Under the best of circumstances, those of us who share life with an animal companion are fortunate enough to spend many joyous and fulfilling years together. Unfortunately, life is arbitrary and loss is inevitable, and we know that our pets generally lead far shorter lives than do we. Some of them die at a young age; other die in middle age or their senior years. Some die of illness or disease, accident or injury - while others die of congenital defects or of old age. As we observe their suffering and physical and/or mental deterioration, it becomes increasingly obvious that they may require our help, as their guardians and caregivers to provide them with compassion and selfless love to help them through their challenging journey and to achieve an outcome that is of greatest benefit for them.
So many pet owners are invariably faced with the decision regarding if and when to have their beloved animal companions euthanized. Yet people seem to know very little about the process and what it entails. For those unfamiliar with the term, "euthanasia" is the Greek term meaning "good death" inferring the least painful and humane means of dying and putting an end to the animal's suffering. Many people think that they are rendering a service to their suffering animals by letting them go "naturally" on their own. It is far kinder and more generous to help an animal who no longer has any quality of life to allow her to be euthanized - surrounded and comforted by loved ones and, if possible at peace in her home environment or special spot. The prospect and advisability of euthanasia should be thought about carefully and discussed with knowledgeable animal health care professionals including your own veterinarian who knows your animal's history and personality.
When is it appropriate to have a beloved animal companion euthanized? There are many criteria, which can help you to make this decision. Does your pet still have quality of life or is most of her time spent suffering, in discomfort and in pain? Is she still playing and interacting with you and other family members? Or is she isolated and withdrawn and detached from family and friends? Does she show signs of being in pain? Is she mobile, incontinent and unable to perform even the simple tasks she did readily and happily in the past? Does she sleep the vast majority of the time? Is she eating and drinking on a regular basis? Is she urinating and defecating regularly? Has she been diagnosed with a terminal illness for which there is no cure or treatment? Usually, your pet (with whom you have forged a beautiful and irrevocable bond of love and trust) will somehow let you know when she is ready to go...Our animal companions know us better, perhaps, than anyone else...
When the lives of our dear friends are dramatically diminished and no longer bearable, then we, as human beings, as guardians and caregivers are able to intervene and provide those in need with the greatest gift of all besides our love, loyalty and devotion, This is the gift of kindness, grace and mercy. It is the ability to eliminate their pain, to end their suffering. Although we are unable to heal or restore them to youthful vigor and vitality, we can bring then the gift of peace and a release from suffering.
Although few of us, if any, look forward to making this complex decision, we are able, through our love and compassion to offer this gift of grace and mercy to our faithful friends in need. It is, perhaps the kindest, most selfless and most humane decision we can ever make.
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