Wednesday, February 02, 2011
The dreaded question is “To euthanize?—or not to
euthanize?” This is likely the
most painful and difficult part of having a companion animal in our lives. If the animal has inconsolable pain,
the choice would seem a little easier.
But it is never easy, nor fun.
As a veterinarian and an empath, I feel a lot of the pain that the
animal is going through. I have
agreed to administer humane euthanasia to animals who were terminally ill. Most of these animals were ready. Some of them would have preferred to wait
a day or more. When that happens,
I have become physically ill, sometimes for an entire week afterwards. This made me wonder if I was accepting
some sort of energetic karma for them.
What if they needed that last little bit of time to achieve their purpose
or get a message across? Some
animals are ready long before their people are to let go. This can be equally as difficult to
watch from a compassionate viewpoint.
Even though the decision is troublesome to
come to, it is much easier to make informed decisions if the animal and the
guardian have established a relationship with a veterinarian they trust. The pet’s physician should be willing
to provide tools to help with the process, whether through pain-alleviating
techniques or medications, or support for grief counseling. A person should never feel “rushed”
into making this life and death decision.
Also, if the animal is not in obvious pain, I would recommend not
pushing to speed up fate, either.
Even if an animal has cancer or a deformity, if they are otherwise
healthy, comfortable and happy, it may not be appropriate for you to request a
veterinarian to perform euthanasia.
Calm, rational communication and an open mind should make it easier for
everyone involved to discuss these issues either when they are imminent, or
earlier in preparation.
Whenever a pet passes, whether naturally
or assisted, it is important to honor the grieving process. If we feel stuck in a certain part of
the process for too long, then therapy may be helpful. There are local support groups for
anyone who needs them. Often the
loss of a pet opens up all the pent-up pain and distress that we otherwise kept
contained, such as loss of a job or significant other.
Animals, even in their passing, are still
helping us—by assisting in the expression and release of emotion and
guilt. Animals would never
want us to feel guilty—that is a human construct. Animals also do not judge us, so if hospice care, heroic
surgical intervention or chemotherapy are not within our ability, the animals
would not fault us for that. When
trying to decide if “it’s time” for our beloved pet, take time. Take time to slow down, and feel with
compassion. Be honest and be
compassionate enough to allow them to go if they need to. Also be brave about the upcoming
“journey” they are about to make—chances are, since energy is never created nor
destroyed, only transformed—there is likely new adventure waiting for
The unconditional love we learn from
animals is a tangible healing tool that can help us make their transitional
time a little easier. The joy and
memories of fun and mischievous times shared will always be with us, if we can
focus on those instead of just the pain and hurt.