Hardest Thing You May Ever Have to Do
By Allen and Linda
Barbara, a reader of our newsletter, wrote
to us not too long ago about what she considered to be one of the most
difficult decisions she ever had to make in her life. Her dear animal companion
of fifteen years, a dog named Bear, had struggled to combat a hyperthyroid
condition for almost two years. By then, Bear had lost one quarter of her hair.
The dog was constantly hungry and miserable, losing weight and wailing in pain
most of the time. After doing everything she could to keep Bear alive and
depleting herself financially in the process, Barbara had to struggle with
whether or not to have the dog euthanized.
Even though Barbara believed that Bearwould be in a better place after death, she worried and felt guilty about
euthanasia. She wondered whether she had done the right thing. She says, “I
looked up the word euthanasia and learned that it comes from Greek for ‘easy
death.’ God, I hope so. I did not want Bear to suffer anymore.” She closed her
letter by asking the readers of our weekly, online Angel Animals Day Brightener
Newsletter to let her know what they thought about the practice of euthanasia.\
We put Barbara’s request in the newsletterand got an avalanche of response to it. We forwarded all the letters to Barbara
and published a few of them at a time for several weeks. Many of the letters
offered such wisdom and compassion, that we want to share them in this article.
Perhaps they will offer comfort, and in some cases, even challenge your
opinions about euthanasia. Anyone who has an animal companion may be faced with
this heart-wrenching choice one day. We hope the following responses will help
when you have to make that most difficult decision.
Samples of Letters to Barbara
in Connecticut wrote, “Barbara, please know that you performed an act of great
kindness at great emotional expense to yourself. Think about what you’d say to
a friend who had the same problem and say it to yourself.”
from Australia wrote, “Congratulations. What courage, compassion, and love you
have. It reflects in your words and deeds. If I were an animal in your care, I
would be so content with my life. Bear would have known his future and loved
you all the more for giving him the life and love you did.”
A letter from
Rita explains how she talked to her pug, Betty, after the dog could no longer
stand up or move anymore and was in great pain. “I told Betty I had to put her
to sleep and that she can come back to."
Dee expressed what many of our readers felt about
euthanasia. She wrote, “I know it was the right thing to do. Sometimes, it’s
the last, best, most loving gift we can give our animal friends, to free them
from their painful, failing bodies and let their spirits soar. I also believe
that they will be with us in eternity. They’re waiting for us in heaven or at
the Rainbow Bridge. Though it may, and does, break our hearts, we can rest in
the knowledge that we were unselfish at the end and did what was best for
A Respectful Difference of Opinion
Most of our readers were in agreement that
euthanasia was necessary to end an animal’s pain and opted for quality of life
over longevity. Some even wished that euthanasia would be an option for humans.
However, a Buddhist practitioner named Trisha wrote to express a differing
opinion. She referred readers to an article by Trish Deitch Roher, “Putting
Spot Down: What is the Compassionate Thing to Do?” from Tricyle: The Buddhist
Review, Summer 2002. Trisha quotes Roher as saying, “Most Tibetan teachers. . .
have told practitioners that it’s inadvisable to kill any being under any
circumstances. To care for an animal through the pain and suffering of old age
and death is courageous and kind.”
According to Trisha, “the article emphasized that we
tend to euthanize companion animals primarily to relieve our own suffering and
not the animal’s, even though we adamantly feel we are doing just the
opposite.” Trisha went on to say, “From the Buddhist standpoint, we may do our
companion animals a disservice by creating karma for them by prematurely taking
So how do you know what to do?
Many people take the animal to a veterinarian who
lays out the options. Then they face the prospect of incurring staggering
medical bills or watching an animal they love struggle to stay alive in a
depleted or debilitated body.
After euthanasia, several of our letter-writers were
reassured that they had done the right thing when they were visited by the
animal’s spirit during a dream. Joy writes about her retired racehorse,
Franklin, “I had a dream about him a month or so after. I was kissing
Franklin’s muzzle and telling him how much I love him. He was no longer in pain
and was very happy.
Dee may have best said what a lot of people have
come to understand about this troubling decision – your animal friend will help
you figure out what to do. Dee writes, “How do we know it’s time? I think, at
the end, they tell us. I knew. With both by dogs, Shadow and Kaylee, even
though I desperately wanted to deny it and hold on, they were ready to go. It
was me who wasn’t ready. But I know that we will be together again someday. And
that’s what I hold onto now.”
Perhaps the epitaph Lord Byron wrote and had
inscribed on the grave of his dog, Boatswain, in 1808 expresses the memories
many of us have about our beloved animal companions. Lord Byron wrote, “Near
this spot are deposited the Remains of one who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the virtues of
Man without his Vices.”