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Grief And Guilt Of Euthanasia

Susan Shropshire

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On July 29th I had to have my 14 1/2 year old Siberian Husky Zack euthanize. He began to show signs of arthritis about 2 years ago and it progressively got worse. Our backyard is very sloped and it was very difficult and at times impossible for him to walk up and down. We have three other dogs that were in the back yard with him so we were trying to keep him with them if possible. At the first of June we had to move him up to our garage. We made it as comfortable as possible putting three fans in with him and keeping the garage door open and putting a long ladder at the door so he could not wander off. I would go out and walk him at least every other hour to let him go to the bathroom and get out of the garage.

He progressively got worse and over the last two weeks could only walk up to the top of the driveway without having to sit down. He didn't want to put any weight on his back hip and would walk very slow and limp. He also started to "poop" during his sleep and at times in the morning we could go out and he would have gotten it all over his back end. He then got to where he could hardly stand up on his on and most of the time we had to help pull him up or my husband would have to lift him to his feet.

On Tuesday night, early Wed morning he hardly slept. He had gotten where he wanted to sleep during the day and stay awake at night. My husband sat with him for about 2 hours until he went to sleep and then I went out around 3:30 am and stayed with him until around 5:00 a.m.

We had been giving Zack 20mg predisone (sp) for a month and then the vet reduced it to 10mg. Even with the 20mg it didn't seem to help. We were also giving him glucosemine (sp) for quite some time.

We made the hard decision to have him euthanized on Wednesday afternoon and I have been distraught ever since. After having such a long night he had slept much of Wednesday morning. We tried to get him to wake up to see how he was walking. My husband picked him up and he didn't want to put any weight on his back leg. We made the decision to go ahead and take him since my husband was off that day.

I have been distraught with guilt that I didn't spend more time with him that day and that we didn't find some other way to keep him with us longer. I could have sat with him more, put him in the screened in porch and sat with him during the day so he wasn't alone so much toward the end. But then I think, they may have made it even harder. I think the fact that so much of my time was spent taking care of him the last two month since I am the one at home has made me develop a habit and now I feel lost during the day since I don't have him to check on.

I can't even do normal daily task for the grief and guilt that I feel. I don't want to eat and when I sleep I dream about him. Can someone please help me to get through this? Will the pain ease with time? Did we do the right thing by having him euthanised?

I know some people say "It's just a dog" but I feel that he was my responsibility and I let him down.... I wish I could take it back and spend a little more time with him. I feel like maybe we made the decision too fast and I should have made my peace with him first.

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Susan..there is nothing I can say to ease the pain. After reading your post, I think Zack is happy that his suffering has ended. It did not sound like you made a hasty decision at all and that you spent plenty of time with him. I think 14 1/2 years is close to 100 years old in people age, so what a wonderful long life he did have. He must have felt very loved to live that long.

I lost my beloved bird, Raki, on June 13th & the pain is still so vivid. I was his caregiver & even slept on the floor by his cage for over 70 nights in case he needed me. Every morning we had breakfast together before I went to work & I'd give him his pain medication. That daily emptiness is something that I still struggle with. Now every morning, I skip breakfast & just leave for work. I haven't been able to eat at home yet.

In my case, I wouldn't say the pain gets better, but it's get normal. You learn to live with it. It has been less than 2 months, so I can't say any more than that. I still have not even touched his cage. His half eaten food is still there & his toys. I think when I'm ready to move it, I'll know.

Please keep in touch & share how you are feeling at the moment, or stories about Zack. And take your time to grieve.

That's what is great about this site. No one here would say "he's just a dog."

I'll say a prayer for you tonight before I go to sleep.

Raki's mom

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And Susan, if you haven't found it already, please pay a visit to my Grief Healing Web site, at www.griefhealing.com. See especially the page entitled Pet Loss Articles, and follow some of the links you'll find there. I think if you can do some reading about what is normal in grief, especially as it relates to the loss of a cherished animal companion, you will find that you are not "crazy" for reacting as you are to the awful decision you made last Wednesday, and you are certainly not alone in the grief you are experiencing now.

We are so very sorry for your loss, and you have our deepest sympathy. As Raki's mom said, you will find yourself among kindred spirits here. Many of us have been where you are, and I hope you can feel our collective arms around you.

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I hope that a few days has, at a minimum, allowed you to feel like you might be able to survive Zack's death. I had that experience when my dog Ebony had to be euthanized on July 3. For the first three days, i cried a lot--a real lot. I felt like i wasn't going to be able to live without her. Gradually things got a little better. The crying subsided though even now i tear up sometimes when something reminds me of her.

Your struggle with the guilt of having to make "the decision" for Zack reminds me of the incredible guilt i felt about the decision we had to make regarding Ebby. The situation was different. (If you're interested, i wrote about it in "Goodbye to Ebony.") We had no idea on July 2 that we were not going to have Ebby for another day. Ebony attacked me in the middle of the night. It was horrible. The vet said she probably had a brain tumor. But did she? Was she in severe pain from her broken leg? Did we have her put to sleep when really there wasn't anything that serious wrong? Was it my fault? I struggled (and still do sometimes) with those thoughts and feelings over and over and over. I doubt that i will ever totally resolve them.

We ended up adopting another dog a couple of weeks ago. That helped me a lot. Sometimes it feels like i'm betraying the Ebster by letting Depot play with some (not her special ones) of her toys, use the same bowls and leash, sleep in Ebony's room. But he needs to be loved and given attention now and i am most frequently at home with him. I have to do it. I can't let him suffer. I still miss Ebony terribly buy the pain isn't as great. My husband and the kids and i talk about her sometimes. Certain things make us think of her more. We laugh about the differences between her and Depot. It has been a good step for us.

Has it been helpful for you to have your other dogs? I'm sure it is different--kind of like a table with only three legs. But does their love and dependence on you help or does it make it harder? I hope it has helped. I hope things are better for you. I hope that something i've said has been helpful or encouraging. Hang in there. Keep writing if you want. It helped me a lot, especially in the first couple of weeks. We all pretty much understand here from what i've seen. There are people here who care and sometimes that's all we need.

Ebsmom (and now Depotsmom, too)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you for your post and you are right. Time has made it a little easier. Once my grief was not as raw I started to think about how miserable he must have been and all the wonderful days he had in the yard with the other dogs and that he had become a prisoner in the garage. I felt regret for not spending more time with him but I then though about what could I have really done differently. He couldn't walk and at times I walked him a little longer than he needed and he would have to sit and rest to make it back. I thought about taking him out onto the screened in porch but then I thought, it is so close to the other dogs he would have been able to hear them and it would have made him want to be with them. I think in the beginning our grief is so strong and we can't see as clearly.

I do spend more time with the other dogs now. We walk them (yes all 3) most every afternoon now and I have learned to not take them for granted. We never know when we might lose someone (furry or not) and we should learn to treasure every minute we have and not wait to regret it when they are gone.

I have attached a photo of my baby Zack.



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I went through the same emotions and thoughts when I had to make the same difficult decision concerning my baby girl Peppers. She had been with me since I brought her home from the pet shop at 2 months old. When I took her to the vet she hadn't been feeling well and I thought it was due to her age. She was about 12 years old. Instead I got news that I was not prepared for-lung cancer. The vet advised me that she was not in any pain and would not be all the way to the end. I was told she had about 3 to 4 weeks left. When the day came that I had to make that decision to euthanize her I still was not ready to make it but I did. She wasn't eating anymore and she had difficulty in breathing. I cried for the next two weeks and it felt like my heart had been shattered in a million pieces. It has been about five years now since that day. Time does heal the pain even through I still miss her terribly. The only thing that got me through it was my friends who understand because they were pet lovers also. Peppers is resting in peace at a nearby pet cemetry and I visit her quite reguarly. The other thing that helps me is the poem "Rainbow Bridge" I really beleive she is waiting for me on the other side of the bridge. I hope my words will help you while you are working through your grief. Also remember you performed the greatest act of love that any pet owner can do for their beloved pet.

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