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If you have a dog or have ever had a dog you’ve probably been faced with having to decide when the right time was or is to put your dog to sleep.
It’s the hardest part for sure of having a dog, or any pet for that matter.
I recently lost my sweet 13-year-old Shih Tzu, Macie, (in the photos) after a 2 year battle with diabetes and Cushings which caused her to go blind and deaf. On top of that, she lost a lot of hair, was covered in skin tags, and all four paws pretty much pointed in different directions.
As I watched Macie fight her conditions every single day I often found myself wondering why most dogs don’t just die when they are ready. Why is it we always have to make the decision to end their life?
As I pondered these thoughts, knowing the day would come when I would have to make that decision about Macie, I sometimes hoped it would just happen when it was time and I wouldn’t have to decide her final fate.
I’ve only had to put one of my own dogs down but growing up did experience that decision-making process my parents tormented over for a handful of dogs (at least 5). We’ve never had a dog that has died on its own and honestly I haven’t heard of too many people who have.
Macie was such a fighter, many days I forget how ill she really was. She just muddled along and got around surprisingly well considering all of her disabilities. I work from home so was able to be home with her often. She mostly just followed me around and like to settle in my office while I worked.
(In both photos she was well into her diseases and already blind but you can see in the second photo she was also still very much functioning and not ready to go)
In the middle of August, I left for Baton Rouge to drop our youngest daughter off at LSU to start her college life. Macie was left alone with my other daughter coming by twice a day to spend a little time with her and feed her and give her all of her medicine. This wasn’t new to Macie so I didn’t think much of it.
I was back for 4 days and had to leave again to meet up with a little girl who I love dearly who was moving all the way across the country. It was my second goodbye for the month that I wasn’t looking forward to. I was going to be gone about 5 days.
The second day I was in Arizona my husband called to tell me Macie was lying by the foot of the stairs and wasn’t moving. I got hysterical and told him to try to pick her up. He said, she still didn’t move. I told him to take her immediately to the vet.
I called my vet hysterical still to let them know Peter was on his way with Macie. I hoped maybe she was still alive and perhaps was just passed out. In my heart, though, I knew that probably wasn’t the case. I could hardly talk when I was trying to explain the situation.
About 30 minutes later I got a call from my vet, who is also a friend of mine, and she gently let me know that Macie had passed. I struggled to catch my breath and tried to ask her if she could tell if she went slow or fast. I couldn’t bear the thought of her suffering all alone.
My vet told me she thought Macie had a stroke or a heart attack and most likely went quickly. Still, I couldn’t shake the guilt or sadness that she was alone. All the time I spent at home and she had to die all alone.
For the next few days I couldn’t stop wondering if she suffered, how long it took, was she afraid, did she know what was happening along with other thoughts that would keep me in a state of sadness.
I don’t know that I will ever not wonder those things or that I will ever fully forgive myself for letting her be alone to die.
I obviously couldn’t be with her 24/7 for over 2 years. That’s not reality but that doesn’t make this any easier for me.
So, this was the first time I’ve had a dog die on its own and now I know what that feels like. For me, now having experienced this, I can honestly say that I would rather be faced with the decision of putting my dog down and being able to be there when it happens to hold them and to tell them they are going to a better place. I would want to be there to let them know they are not alone and they don’t have to be afraid.
I know it’s easy to think, “why can’t I just come home and they’re gone and I don’t have to make the decision to put them to sleep”. Anyone with a sick or aging dog has probably thought this even if just a fleeting thought.
Everyone is different, but I hope to never have another dog die on its own, ever again.
If you are wondering why I wrote this post, perhaps it was just a little therapeutic for me, even though it was hard to write. Or perhaps I wanted to give others a real-life perspective of what it’s like to have your dog die on its own. Or maybe, both.
To Macie…I am sorry I wasn’t there for you in your final moments. I loved you and I still love you and I will always love you. I pray that you are in a better place, free of pain and able to see and hear again. I pray that you crossed the Rainbow Bridge and are running with all of your dog friends. I hope I see you again and that you can forgive me. I love you, Macie.