Dear Homeward Bound: How do I know when my old pet is suffering?

Dear Homeward Bound,

I don’t know if you can answer this but I am wondering when you know when the time has come to say good-bye to a pet. Our family dog, Linus, is 14 and he’s on a lot of medicine to treat different health issues he has. He seems happy but I’m worried that he’s hiding how he feels. I don’t want him to suffer.

Heartbroken

Dear Heartbroken,

Thank you for asking this important question. I am not sure there is a right answer and I think the best answer is different for everyone but here are some thoughts that may help you.

At this time in your relationship with Linus, I think it’s extra important to remember that animals do not see time the way we do; the present is what matters and the future is unimportant. If the present is filled with hurting, or going to the vet all the time, or taking medicine that makes them feel sick, then they are not having a good life.

I also think we have a responsibility not to wait too long. You don’t want to end up in an emergency situation where there is trauma and suffering. We are infinitely lucky in that we can give our beloved pets the gift of a peaceful passing and by paying attention to their eyes, I believe they will tell us when they have had enough.

It’s also important to remember that choosing the exact right time to say goodbye is not how you show your love for Linus. You showed him every time you went for a walk, or snuggled on the couch, or made sure he got a tidbit of treat, or played in the yard, or took him to the vet for preventative care, or tucked a blanket around him on a cold night, or just paused to give him a head scratch as you went about your day.

Good luck with this difficult decision. And please remember, in the words of Dr. Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”

Homeward Bound

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