Comforting animals at the end: a plea for them


snuggles shaking.jpg
Capturing Snuggles mid-shake, enjoying his walk in the cool mountain air

I would like to ask a favor of you, the reader.  As you read through this, if you feel like it’s touched you in some way, or you think that there is someone out there who can benefit from reading it, I would ask you to share it with them.  Thank you.

I came home from work yesterday and said to my roommate, “I need to go somewhere with Snuggles and feel the sun on my face.”  You see, right before I left work, some folks brought in their 14 year old dog to have her euthanized.  She was a total sweetheart, and I could tell that they loved her.  But when it came time to be with her at the end, they decided they couldn’t be there through the procedure with the doctor.

I brought treats into the visiting room for her, and she eagerly gobbled them up.  (Chicken and yogurt, in case you’re wondering.) When her parents left the room, she tried to scramble after them.  She thought she was leaving too.  But her arthritic legs wouldn’t let her move fast enough. It broke my heart.

I took her into the back to our treatment area, and offered her treats again.  She had no interest in them whatsoever.  She kept staring at the door toward where she had last seen her family.  Why weren’t they with her?  I could see the confusion in her eyes, and knew she was afraid.  I petted her all over her back and hair was just shedding off of her nonstop.  A coworker got her some water in case she was thirsty.  But no, her panting was stress panting.  I kept hugging her and kissing her head on the head.  It’s all I could do.

One of the nurses said it used to bother her when owners wouldn’t be there during the euthanasia procedure with their pets, but she’s gotten used to it.  Me, I NEVER want to get used to that.

I wished I could offer to take over her care and let her live just one day longer.  But I couldn’t, and maybe it was truly her time to cross over.


snuggles profile.jpgA few times, when we have not been busy out front at the desk, I’ve asked my coworkers to cover for me so that I can comfort an animal at the end.  I tried to do this for this pup, whispering to her, “it’s okay, it’s okay, shhh, shhh,” but the doctor was having problems with her veins, and finally the pup lost her patience and nipped at her.  So I had to leave as she was muzzled.  If she bit me, my doctor would get into trouble for it.  I’m a receptionist who loves animals, not a veterinary technician.

Imagine at the end of your life, you’re scared, you don’t know who any of these people are with you, but you see a white coat and it scares the crap out of you.  So you lash out and for that, you get a muzzle put on you.

I understand why they had to muzzle her.  I do.  The human part of me does, anyway.  But that inner child that has always felt like I sometimes understand animals better than I do humans — that part grieved for her.   I wanted to be with her, to tell her that she was loved, that she was going to be okay, and wouldn’t feel any more pain as she slowly fell into a very deep, never-ending sleep.

The vet that performed the procedure is amazing when it comes to her love of animals, and that is why she is my vet.  She’s been a vet for many, many years, and I’m sure it doesn’t get any easier.  I’m sure that’s part of why she tries so hard to heal them and keep them alive.

Here is my plea to animal parents out there.  I know it’s hard to say goodbye to your pet.  I know, believe me.  I’ve comforted so many of you in our visiting room as you make that difficult decision.  And each time, it touches another part of my heart.   To many of you, I know they are a member of your family.  Please think of how it would feel to you at the end of your life, to not have one familiar face around you.  You’re not sure why you’re being stuck with needles, and you’re confused.  No one can explain it to you in a language you understand.  Please rethink not being with them at the end.  Your pet has given so much love to you during their (comparatively) short stay here on this earth.  Think of this as your last gift that you can give to them, to be with them at the end.

And if you still cannot bring yourself to do it, then just know that there is at least one person who will love them and hug them and comfort them at the very end.  That person is me and the countless other “me’s” that just wear other faces. We will do the best we can for your baby, but just know it’s not the same as feeling the comforting hands and kisses and words from you, their parent.

Please know, I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty or sound like I am lecturing.  I am simply trying to give a voice to those who can’t speak in our language, but who definitely feel many of the same emotions as we do.

Please enjoy the pictures of my little Snuggles enjoying his “mommy and me” time as well as the beautiful flowers I saw the other day at the ABQ BioPark.   Take time out to savor the little things in life.

Thank you, as always, for reading.  And if you think there is someone out there who should read this, please do share it with them.  Thank you.





13 thoughts on “Comforting animals at the end: a plea for them

    • I am so sorry, I realized I didn’t respond to your comment, Judie! Thank you for always supporting me, and reading my posts. I appreciate it so much. And I’m glad that this post touched you. That was truly my hope – that it would touch many people.

  • I feel so sorry for her. I know my girl shakes like a leaf when we visit the vet and wants to be in my lap, even though most of the time she is not in any way a lap dog. I’ve been picturing how it will be when the time comes (hopefully at least a few years from now) and it’s hard. But I’ve been mentally preparing myself so that I can do this thing for her. She turns 11 in December so I know I don’t have forever. My husband says I’m already grieving her and I guess I am. But that’s OK.

  • This post really broke my heart. I have two pups and every day when I am taking a walk with them I am thankful for their love. I can’t bear the thoughts of their last days but I promise myself that I will hold them in my arms when their times come.

    • Thank you for caring for them and for loving them and giving them a good home. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for wanting to be with them at the end.

  • Beautiful and so very sad, Terri. I agree with you completely. My dog is like my third baby and I would never leave her at such a heartbreaking moment.

    • That is how I feel about my babies. They are my kids. For me, the last thing I want them to see is me, telling them how much I love them through my tears. Thank you, Joy.

  • Thank you so much for staying with our darlings when you can. It breaks my heart to think of them alone and scared at that time.
    I’ve had two dogs, so far, that I’ve had to have put to sleep, and both times the whole family was there. We wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was really so much easier for us, to know that they felt our love and comfort right up until the last moment. And the procedure was simple, easy, and painless for them, if not for us. I even managed to sing to our cocker spaniel the last time.
    Our current fur baby, Fiona, (cocker spaniel) is thirteen, and although she’s in good health we are very conscious of her age, and dreading what we know lies ahead at some point. But for now we are treasuring every moment with our sweetheart.

    • Barbara, you’re very welcome. I wish I could be with more of them at the end. Thank you for making sure your two felt so loved at the end. We have had large families come into our visiting room at work as well, and I love to see that. I know what you feel about Fiona. That’s how I was with my little Baby O. (She’s on my “The Herd” page, and just died this year at the age of 16.)

      By the way, I checked out your blog and your photos are amazing!

    • Me too. I do try to comfort the humans the best I can. I let them know that their pet will not be alone at the end. It’ll either be me or a nurse holding them at the end. I try to not judge. because everyone is different in the way they handle grief.

  • I had to say goodbye to my Tessie in May and thought my heart would break, and I was crying. But I was there and couldn’t imagine not being with this loving little part of my life at the point when hers ended. She knew I loved her and at least she was able to hear my voice and feel my touch as she slipped away. Your post makes me want to just go to a vet and hang out with pets who don’t have their family with them, and I’m glad this is something you do when you can. They deserve more than just being left behind after all they give us.

    Oh, BTW, I like the new site design 🙂

    • Thanks, Anne. I remember how hard that was for you to say goodbye to her. She was a huge part of your life for so long. I remember the big move you made with her down to Texas and how much you worried about her being comfortable on that long trip. And I think it’s super important that they feel your touch and hear you voice at the very end. They go to the rainbow bridge reminded again of how much they have been loved in their short time here on earth.

      If I could do it more often at work, I would, but I don’t think my coworkers would love it. (Some understand).

      Have you thought about volunteering at a local shelter and socializing with some of the animals? People like that are ALWAYS needed!

      Thank you so much – I love the new design too!

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