By Delia Mallinick
We all at some point in our lives have had to make a decision to say goodbye to a beloved companion. This piece of writing is not filled with research data but is rather drawn from my own experiences as having to be the one to make the decision. I hope that something I share will be of help to you when you need to say goodbye.
As your companions get older, and it happens faster than we like, they start to slow down and sometimes they also get ill or they get dementia. In my opinion and due to my personality it is now the time to start formulating a plan for when you need to make that decision. I am a planner so this comes naturally for me but for some of you, you would probably not like to think at all about the end. I’ve seen too many people struggling with this decision and I hope what I write will help you be a little more prepared.
Our companions live in the moment, they don’t know or don’t fixate or fear death. They know what is good or bad, they know if they are hungry or thirsty and they know when they are loved and safe. I aspire to be like them so that I am able to be emotionally present when they need me the most.
At the outset, It is important to form a good relationship with your vet. As discussing difficult subjects with him/her will be easier. If you have never had to say goodbye to a beloved companion you might want to have a discussion with your vet as what to expect should you need to euthanize your comapnion. While having the discussion with your vet make a list before hand of the questions you would like to ask.For eg
Do you euthanize at the end of the day when it is quieter?
- Would they do a house call for a euthanasia?
- If the euthanasia is done at the clinic are you able to spend a bit of time in the room afterwards before leaving.
It is also important to also decide if you are going to have your companion cremated, if so is it going to be a communal cremation or a private cremation where you get the ashes back. With the ashes back option you can either scatter them at a little ceremony where you can remember your companion with your family members or you can bury the ashes under a tree or a rose bush that when you smell the roses it is a form of remembrance. Once you have thought the process through and you have made notes of what you would like at the end – sort of like a living will – you have a plan and you won’t have to make decisions in a rush or when you are emotionally unable to think.
It is important not to assume that your beloved companion is dying until you have sorted out a proper veterinary consultation or two if necessary.
If caring for an ill or very old companion you need to know that it is natural that they are going to get weaker and eat less, they may also soil themselves or they mess in the house.
This is the time to respect the process they are going through. This is not the time to scold them or get angry with them for something they have no control over. This was an exceptionally difficult lesson for me to learn.
The end of their life care is all about them feeling loved and safe, Yes these are their final moments and yes you are probably going to be angry , scared and feeling a bit hopeless but let’s think how they would feel surrounded by their people being anxious, angry and crying. They are not going to understand and it is going to cause them to become anxious and upset. Would it not be better if they were surrounded by a lovable and peaceful environment?
I am in no way saying that you must suppress your feelings. Cry, rant, rave, fall apart and have emotionally filled conversations, but do these away from where your companion is resting.
Your companion will let you know when it is their time to cross the rainbow bridge, you can ask them beforehand to give you a sign, something predetermined that only the two of you know. Something you know that is lacking in their quality of life or if their dignity is gone. Because you have a plan in place, the time that you will spend with them is quality time and not time spent rushing around making arrangements and this time will be a blessing.
Everyone likes to keep a keepsake of their beloved companion, when my horses crossed I kept a piece of their mane or tail hair. When my Mavis crossed she was buried under a peach tree and my Sirius had a Meyer Lemon Tree planted in his honor. Some people make a paw print and frame it with a photo. However you choose to remember your companions, remember they always loved you and thank you for the difficult decision you had to make on their behalf.