It was the day my daughter told me “It’s time to have “the talk” with yourself!”, after overhearing me helping a dear friend, who’s sweet old dog was ridden with cancer, make this most difficult decision. Don’t you hate when your nearly teenage daughter is right? ” You’re really good at telling OTHER people what to do”, she proceeded to say (just so she could add some of that “sass”). I have helped countless of friends and clients come to terms with losing the battle for a dear friend and let them go peacefully. And here I was, unable to come to the conclusion myself. My best friend was old, fragile and has had a great life and I didn’t want him to suffer, I owed him that, my mind kept telling my heart. Yet my heart wasn’t ready. “Who’s to say what he really wants?” my heart would ask. His eyes were bright, but his body was no longer wanting to support him.

He was the most dignified dog you have ever met, actually, he hated to be referred to as a “mere dog”, considered himself quite the royalty. He came from a really sad background and spent most of his early life, outside on a chain, therefore, he considered me his true savior and followed me every step of my day. His devotion to me was unreal. He would sit outside the bathroom door, just so he wouldn’t accidentally lose track of me. Of course, with this dedication came the price of pretty severe separation anxiety, which we treated by never being apart.

When you truly love someone, love has to be selfless. You have to be able to let them go. We, as veterinarians, are here to help you let your dearest friend go in dignity. Death is never easy, controlled death is the easiest way to be certain no one is suffering. So, this should be something easy for me, I “know” it’s the right thing to do, so why am I making it so much harder than it ought to be. “Listen heart: you have to let go!” said the mind, but the heart is as defiant as that almost teenage daughter of mine, struggling to accept the reality and the pain of losing the one you love. Searching for that sparkle in his eyes, finding other foods he might eat, holding the breath as he takes the few weak steps, he is able to do. Letting them die on their own, is often just a coward way of avoiding making this tough decision, yet I catch myself secretly hoping. “You can’t be scared” said the mind “you owe him that”, “but is he ready”? answered the heart.

At the end of this excruciating journey, when the mind rightfully wins this battle, the heart will forever be broken.

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