Stop Euthanizing Pets.

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*Editor’s note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and can not possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.This website is not designed to, and should not be construed to, provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion or treatment to you or any other individual or animal, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment. For serious.

~

I didn’t want to write this.

I learned this information many years ago, from my spiritual teacher, Shanta. When she shared it, I immediately knew it to be true. It made so much sense in light of everything I’d been learning from her.

Ever since, I’ve been hoping to see this point of view enter the social conversation. Yet I’ve been waiting in vain. I felt had to speak up for the animals and for the humans who want to do what is best for them.

I am writing now because, while I adore watching televised veterinary shows, I flinch every time I see doctors I respect and admire euthanizing animals as if it were the only option. I’ve also noticed a recent trend online of sharing photos of a pet’s last day alive before a scheduled euthanizing. I am afraid that this trend, well-meaning as it is, is further solidifying a practice that should have been questioned a long time ago.

Pet euthanizing is a tender topic. Our pets offer us unconditional love that often goes far beyond the love we receive from our own kind. I get that connection. I’ve been devastated by the loss of a pet more than once. My beloved Rosebud passed away over two years ago and I still can hardly manage to speak about it.

It’s a nightmare to realize that maybe we’ve done something that was not in the highest good of our beloved pets. I’m sorry to have to share a point of view that might be upsetting to many.

Please understand that there is no blame here. I know that those who euthanize their pets wish to do right by them. They don’t want to see their pets suffer.

They are following an accepted practice, supported by veterinarians, family, friends—basically, everybody. I’ve never heard a single comment against the practice as it pertains to aged or ill animals. Not to euthanize is widely regarded as the crueler option.

There have been pets euthanized in my own immediate family. I am part of this, and not above it. Pet ownership is a personal topic and a mostly private experience. Things can get complicated. Every situation is a little different, and we all do the best that we can. So please hear me out.

The spiritual truth, as I learned it from my teacher, Shanta, is that, just like us humans, pets are here on earth to learn. Like us, they are here to go through the full gamut of the experiences of life.

Death is a part of life.

Just like being born, and all that other good stuff that’s part of being alive, dying is an important life experience. Illness is an important life experience.

When we abbreviate our pets’ natural experience of death and dying, they lose out on one of the lessons that they came here to learn. Just as they are coming to a completion, the last lesson is cut short.

This means that they must start all over again. They have to come back, and experience a full life all over again in order to achieve the experience of death and dying that they were meant to have.

Not wanting to see a pet suffer is a noble thought. And yet we must honestly ask ourselves if this is to protect us, or them? After all, most animals encounter death with the same calm, unflinching presence with which they face life. Their death, like their birthing, is mostly calm, accepting and, well, natural.

We sometimes mistakenly interpret the natural shutting down of the body’s systems as suffering. Our approach to human birth and death is fraught with fear and discomfort and loaded with medical interventions. Thankfully, our awareness is shifting to acknowledge other, more natural ways of birthing and dying, such as at-home births and end of life hospice care.

There is no one answer for every situation. Sometimes a C-section can be a life-saving procedure for a pregnant mother. At other times it may be more of a convenience or a commodity. The key is to have more information and options to help us make an informed choice. It is my hope that this growing awareness of our human options around life transitions can be extended to include our pets, to also allow them the experience of natural death in a loving setting.

Of course, it can be a tremendous amount of work to see a pet through the final stage of life. For those who may be unable to care for a dying pet, there is no shame or blame in that. Sometimes our human priorities simply don’t allow us to give a needy pet the care it requires. It would be humane to create hospices for pets, so that they, too, could die a peaceful, pain-free death.

This is a wonderful idea for someone who would like to create a groundbreaking career in pet care. We have doggie daycare, pet groomers, walkers and babysitters, why not pet hospice? Some kindhearted souls already deliberately choose aged pets from animal shelters to offer them a peaceful last chapter of life. A pet hospice would create another option.

We had three wonderful dogs in our family.

One Christmas eve day our dog Penguin’s worsening symptoms of old age reached its nadir. She was 19 years old, and experienced complete incontinence and inability to stand up. We happened to be over 1,000 miles away with no option to travel on Christmas eve day. With our consent, those caring for her took her to the vet, where she was euthanized. It was not the way I wished it would be, and I regret it in many ways.

Rosebud

My sweet Rosebud (pictured above) experienced a tragically sudden onset of renal failure. She passed away three days later. It was unbearably sad for me to let her go. Yet for her, it was quite calm. I brought her home from the vet. It was autumn and she planted herself in the yard, where she sat, her beautiful fur ruffling in the breeze, until she finally let go.

I still miss her. I am crying as I write this.

Barkie

Barkie (above) lived to the great old age of 21. When he could no longer manage the three steps from the side door to the backyard, we built him a shelf in the basement where he could come and go through a doggie door we put into one of the basement windows. His world became more and more circumscribed. He was blind and could barely hobble. Yet he was blessed to leave of his own volition, in his own time.

Our pets’ lives are gifts of the heart. Their deaths, too, have so much to teach us.

Be open to receive their final gifts. Your life will be so much richer for it.

Rosebud died as she lived, a gentle, wild and free spirit. I am so grateful I gave her the chance to live out her final days in the garden, head lifted to the breeze, smelling the world on the wind.

We never thought Barkie would live so long; his leave-taking extended over a period of years. We continued to make adjustments to accommodate his changing needs, a lesson in compassion that I will always be grateful for. A psychic once told me that Barkie was afraid to die, having earlier witnessed another dog die a violent death. His behavior seemed to back that up, and I am so glad that we didn’t “push him out the door” before he was ready to go.

I know that many sensitive souls reading this will be glad of the validation of what they may already feel. This information changes the way we see our pets. When end of life care is an important part of living with our pets, we may even need to rethink the type of animal we invite into our lives.

Rosebud and Barkie’s natural deaths were not easy, yet they gave me peace of mind and heart. I shed tears of joy and gratitude to be able to give voice to our pets’ need to experience the fullness of death and dying. Our pets are in our care, dependent upon us for life and death. Allowing them the full arc of their earthly experience is a gift we can give both to them, and to ourselves as well.

 

Author: Reba Linker

Images: Melissa Wiese/Flickr & Courtesy of Author

Editor: Catherine Monkman

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Reba Linker

Reba Linker is a bestselling author, talk show host, and the “Coach in Your Corner” to help you “Paint Yourself Into the Picture” of your best, boldest and most beautiful life. If you have a passion to do more, express more, and experience more joy and abundance, then let’s chat and see how I can help you step into a new picture of your future. Visit her website, where you can connect and explore books, courses and coaching. Find her on Facebook. Join the healing conversations on her Youtube show, Paint Yourself Into the Picture.

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billromney Dec 10, 2018 8:35pm

Sorry don’t agree. Death is natural and inevitable in the circle of life. But our beloved pets have a strong and unbreakable bond with their owners, so much that they will hang on in unbearable pain, unlike animals in the wild who will let go with grace and ease toward the end. Caring for our pets when they are suffering must be balanced with compassion and insight, that they need not have a painful death. They have been totally dependent their entire life. Always, always put the well-being of them first.

Ingrid Clark Zavadoski Nov 3, 2018 3:44am

So well said. Thank you.

Gary Gavito Aug 17, 2018 3:59am

I find you so offensive that I'm beside myself... Your "article" basically bullshit esoterica" has no real understanding of the care of a beloved and aging pet/companion... We as caretakers prolong our companions lives.... Sometimes we have to make the decision to end the suffering... You are a piece of excrement... And I totally reject your article as the work of a bufoon

Mary Hudgins Aug 16, 2018 3:17pm

I find this article skewed toward the author's belief system. it speaks nothing of the realities of emergency situations or the fact that hospice care includes pain killers which are also not a natural part of the dying process. It is as offensive to label eurhanasia "pushing them out the door" as it was for the Christians to cut the Native American childrens' hair, force them to speak english and practice Christianity, which was also a "spiritual" intention.

Marie Tracy Aug 16, 2018 2:46pm

What a totally insensitive article. The decision to euthanize is never made easily. What do you suggest, that animals are left in pain, with no quality of life?

Kristin Nicole Jun 19, 2018 4:51pm

Such a beautiful article. Thank you so much for sharing.

Inah Green Mar 3, 2018 11:21pm

My twin China blue pit bulls passed at 13 and 14. Isis passed of natural causes as I was going to feed he. Her body was still warm and she had 6 ants on her nose. Moses has wobblers syndrome and dragged his self around the yard for a day before he couldn’t move his legs at all. The family took turns sitting up with him,spoon feeding him over the weekend. We saw the puppy we’d chosen to keep out of a second liter,we fell in love all over again as we said good bye.They were like losing family members, I miss them both so much. They were the quietest calm spirited dogs I’ve ever owned. They only made noise if they had too, our neighbors credited the pair with their homes safety for 7 years. The 1st week my dogs were gone our neighbors, us and 2 other neighbors were robbed😒I wish we all could freeze our dogs eggs and sperm so we could always reproduce the same dogs.They’d have different personalities but same DNA for good watch dog qualities.Lassie and Rin Tin Tin’s lines proved it works❤️

Kirkland Reitz Mar 3, 2018 6:02pm

This is idiotic.

Karine Bilodeau Mar 3, 2018 2:19am

I have a question though...if the pets are meant to learn the experience of death, how is euthanizing the animal taking away their experience away? They do die one way or another no? What is the reasonning behind this idea? (My tone of voice in a genuine question, with as little judgement as possible)...

Emily Talkington Feb 28, 2018 1:02am

I understand where you are coming from, however animals do experience pain and discomfort. If one decides against humane euthanasia, I believe palliative care is at least offered so they can live as pain and discomfort free as possible.

Debbi Sutton- Peters Feb 28, 2018 12:24am

When I had to let my Mr. Tumbles pass Peacefully I told the vet I wanted a two for one. For we are kinder to our animals than we are to our people. I think it all depends on the circumstance

Jennifer Daugherty Jan 23, 2018 2:48pm

"(is) this is to protect us, or them?" Them. Always them. There's nothing that can ease my pain when a beloved pet passes, but I will do everything in my power to ease theirs.

Jolie S. Devereux Jan 22, 2018 9:40pm

I had a kitty with lifelong chronic kidney disease. One day in early September 2016, she simply stopped eating and drinking. I'd have given anything if she had moved on in her sleep before she developed throat ulcers, causing blood to crust around her mouth. I was trying to keep her as comfortable as possible while desperately begging money from friends and strangers via GoFundMe so I could take her to the hospital when three days later she suddenly began to scream and convulse. Are you honestly saying I "deprived" her of her "full life's experience" when I immediately rang the at-home euthanasia vet and had her put down? I'm still dealing with feelings of guilt that I didn't let her go sooner, and you're advocating that I should have let her scream and convulse for possibly several more days until she finally passed?! We do not know that our animal companions have the same capacity for "appreciation of going full circle naturally" that some humans do. I wouldn't submit another pet, let alone a human family member, to what I saw happen with my Jezebella. I will be eternally grateful that Colorado passed its "assisted suicide" law, in the event I ever find my mother in a similar situation. Telling people to let their pets live until they literally drop dead is irresponsible and sick. If you aren't embarrassed that you published this article, I'll be embarrassed for you. You should feel deep and irreversible shame. Words cannot describe how horrified I am that you are even suggesting this, let alone endorsing it. You make me want to vomit. ~ jolie devereux

Annie Cheung Jan 18, 2018 11:52am

don't want them to suffer, that's what I think and do, however after reading this , I need to thnkd about it!, Thanks for posting it! By the way, would very much like to know what your spiritual teacher, Shanta think about neutering a dog!

Laurie Graff Dec 6, 2017 2:09am

How amazing. Thanks so much for this beautiful piece. We do all love our pets.

Chris Panas Nov 9, 2017 5:17pm

And often pets are in horrible pain from illnesses and diseases and accidents! The majority of pet deaths is not "peaceful". Dying from bone cancer is not peaceful. Ask me I watched my dog till he was in so much pain that no pain meds worked. I euthanized him for HIS sake not mine. Or animals that have been hit by cars or have had other taumatic irreverisble damage done. It's not humane to let them die horribly. Thank GOD people now have the option of euthanisia. It's what we have been able to give to animals for years and I will support giving. Watching someone die by starving during a period of 2 weeks or more is not humane. Neither is watching an old pet die of starvation. Because that's what happens naturally when they are in pain or cannot eat and they die slowly when organs etc shut down.

Tarminder Manchanda Oct 22, 2017 7:49am

Hi. I'm an animal communicator. In my experiences, they have no fear of dying. They hang on so that you are ready to accept and let them go. Death means nothing to them. I've connected with many who, according to their human parents, were ready to go. Most of the time they said "I will go when I'm ready to. Do not ask me when"! Most ask for the things they enjoy eating - chocolate, ice cream etc. They do worry about their parent accepting. The ones that have crossed over are so busy playing that they want you to finish asking questions the parents have put for them. They cannot explain where they are, though I do see clouds and grass and even mountains at times. They have no concept of age, rebirth. They do give a message of love or advice. I work with Crystals and have been gifted crystals by them. I wholeheartedly agree with not euthanizing. Let them make their choice.

April Murphy Oct 11, 2017 1:16pm

I rarely comment on anything like this, but this article is sickening. You can claim not to be judging people all you want, but when you say in one breath that you're not judging, but in the next that they've somehow damaged their pet's spiritual journey you are making them judge themselves and find themselves guilty. None of us want to think that we've somehow damaged any part of our pet. But the truth is that we start playing God the moment we start treating for any medical condition. And if we start, then we have to see it to its conclusion - and sometimes that means providing a peaceful ending when we've already extended their lives with medicine. A little over a year ago, I had to say goodbye to one of my two soul cats (twins). Believe me, if there had been ANYTHING that would have given her longer with a good quality of life, even if it had taken 24/7/365 nursing I would have done it and done it gladly. But there wasn't. She went into anemia-induced sudden heart failure (from underlying CKD). She was fine one afternoon, by midnight she started to show signs of being uncomfortable. I gave her her sedating painkillers knowing that they might suppress her breathing far enough that she wouldn't survive the night, but by the following morning she was still with me but it was clear she was deteriorating fast. I had a mobile vet come out to her that afternoon to help her cross - by which time she was clearly in distress. Yet, being a CKD cat, she could have hung on for weeks in that level of discomfort and distress and the end would not have been peaceful...unless you think that watching a pet gasp for air means that they're feeling good about things. And you think an innocent soul deserves to have to wait that long in discomfort because we can't do the decent thing by them? If any controlling spiritual being that anyone worships demands that, then I want nothing to do with that being. A loving and kind presence or god would not expect (much less demand) the innocent to suffer to meet some unreasonable whim.

Annie Bazinet Hta Sep 26, 2017 11:41am

I lost my dear Angel this summer, she had a very aggressive cancer in her tongue. We couldnt remove it ( a cat without tongue really) and she had heart and thyroid issues so biopsy was out of question and treatment unresponsive anyway. Her health degraded fast, a month after diagnosis, constant care and medication, she wasnt able to sleep from pain, and was mimicking trying to remove her tongue. She spent a long wonderful day outside with us in the garden and in the evening seemed to tell us it was time. The next morning we took her to the vet and for nothing would have left her, she was so relieved with the relaxant that she fell asleep in our arms. I wish we didn’t have to, but i cant regret it. Even though what you say is interesting i cant regret it :(

Cristina DvMgeston Sep 26, 2017 4:28am

I so strongly disagree with the assumption that they do not suffer and do experience a "peaceful" passing. This is physiologically so unlikely (except if few and rare cases) and it drives me crazy that people hold onto this notion with nothi g to support it. Did you necropsy? Did you find out that there wasn't cancer raging through their organs? Did your pet communicate that they were not struggling to breathe, or confused, or in pain, or My dog also passed naturally and without apparent suffering....didn't "tell" us it was his "time". He just curled up and died. Sounds "peaceful", doesn't it? Well, it's a completely false assumption because he died of a raging septic peritonitis from a perforated stomach ulcer. Tell me he didn't suffer in excruciating pain. I'm a vet. I know what to look for, he just didn't express it. The fact is that most people are ignorant of their pets suffering so far as it appeases their conscience to keep their pets around for what are ultimately selfish reasons. I see it almost daily. They tell themselves the pet isn't suffering, that it's "not that bad" because they want to keep the pet around, or simply not feel guilty about the fact that they didn't seek treatment for that horrendous ear infection or rotting teeth, or the vomiting that's been going on for weeks, or the 20 lb weight loss they ignored. No, euthanasia is not the only option...and I often tell people exactly that. But, it is an acceptable option if the animal will suffer as a result of not being treated or if treatment is impossible.

Shelley Sishton Sep 25, 2017 11:10am

Thank you for writing this, and sharing this. We shared the dying journey of our border collie, Basil, in summer 2016. He was aged 17 and we knew on a soul level he wanted to die naturally. His last few days with us at home and in his beloved garden were sacred, peaceful, and full of love. We feel blessed to have shared his dying moment with him. And we learnt so much from him through observing the stages he was going through, listening to his needs. We are blessed to have been able to have the space in our lives to share this with Basil. Thank you again for what you have written, it is inspiring.

Linda Weiland Sep 24, 2017 6:54pm

Unfortunately, unlike for humans, we can't provide proper palliative care for our animals at home so they can experience "death and dying". A natural death of a pet is often extremely traumatizing for everyone concerned, especially for the animal. Article says that they don't learn the "lessons" of dying, the animal has to start all over again in order to "achieve the experience of death and dying that they were meant to have". That's ridiculous. I've had to euthanize several animals during my lifetime, and trust me, it was the right thing to do. My German Shepherd had Lymphoma, when the nodules in her intestines became affected, she had uncontrollable diarrhea. She was a very regal dog and she was mortified. I knew on a Monday morning when I saw that the light was gone from her eyes, it was time. Callie was a 14 year old Border Collie. At the end, she could not stand without help. I had to carry her out in the snow and sleet (she was 60#) so she could relieve herself. My only regret in this case is that I didn't do it sooner. The last few days of her life she was gravely ill, it was horrible. Radar was an 18 year old cat who LOVED food of every kind. When he refused to eat anything at all I had him euthanized. The alternative: Let him starve to death. NO WAY.

Susan Van Cott Sep 24, 2017 2:23pm

This article is a load of utter rubbish. Neither pets nor people should have to suffer in agony to their death. The assertion that their (or our) journey is not legitimate if suffering is cut short by the means we have available to us is the height of arrogance. How do you know? None of us know what the journey to death is like, and there is only one time that we will. Forcing a human or a beloved pet to suffer needlessly is the selfish act. Not the decision to help them along the way.

Yam Karen Sep 24, 2017 1:48pm

I strongly believe in letting pets go the way they wanted! Although it's been many years, I still remembered 1 of my pet yorkie Sam so frail so sick at the vet, yet when we asked him do you wanna go home or we let you go here at the vet? I asked him if you wanna go home let me know ok & almost immediately he raised his hand!! Its unbelievable & thankfully we brought him home & after a peaceful night with us in his heated tub he passed away in the next beautiful morning... He was our oldest bravest doggy, still missed Sam so much!!! And thereafter we believed dogs still wanna stay with us at home until their last breath naturally!

Susan Mansour-Hammond Sep 23, 2017 11:51pm

Stupid bitch. Why should animals suffer? Humans suffer because of made up religions. Your spiritualism is crap, live in the real world. If you love something it should not suffer because of your craziness.

Michaela Sieben Downing Sep 23, 2017 6:52pm

My baby girl had the same thing along with pancreatitis (dog sitter for 2 weeks fed her everything under the sun from mcdonalds to chicken alfredo to lasagna) when we got home is when she stopped eating and went crazy downhill fast 130pnds to 80pnds. She couldnt help herself besides wading in our pool to cool her tummy. She had no blood left and her life was completly depleted. We fought with medicine, blood transfusions etc (i would definitly do this differently now as it happened all so fast and you just dont know what to do......7000$ later) I had to say goodbye. In fact I think she probably would have left us sooner if I just stood by. So hard to know the what the right thing to do is but I can tell you, we had someone come to our house to euthanize her. It was calm, beautiful and relieving. When she passed I could feel her in the room and I knew that I did the right thing. I kept feeling her say thank you. Miss you baby girl, Kooza-3 yrs old.