring and sympathetic responses! (You are all wonderful and very supportive!!) The past 6 weeks have been an extremely difficult time, one that I hope I don't have to go through again anytime soon. My husband and I chose to put our baby girl down on 9/23. The vet was wonderful and assured us that we were doing the most compassionate thing for her. It was very quick and while it was a horrible decision to make, I know in my heart that it was the right one. (She was blind and had lost most of her hearing, in addition to bladder control.)
As I expected, our 6-year-old was pretty unaffected by the whole thing. He came home from school and asked where Jordan was, while he ate snack. We reminded him and he seemed satisfied with the answer. (He has not really said anything else since...) Our 11-year-old was an emotional mess (as were his parents!) the 2 days prior, but has been OK since that day. (He does have her collar and tags hanging on his bedpost :).) I did not want him to accompany us to the vet, but may have changed my mind if he had REALLY wanted to go. Fortunately, he did not. He took a lot of pictures of Jordan the day before and morning of.
I had a stone engraved for her and we plan to plant a tree in our backyard in her memory. (The stone will go underneath.) We miss her terribly, but it's getting better every day. We're planning to get a new dog sometime next spring :).
N.S. answers from Minneapolis on September 02, 2008
The cost and type of arrangements depends on your veterinarian, where they put their client's pets to rest, and what they charge (anywhere from $100 and up) This would include cremation. Burial in a pet cemetary and/or if you choose to have your pet placed in an urn, can be similar to that for people. The other option is to have your pet cremated and placed in a mass grave at a pet cemetery.
As for you and your children, losing a pet is just as trying emotionally as losing a human family member. From here on out, begin preparing your children for the loss by reminding them to spend as much time as possible your dog. Tell them that she her time is short, but she'd really appreciate and love her family around her more than ever, and would probably enjoy extra brushings, extra pillows, extra hugs, etc.
Encourage them to take lots of pictures, and maybe even assemble a collage or scrapbook so that when your dog is gone, they will have happy memories and pleasant pictures to look at.
You may want to think about whether or not you want your children to go with you to the vet when and if you have to put your dog to sleep. You know their temperments. If they're extra sensitive, it may not be a good idea...though the vet will not let you see the actual procedure. They usually let the family say their final farewells, and then escort the family from the room.
In case your pet should die at home, keep a quilt handy, and wrap your pet in it. Sometimes, there is a bit of a mess after death, so be prepared for cleanup. Once again, you may not want your children to see this, so have a plan in place. Call you vet to let them know, and they'll more than likely have you bring the pet to them, or wherever they do cremations.
Just like with a human funeral, you may or may not want to plan ahead by picking out urn, whether or not you will purchase a burial site, and what you as a family may do to memorialize your pet.
This is very difficult. But planning ahead may help some. I have lost two dogs over the years, and I still miss them so much. I currently have a very old Lab who I expect doesn't have much time. Don't expect to get over it soon. Just like a loss of a close relative, it's good to tell stories and remember the good times..maybe even some of the bad ones which can be funny in retropect.
Last but not least, if your pet hasn't passed yet, don't act glum around them. They are very intuitive like people and your dog may get frightened or even depressed. Now is the time to treat your dog like the royalty they are, and enjoy them and make their last moments at home wonderful.
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K.H. answers from Minneapolis on September 02, 2008
We went through it 2 years ago when my son was 11. Our dog was 14 and in a lot of pain. We talked about how she was in pain and we had to be brave and not make her suffer even though it would be hard on us because we would miss her. When it became time, my son was ready to let her go so she wouldn't be in pain any more. We let him choose at each step - whether he wanted to come, be in the room, stay in the room. Before we went, he said he wanted to come but didn't want to be in the room. Once we got to the vet's he decided he wanted to stay with her until the end. Our vet was wonderful. She explained everything that was going to happen, let our dog stay on the floor on her blanket that we'd brought, and waited until we were ready for her to give the shot. When it was all over she let us know then told us to stay until we were ready to leave. Her ashes are in my son's closet because he wants her there with him. Hope this helps.
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A.S. answers from Sioux Falls on September 04, 2008
This is a little long, but I just got this in an e-mail and immediately thought of your questions. It doesn't answer your questions, but provides some interesting thoughts to perhaps share with your kids...
Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.
As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.
The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.
The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, 'I know why.'
Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation.
He said, 'People are born so that they can learn how to live a good Life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?' The Six-year-old continued, 'Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long.'
Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy.
Stretch before rising.
Run, romp, and play daily.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Never pretend to be something you're not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.
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J.F. answers from Minneapolis on September 02, 2008
Have you taken your dog to the vet to find out if it needs to be euthanized? If it does I would think about having a vet come to your house. This can easier on the dog and you to be at home. There are some in the cities that will do that. Also get a book to read to the kids ahead of time about a pet passing. I would also be prepared that it will be hard on both your children to loose their dog not just the older one. Also I would have the children come to the vet if they want to. Let it be their decision. Make sure they know that someone will be with the dog when it is euthanized this is important for yourself and the dog.
M. answers from Omaha on September 01, 2008
Well, based on my one and only experience with my cat...it is not quite as peaceful as you might expect. If I had it to do over, I would have asked that they put her to sleep before they "put her to sleep". I would have him say goodbye at home. I am sorry to hear about your situation. The loss of a pet is always difficult, but when you have had her 12 years it really is hard to get over that loss. That is just how it was with our cat...got her when we had been married about a year and we had her for almost 14 years...I cried for weeks.
A.P. answers from Omaha on September 02, 2008
In my family growing up we only had one dog for about 17 yrs. He got old started to pee where he shouldn't, ran into things. He was miserable. My mom took him to the vet and they found a heart murmur he was miserable, she couldn't bare to put him down that day when I was with her but did it another day when I was in the hospital with my newborn baby. She did this so I wouldn't be affected but to this day I wish I could have been there. I love my mom to death but I do think she was trying to protect me but she also didn't go in with him I think your son should be told the reasons why you are doing it like he'll be better off he's in pain etc... and then give him the choice to be there or not but I do think someone should be there that the dog knows so he doesn't feel abandoned at that hard time again i'm still upset i wasn't given the choice to go. i think it's around $100 but every vet is different, i would call around. it's just a shot and they pretty much just go to sleep if your dog does die at home you would take him to the vet and they will give you your options. good luck, don't underestimate a 6 yr old either they are pretty dang smart maybe you should involve him and give him a choice also.
W.D. answers from Lincoln on September 02, 2008
I know this is tough, we just had to put our cat down due to health problems. It was the toughest thing I've had to due.. make the fimal decision. Our vet clinic offered creamation so thats the way we went. THe whole procedure was around $80. I was the only one who went to the vet (our cat was there several days). I got to spend time with him and let them know when i was ready. They recommended me NOT to be there as it was going to be really hard on our cat to be preped. I chose to say my goodbys in the exam room. WIthin a matter of minutes the vet came back out and told me he was gone. I found a book called "cat heaven" that has helped with my 4yr old daughter. I was also recommended *When a pet dies* by Mr Rogers ( we got it but haven't read it yet). If you need more specific details about my experience please message me!!!
My cousin works in a vet clinic and they do let the owners sit w/ the dogs as its all being done.. so ask your vet and do what your comfortable with. Sorry for what your dealing with, its nor easy! W.
J.O. answers from Wausau on September 02, 2008
Costs range wildly from vet to vet. As horrible as it is, shop around. (But also ask about things like is it a cremation, group burial, take the ashes home etc?) we had our family cat (approx 18 yrs old!) put down and cremated, then his ashes were buried with a group of others. We felt this was the best course of action for our family. We could have taken his ashes home, but we opted not to.
If she passes away at home, you can still call local vets to make arrangements. If you live somewhere pretty remote you may be able to bury her on your own property- not sure if you'd need a permit for that or not.
You may be surprised to find your 6 year old is affected more than you think. And I really think you need to be talking openly about your dog's age, health problems, mortality etc with your older boy- now, not just after the dog is gone. And although you seem adamant that you don't want him in the room- I STRONGLY feel that he should be allowed to make his own decision on that matter.
In our case, I was 27 yrs old, and I opted to accompany my parents for the euthanasia of our family cat, while my sister (24 yrs old) had said she didn't want to be told anything about the decision to euthanize until AFTER it was already over. She definitely did not want to be there. She has said before that she "cannot handle death in any way, shape, or form." Telling her after it was done, as she requested, was the best way for her to deal with it. I personally would have felt extremely betrayed if I had not been given the option of being there- which is part of what I am concerned about with your older son; feeling betrayed if he is not allowed to be part of this.
Let us know what you decide and how it goes :(