Saying goodbye to your pet. How do you know?

when its time

It’s a part of life.

Saying goodbye is one of the hardest parts of having animals in our lives.  It’s a very heavy responsibility of pet parents everywhere.  But as much as we hate it, the hard fact is that most animals don’t live longer than humans.  So goodbye is inevitable.

Having pets in our lives

As a lifelong animal lover, I’ve had countless pets in my life.  Some of the time, the end of our time together was decided without my input.  Accidents or natural death take that control out of our hands.  Other times, we’re called on to decide when enough is enough for our beloved pet. I’ve had to make “that” difficult decision many  times in my life.

Saying goodbye doesn’t mean they’re gone, exactly

It’s true, your pet’s physical body is no longer there, but they’re not really gone.  Their memory is always a part of your life. When you’re missing your old friend, you can pull up those memories, or maybe photos, and relive some of the good times from the past.

I also believe each animal that enters my life has taught me something.  Each pet has improved my understanding of life and relationships with pets, as well as people, in one way or another.  Not all lessons were fun to learn, but they all added to the overall picture. Those lessons stay with you too.

I also choose to believe that the spirits of the animals that have been in my life come to visit from time to time.  Have you ever felt a sudden warmth at your side where your old friend would hang out?  My old girl, Rocket, likes to visit from time to time.  I’ll feel her at my heel sometimes, especially if I’ve been thinking about her or I need a little encouragement. Or maybe you feel a presence, like somebody just went around the corner.  It’s comforting to believe that those are times your pet is checking in on you, telling you it’s ok. Read My Heart Dog for more about this special girl.

How do you decide when it’s time?

First, that time is hard.  It’s never a good time to let them go.  But it can be the best time available.

There is usually not one time that it has to happen.  With the advances in veterinary medicine, an animal can be kept alive for quite a while. But being alive and living are not the same thing.  Living means that there is quality of life.  If your pet has alot of pain, difficulty breathing, difficulty eating, etc., they may have crossed over to the “being alive” end of the spectrum.

You, as the pet parent, have to decide when “living” becomes “being alive”  Is your pet having more good days than bad?  Are they still participating in life enough to enjoy it? Are the symptoms of their prognosis, whatever it is, bearable? As difficult as it can be to take our wishes out of the decision, these are the kinds of things that need to be considered.

Read my post Aging dogs are a part of life for helping with quality of life before it’s time.

The best time to say goodbye

There is rarely a perfect answer.  The more times I have to go through the goodbye process, the more I feel I’ve come to grips with it.  Although it hurts every single time, my words of encouragement to myself are this “this is the kindest thing I can do for my friend”.

Bottom line, the decision is terribly, completely personal.  I think, if you are making the choice out of love and concern for your pet’s best interest, the time you choose is the most perfect time possible. Second guessing doesn’t help.  Knowing your intentions are the best; that’s what helps ease the pain of making the decision.

There are tons of articles and posts out there about saying goodbye to our pets.  This one from was a good one, but you can find more by doing a search.

I would love to hear about your experiences.  Comment below.


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