I have two St. Bernards who are both approaching 12 years old. This is quite old for the breed and while they are both in relatively good health for their age, I expect I will meet with sadness sometime in the next year.
Talking this topic over with my brother recently, he suggested that when the time comes for the first dog to be euthanized, that I should put the other to sleep as well. His arguments were that 1) the remaining dog will be heartbroken without their sibling -- they've been together, with me, for 11 years. 2) the remaining dog surely won't have much time left itself anyway 3) I will have to experience very deep sadness twice within a short period of time so why not experience it only once and 4) this would ease my worries about the remaining dog being home alone during the day; niether dog has ever been alone and I fear it won't go well.
I had not considered this option before and wondered if anyone had any thoughts about it. It feels like an easy out for me (not really) and I fear that people would judge me for this decision. These dogs are my children (really) and I do not take this decision lightly, but I can't disagree with the arguments that my brother makes.
I am nowhere near making any kind of decision right now, thankfully, but am trying to do my homework on everything before I'm too emotional to think straight.
Absolutely not! I can certainly disagree with your brother's arguments. He has a right to his own opinion but you're the one who lives with and loves your dogs.
Since both dogs are in relatively good health for their age (thanks to your obviously wonderful care of them) why on earth are you making plans for euthansia right now? Dogs live in the moment so they don't know their time is limited as we do. Take a page out of their lives and do the same - enjoy life with them!
Yes, dogs do seem to mourn losing a pack member but we humans can make that adjustment much easier on them. They pick up on our sadness and our behavior changes and react accordingly. We assume they understand death the way we humans do, and honestly, they don't. All they know is their friend isn't with them anymore. They don't know why we humans are different than we used to be so they mope around as long as we do. When the time comes that one of the dog's life ends, you can help the other one by making an effort to maintain the same activities he's used to. It will be healing for both of you.
As much as you love your dogs, I can't believe you would euthanize a healthy dog for the sole reason of sparing yourself a second sad experience. Death is a part of life. It's part of sharing our lives with creatures we know we will outlive. If you keep put the dog's needs ahead of your own, you can't go wrong.
Many dogs do just fine being the sole dog in a pack of humans and left to their own devices during the day. We like to have more than one dog ourselves for that reason - they keep each other entertained when we're gone. There have been two times that we've had to put down a sick dog leaving one behind. The remaining dog did just fine until we were ready to bring another one into the pack. In fact, they seemed to enjoy being the sole canine for a while.
Until it happens, there's no way to know how either you or the dog will react to the change in situation. There is help available if the remaining dog has adjustment issues, so please don't consider putting him down in an effort to avoid the emotional pain of loss. He may be old, but unless he's ill and suffering there is no good reason to do it.
I can understand your brother's reasons for mentioning that but, if it were me, I wouldn't and couldn't do that especially if the remaining dog were in good health I do understand that you would not want to go through that twice but it is just something as pet owners we have to realize will probably inevitably come. Of course, that is your decision but I bet when/if the time came, you would rethink that yourself. And, don't worry about people judging you. Only you know your animals, your circumstances and your reasons for your decisions.
Like Jaybay and Margot, I can understand your brother's rationalization of the situation, but also like them, I cannot agree with it. When we get a pet or pets we know from the start that they are going to die before we do. And while it is true that your dogs have been together since birth, there is nothing that says that when one goes, the other will be right behind it. Your other dog could go on happily for who knows how long, so why cut its life short just to save yourself the sadness of having to grieve again in a short period of time? I think if this were me, I would rather suffer through the loss of a second pet when it was that pet's own time than to spend the rest of my life second guessing myself and wondering how much longer that pet would have lived had I not put it down. If it were me I would end up constantly beating myself up for euthanizing a pet that didn't need euthanization because I would have felt like I was doing it for my own benefit and not the pet's, and that's not the bargain that I made with them when I got them.
I am also going to add my opinion that your brother is quite wrong (and actually, a bit heartless) - and frankly, I don't agree with anything he has said. I could write lots here, but for me Jaybay has said all that I would have said. Please don't consider putting a healthy dog down, not ever. There is no justification for it. Tony
My feelings are the same. Although you know if one of your dogs died, the other one would miss their companion very deeply, still, life goes on. And where there's life there's hope.
And you have no way of knowing -exactly and for sure- how long the remaining dog would live. It could, for all you know, live on 2 or 3 more years (no matter what the statistics might be for the breed! I have known many things in life to break the rules, and dogs' life-spans do that too.)
Even if it was only 6 months, those months would be well-lived in the home it knows, and with you -its provider and remaining family.
Yes dogs do grieve, but they also carry on living. I've seen it happen time and time again.
Putting them both to sleep would not spare you any pain anyway. There would always be a nagging, lingering guilt and doubt about whether you had done the right thing.
I agree with everyone else, especially with ginger899, you will always have a lingering doubt if you did the right thing. Besides, the surviving dog will give you A LOT of comfort after the first one passes, I know that for a fact.
Some dogs live longer than the average. Some dogs live shorter and vets and science have no clue why that is. Even though your brother is an expert on putting down dogs, why not put him down next year? That way you can see what it is like to put down a healthy family member. Then you will be in a better position when the time comes whether it is right to put down a healthy family member.
Dear Lord don't you do that! Your dogs have life and to put both dogs down, when only one is sick is wrong. They both love you and I know you would regret doing that the rest of you life. Please do not do this and enjoy your dogs as long as you can.
Oh dear...Well, on the bright side, thank goodness these are not your brothers dogs...!
Now, If one family member dies, will you kill all the rest just so none of them have to mourn, and you can get your mourning done all at once....? I think not.
Now the reality....
If you euthanize one dog because it is suffering...and you do not want him to suffer, then you are assisting his death out of love, compassion and mercy.
If the other is still healthy and not suffering, and you still chose to euthanize him, then it is out of selfishness and cruelty...and it is murder.
The guilt you will feel will haunt you. The pain you will feel for killing your dog, will be harder to bear than anything....you will regret it for the rest of your life.
You said that you "fear" people would "judge" you..?
Fear no more.....it won't matter if others judge you. You will judge yourself.
Please, it isn't necessary to be nasty to people. This person came her asking for our help and your response to her was uncalled for. She obviously is already not in agreement with her brother otherwise she would not have come here. Any further nastiness will be deleted as soon as it is posted.
Jaybay, the reason my brother and I were talking about this topic was because we were talking about my quality of life right now. My male is incontinent and almost daily, I am cleaning up messes. I live with blankets over every stitch of carpeting in order to protect it and I am washing blankets just as often. My female has the typical hip issues associated with the breed and I have to carefully monitor her exercise. I have to cut my socializing short or turn down offers to ensure I get home before Bruno messes in the house. I was unable to take any vacations, even one night away last year, and that will also hold true for the rest of their lives. And I am currently spending about $275 a month for their care, not including vet, flea, and heartworm meds. As someone who does not own dogs, my brother does not understand how I can live this way, so he brought it up. I don't judge him for questioning my options, but I value his opinion and so I wanted to at least think about what he had said.
The reason we got Betsy was because Bruno could not stand to be alone during the day and he was tearing up the house. We gave him a three season room and he destroyed the woodwork and blinds. He broke out of a steel cage and met me at the door. So then we left him in the living room and I came home to chewed furniture and a mess everywhere. This went on for two months and it all stopped the day we got Betsy. I don't know how Betsy would do alone. When I take Bruno for a walk with out her, she is frantic when I get home and sticks to me like velcro. She's never been alone as long as I have had her, but I know she was abused prior to adopting me. We got her from the Humane Society.
I appreciate your comments and hope you understand that I have not made this decision. I came here for advice and guidance on a topic that is currently on my mind. Betsy and Bruno are my first dogs and I've never been through some of these experiences before.
Hello Ghilly and thank you for reminding me of all the guilt that I currently live with and how I could end up with life-long guilt if I were to do this. Like you, I would surely beat myself up for the rest of my life if I did this when the remaining dog was reasonably healthy.
jt555, please don't be angry with my brother or me. You have to understand his heart and intentions are in the right place. He has neither children nor pets and doesn't understand emotional attachments beyond the family he grew up with. He was merely trying to suggest something that, in his mind, would make things easier for me.
When I was describing my quality of life, I failed to mention that 1) the dogs can no longer go upstairs, so I now sleep on my couch instead of the bedroom and 2) Betsy has an irritating habit of licking her front legs incessantly and then chomping her teeth together. It's so loud that it wakes me up at 4:00 every morning when she decides she needs to do this. And she's deaf, so I can't yell to make her stop.
I am so very sorry you are going through all this hard time, and heartache right now.
Most of us here are certainly not judging you, as we have all gone through some hard times too. And every single one of us has entered some steep learning-curve or other with our dogs.
Unfortunately, that is the nature of a close relationship with a dog. We give half or more of our lives up. Sometimes we walk even when the doctor tells us we should NOT be walking...sometimes we play frisbee in the snow with raging flu....sometimes we go without things we'd like to have or even NEED, to pay vets' bills....we go without vacations, we go without those leisurely early Sunday mornings, some of us go without carpets....
It helps if there is someone to assist in the caring aspect, and the practical aspects especially with elderly or incontinent dogs. If there is no-one, then that's hard. I know. Mine had early stage kidney issues and for weeks in October/November I had to get up after only 4 hours sleep to walk her, or have a wet bed. I had to do full laundry every day I didn't make myself get up after 4 hours sleep. And sometimes had to do full laundry even when I did. But it wasn't just the laundry thing, it was knowing she had a busting bladder and peeing was the thing she had to do, and wetting the bed was the last thing she wanted to do.
I was so numb-brained I couldn't tell down from up...but just looked at her sweet face and that wagging tail. I swear she recognised what I was doing for her, she showed me affection and a "smile".... and I knew immediately what it was all about. Love.
I just treat her the way I would like to be treated. Love heals, and makes things happier.
It might seem a silly idea, but the best thing to do with your incontinent one is to put tarps down on your floor, instead of blankets. When there are "accidents" all you'll need to do is clean it up with dilute disinfectant. They are waterproof and nothing will get through to your carpets. It will make your flooring look pretty unusual but it will work better and be easier and much quicker to keep clean.
I never responded to this post as I thought all areas had already been covered.....I do want to touch on what Ginger has posted.....
Many moons ago, I covered my carpeted floors in the entire house, with plastic sheeting & Duck tape...Don't misunderstand, I didn't really give a Rat's A$$ about the carpet, it's just all the pee-pee was so much easier to clean off the sheeting...Yes, it looked odd and everyone that came over asked if I was painting the house......My response was always the same: "No, just taking care of one of my furkids".....I left it down for well over a year......
Anyway, I wish you luck with your decision......End of life issues are always a tough call! Karla
I must say, that not only are your Kids Saints, but it sounds to me like you are also one.
After reading your most recent replies, I will say that I certainly have a different image in my mind about the condition of your dogs. It is now much clearer to me, why your brother would suggest this option to you, and why you would actually consider this.
I commend you for your efforts to take care of your dogs, and I understand the sacrifices you are making for them.
Honestly though, I hope this is one decision, that you will never have to make.
Well that's a horse of a different color! Thank you so much for clarifying your situation. I know how nursing even one sick dog can consume your life. Having two special needs dogs and providing such heavy-duty nursing is mentally and physically exhausting.
What is your vet's position on the dogs' overall health and pain levels? If the hip arthritis is making him suffer despite pain meds, there is not a thing wrong with saying goodbye to him. I've always thought that's the worst situation to be in with a dog - having to euthanize for orthopedic reasons when everything else is still in good working order.
As for poor Bruno, he's not alone in his incontinence. Dogs are like people that way. As they age, the muscles that control elimination lose tone and they physically have no more control over it. I look at extreme senior dogs like yours in the same way that I might think of a human with Alzheimers dementia. Gradually, you have to treat that person like a child. Same goes for dogs. If he'll tolerate doggy diapers, that can make your life easier right there. If not, can you restrict his access to one room of the house while you're away? Now that they're both not as active as they used to be, they may not mind at all.
Another thought is to get some puppy training pads. They're scented to attract the dog to pads for elimination. Of courrse, since your dogs are so big you may need to find training sheets. :-) If you can find a way to restrict elimination to one or two areas of the house at least that will make your lives more manageable.
You might want to look into hiring someone to come over once or twice during the day to let the dogs out and make sure they get some gentle exercise while you're out. My neighbors do that with their Yorkies during the work week. A stay-at-home mom comes by our house every day with her infant and toddlers with a two-Yorkie escort. The mom makes some pin money and the dogs get their exercise and socialization.
Like I said in my first reply, the fact that your Saints have lived so very long is evidence that you have given them top-notch care from the very first day. Your dogs may end up taking this painful decision completely out of your hands. They have a way of letting us know when it's Time. All you can do is try some different things to make your life and their lives better until it becomes clear that it's time to say goodbye. You'll know. :-)
ginger899, your latest post answered a question I've had on my mind for a few weeks now. And that is, "would anyone else in the world do what I'm doing for their dogs? And for how long?" After reading about the sleep and laundry schedule you kept up for those weeks, I know the answer is yes. You confirmed I'm not some crazy dog lady, but one of probably many people who love their pets as much as family and would do anything for them. So thank you for that.
I can't tell if your story is in the past or present tense though and I'm interested. What kind of dog do you/did you have and what is/was its name? And what is the current status?
I really like your tarp idea; I'm actually miffed at myself for not having thought of it myself! I'm going to try to get to a home improvement store and check out the size options and pricing.
misfits4Me, like ginger, you made me feel like I'm not alone and that there are people in the world making sacrifices for their pets. I appreciate your comments.
Around the time I first got my Saints, I worked with a woman who was getting ready to euthanize her dog because it was soiling in the house. I didn't know any other details, but I thought she was a horrible person. Now that I'm living it, I have a little more sympathy for her, but still wonder what, if anything, she tried to do...or if euthanasia was her first and only decision.
TwoBitsMom, before coming to this website, I joined another online community looking for support with the challenges I'm facing. I only got two responses and neither of them were much comfort to me.
Most everyone on here has treated my original question with respect, even if they thought the idea was crazy, and I appreciate that. Your comment actually made me tear up, thank you for the support and your very kind words.
I hope, too, that I never have to make any life-ending decisions for my dogs. I'm living in a fantasy/denial world where they both quietly go in their sleep.
Jaybay, every time I bring my dogs into the vet, he is amazed they are still around and in such good shape. I haven't talked to him specifically about pain because I really don't think they are in pain. I have them on Cosequin, Derramaxx, and fish oil. They are eating normally, drinking normal amounts of water, still excited to go on walks, even if they are short, still want to go outside, still happy, involved, interested in life, etc. So while they both have trouble (Bruno's arthritis sounds like a rocking chair sometimes), they are both still emotionally strong.
I did buy some diapers for Bruno, but I haven't had the heart to start using them yet! And I can't help but think that if he goes in them, the poo is going to be smeared all over him when I get home and I'll have a mess to clean up. Cleaning the blanket is actually easier than cleaning him, if you can image that.
I also have had Bruno on SenilifeXL, but am going to switch to Neutricks. These are meds for senile dogs. Has anyone reading this had any experience with either of these two products? (Hmmm, maybe I should start a new topic for that).
The dogs are restricted during the day, but sometimes he goes in the middle of the night, too. He doesn't even realize it's happening. And at that point, we're in the living room, where they aren't allowed during the day.
Unfortunately, Bruno is not friendly to strangers and would probably not let someone in the house, let alone do what they say....not to mention I'm so embarrassed by all the blankets and baby gates that I don't want anyone to see my house. So having a dog walker come in isn't an option.
My ex and I used to have shared custody of the dogs and it was his turn to have them over Thanksgiving. He had hired a dog sitting company and left for out an out of state trip...... well, Bruno wouldn't even let the sitter in the house, so my ex had to turn around and come home. (His inconvenience actually gave me some pleasure hee hee - go Bruno! lol )
I have a wonderful boyfriend now who loves Betsy and Bruno as if he had them from puppyhood, so he's a great support to me. I'm pretty sure Betsy loves him more than she loves me at this point, she is his shadow. ha ha So it's just the two of us riding this out.
Thank you for the support and all the suggestions.
I'm going through this right now. Lucy & Linus are dachshund litter mates that have never been separated. They just turned 13. My furry children :)
Linus has end stage Cushings and as a resul is very thin, tired, drinks tons, pees constantly, and had an eye ulceration due to dry eye. Unfortunately he ultimately lot his eye after 2 months in a cone getting eye drops every 4 hours around the clock. I've never been so exhausted, but he's my baby and I do anything for him.
One week ago he had a nose bleed requiring hospitalization. We saw his specialist afterwards. He's go so many health problems, there is nothing we can do beyon his current meds. The thing with Linus: he is still wants to go outside, always happy, eats with gusto, and is a big cuddler. Making the decision of when to put him down even harder.
I have been worried about how Lucy will handle losing him. They are literally nose to tail cuddled all the time, like yin & yang.
Now Lucy is having a flareup of back issues (has had her whole life). She is having some paralysis, wearing diapers, on pain pills & tranquilizers bu still having spasms. She can't have the one thing that usually helps, prednisone, as it gave her a gastric bleed last year.
I'm now facing the hardest decision ever, sending them both to the park in the sky together. The thought had never crossed my mind. I'd mentally prepared for one to grieve, but not this.
Like DoxyMama I am currently facing the same issue. However I know that neither of my two "Old Men" (Bear and Soldier) have a chance at COMFORTABLY living more then a few more months. Soldier has hip and spine problems and has recently started having accidents in the house. It hurts him to get up and down and he can't get up on the bed with me anymore. Bear who was always a robust dog has lost at least a 1/3 of his body weight in the last two month and the 'fatty tumors" he's had for sometime now I think have spread to his throat cause he is having an increasingly difficult time breathing and eating. And very recently his back leg has began giving him problems and pain making it difficult for him to get up and causing him to walk 3 legged sometimes.
We had a scare about 1 1/2 years ago where we thought Soldier was gonna have to be put down. Since then my husband, my children, and myself have been openly discussing the subject of quality of life versus quantity at this point.
Since this scare I have done a lot of thinking on the subject of putting them both down together and have decided to do this number of different reasons. (1) Both dogs have deteriorating health. Their conditions have limit there ability to move around, play, cuddle, and even eat and breath at times. (2) Both of my men are becoming increasingly anti social and depressed. They spend most their time sleeping in their wire kennels (doors wide open) which before the last 6 months was nearly unheard of. They are unable to play with the other 2 younger dogs anymore and I can tell they are not happy about these changes. (3) Bear and Soldier are 13 and 14 years old I have had them since they were 3 and 4 years old. They were instantly best buds and although they occasionally squabbled (mostly over food) they hated any time when one was without the other. I don't care what others have said here, I KNOW both Bear and Soldier would be heart broken with the loss of the other and I believe the the one remaining would know at that point that their time was coming and this would be the cause of even more stress and depression. (4) I worry about our two younger dogs and how they will grieve the loss of their mentors. I fear that going through this twice in a short period of time will lead to the return behaviors that took our family a lot of hard work and dedication to eliminate with them (They were rescued animals that came to us un-house trained, scared of everything, and with major chewing problems. (5) The ability of myself and my husband being able to cope with the loss of them separately while doing our best to help our 3 children (6,7, and 10 years old) and the other two dogs deal with their grief. I fear the lasting effect of an intense emotional roller coaster of grieving, recovery, grieving, recovery if we put them down separately.
Now of course I question the decision we have made hence why I came looking for others who have faced this same decision. So I am curious what you decided, how it turned out, and if you think you made the right decision. I know we are down to weeks left so I hope you get this and answer soon.
By the way I am so sorry for your loss and I apologize if bringing this up causes you any more heart break!!
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