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Posts: 43
It is just about a month since I put my dog down. I have not had a sheltered life, but this is one of the hardest things I have gone through. I adopted K as a twelve week old pup, and he was my constant companion for more than fourteen years. Countless dog adventures and hikes, chasing each other around the dining room table, belly rubs. It has helped a lot to read this board, and other articles and posts online, and realize that everything I have gone through is just what people go through when they really love their companion. "Pet" doesn't seem to really capture who he was to me. He was the principal source of my joy. A beautiful fall day was exciting because I could share it with him. He was the reason I wanted to go home from work.

I knew I would feel guilt and loss when K died, however K died. Everyone ends up feeling guilty because of our position of responsibility with respect to our animals. I was keenly aware that every bite of food, every moment of play, every bit of affection, every bit of medical care in K's life would come from me or it would not come. I loved him so much that I wanted him to have a perfect life, which in turn meant that I needed to be perfect -- which I could not be.

It has been a month, and the rawest of the grief has subsided. It was horrible. I was devastated. Now I am just sad and empty and I miss him. All of the pleasures and habits of my life were intertwined with him. And then there was the agony of self-questioning about whether I had done the right thing in putting him down.

Still, there are three things that have surprised me about this experience:

1. Even knowing that putting him down was the right thing given his age and suffering, it feels horrifying to have killed someone I loved so much and protected so fiercely [I cannot call him "something"]. It is an unnatural position to be put in.

2. There was a second agony that began almost immediately afterwards, which is the forgetting. That I can now step over the place on the floor where he breathed his last breath and not think about him. That the crisp images of him are fading. It felt like a betrayal and an even more profound loss. I was very surprised that others had also talked about the forgetting, both in the context of pet loss and human loss. It seems to be a thing that happens.

3. I had a number of physical reactions which I am still not over, including chest pain and an infection. Apparently that level of stress hormones can really do a job on your body. Someone said it was like recovering from surgery, and that's about right.


Posts: 60
I'm sorry for your loss.  I think you write very eloquently and accurately about the experience of a pet dying by euthanasia.  I have been "mom" to five dogs as an adult, and three of the four now deceased died with euthanasia.  The deaths were very sad but the death of the dog who died "naturally" was worse, much worse, both for her and for me.  I also had physical reactions after the deaths of three of the dogs.  I'm not sure my ailments were related to the dogs' deaths but it seems like more than coincidence to me. Twice, a tooth died soon the dog did, and I had to have a root canal procedure.  With the most recent dog death, I had a dumb (on my part) accident, and I think I did the dumb thing because I was still emotionally vulnerable.  

Posts: 13
I agree with everything you posted ItWillTakeTime. My dad kept telling me that it was time to put my 13 year old baby girl (dog) to sleep because she was so sick but I just was having such a hard time getting there. My dad watched 3 of our family dogs suffer as they died naturally and he kept telling me he didn’t want my dog to suffer like that. “You did the right thing” he keeps saying, but still I feel like I was the one who took her life away and that just feels so absolutely awful.

I also agree with the forgetting part you mentioned. Today marks two weeks since she was given the shot in our home, on our bed while I held her. I too am kinda feeling a tiny tiny bit of the grieving transforming. The first week I was balling my eyes out constantly and today I am still grieving but it’s just not as intensely as last week - and I feel really really guilty about that. I actually laughed and spoke a little at work today - and I felt guilty about that. I know I deserve to heal and I know I deserve to be happy but why do I feel like I’m not being loyal to my baby girl if I laugh or smile? I just don’t know the answer to this question.

Posts: 12
It’s been 5 weeks since I put my dog Vanilla to sleep, and I agree with you completely - the “starting to forget” part fills me with guilt. I think about her all the time, yet certain small details, like the feeling of stroking her head, the actual tactile feeling, is not as sharp in my memory anymore, and I hate myself for it, because she was with me for 11.5 years, how can I forget the details so fast?!?! God I’m bawling as I’m typing this.
I’m also having physical symptoms - I’m losing hair by the handful, I can’t fall asleep at night (which is why I’m writing this at 2:40am), but I also have days when I sleep for 12+ hours with no desire to get up and do anything. I have periodic check pain, and my face is breaking out horribly.

Posts: 43
As soon as the hospice vet drove off with his body, still warm, I had to go clean up his things. Throw out his uneaten breakfast from the morning. Wash his dog bed covers and put aside the things that the new pet rescue might want. Throw away all but his two favorite toys. The next morning I loaded the car and took a giant load to the pet rescue: his dog beds, snow booties we never used, bags of treats and dog food still unopened. By the end of the next day, my house looked as if K had never been there, never existed. As if I had been transported to a parallel universe in which K was only a figment of my imagination, a universe I never wanted to visit, and in which I was now stuck. And the truth is, my head is the only real trace of K's life. So to start feeling the memories fade at the edges, and so quickly, felt as if K was being completely erased, even the fact that he had ever existed completely erased. To know that fifteen years from now, if I should live so long, I will remember that I once had a dog named K, but be fuzzy on the details and perhaps no longer feel the overwhelming love I have for him, only remember that I once had it . . . it's like losing myself or losing my mind, losing even the memory of the best thing that ever happened to me.

I put together a photo montage of his life. For the first weeks, I watched it multiple times a day and cried, trying to sear the images into my memory. I don't watch it every day now. I cry every time I watch it, and then ask myself why I am doing that to myself.
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