Learning to let go: Putting your guilt behind you

November 04, 2019

Learning to let go: Putting your guilt behind you


Putting your pet to sleep is one of the most painful and traumatic experiences that a dog owner will ever encounter. Regardless of how many dogs you’ve had and how many you had to let down, it will still hurt as much as the first time. Dogs are like angels; they’re sent to us when our lives need them most. They come with memories, good times, bad times, and paw prints that leave in our hearts.

Letting go of your dog is not an easy decision. What we think is that putting them down will hurt them, when in fact, it will hurt us. At times, letting them down easy will be less painful for them. Older dogs who have lived a full-life and are suffering from terminal illness live in pain and it would be more humane to just let them go. As hard as it is to wrap your head around it, your dog will be in a better place.

First, let’s talk about why people need to put their dogs down. It’s not something you do that you don’t think about. Putting your dog to sleep isn’t an easy decision. Some people prolong the idea for weeks, even months just to spend more time with their pets. But alas, the time will come when your dogs will need their rest.


Terminal illness

Dogs with terminal illness, such as cancer are usually the first candidates for being put to sleep. Breathing is painful and living is a chore. Sick dogs would rather spend their time laying around than moving because they’re physically incapable of getting around. While the thought of euthanizing your dog may seem cruel, think of the state they’re living in. Truth be told, they’re only hanging around to make sure you’re okay.


Old age

Elderly dogs suffer from a myriad of things. It may not be terminal, but the little things add up and become big things. Short-nosed breeds for example develop respiratory problems, big breeds eventually get hip dysplasia, and longer breeds develop spinal problems. These are problems that build up over time and conclude in a lethargic, elderly dogs’ system. Don’t wait for any of these problems to reach their tipping point because your dog can only handle so much.



This is a bit of a touchy subject, but there are cases when you’ll have to put your dog to sleep because of uncontrolled aggression. Putting down an aggressive dog isn’t a reflection of how well their owners cared and loved for them. Sometimes it’s the result of psychological disorders, temperament, or even rabies. Your dog should be a loyal companion, not a threat to the people around them or themselves. Of course, there are other options when it comes to an aggressive dog such as putting them up for adoption, sending them to obedience school, or giving them to an owner who can handle them. But when all efforts have been expended, it’s time to let go. Consult with your vet on solutions to avoid scenarios such as this.

If your dog has been affected by rabies, on the other hand, you need to put them down. Especially if they’re at an advanced stage and there’s no turning back.


Injuries or accidents

If your dog encountered a major accident that leaves them on a ventilator, your veterinarian will discuss putting them to sleep. In this scenario, the only thing left of your beloved pet is their body. They will no longer wake up and are sedated so they don’t feel any pain while they’re hooked up to machines that help them breathe. The vet will give you two options, either you put them to sleep or they detach the ventilator and let nature take its course.


Congenital birth defects

Some puppies are born with birth defects that make it difficult to live a normal life. Your veterinarian may advise you to put them to sleep because the first few hours of living could be almost torturous to them. We know what you’re thinking, an innocent puppy laid to rest so soon? Better now than later.


Woman crying


Now you know why it has to happen, but do you know how? You know for a fact that the “waiting game” is the hardest part. We fear the uncertain, we’re afraid of what we don’t know, and we’re scared of what is to come. As you’re sitting in that room waiting to say goodbye, know that it’s okay to feel these things.


The process

Euthanasia involves the intravenous injection of pentobarbital. A pharmaceutical agent that is usually used as seizure medication but in large doses will stop a heart. The most effective way to administer the drug is through a vein but some people will prefer it to be injected through an intravenous catheter.

The solution will travel quickly through your pets' body and within a few seconds it will render your dogs unconscious. Their breathing will slow and stop within the next minute. Cardiac arrest will soon follow resulting in a deep, painless slumber that your dogs will not wake from.

Once the pentobarbital is administered, the vet will listen to your dog’s heart to confirm death. Your vet will let you know when your dog has passed and will cue for the staff to leave the room with him or her and give you some privacy. This is will be an emotional time for you, so stay as long or short as you need to.

Be warned that your dog may excrete leftover waste from their body and sometimes their muscles may twitch, but this doesn’t mean that they’re still alive. It is simply part of the process that occurs after death.


After care

Depending on the services your vet has, you will need to make prior arrangements for your dog. Some vets have tie ups with pet crematoriums and others with pet cemeteries. But if you’d like to have a more intimate setting by burying your pet at home, then by all means do so.

Give yourself some closure by doing something special to memorialize your beloved companion. You can plant a tree over their grave or frame an ink paw print and hang it on your wall. Pay tribute to their memory because they made your life more special. You owe it to them. Commemorate a life well lived.


Dealing with grief

There is no deadline for grief. Allow yourself to feel it. There will be times that waves of sadness will pass over you and you will start to think about your dog, but you need to remind yourself that they are in a better place now. They’re frolicking in a meadow filled with butterflies they will endlessly chase and all the bacon they could ever eat — and they don’t need to think about their cholesterol.


Does putting my pet to sleep make me a bad pet owner?

A sickly dog

To answer your question, no it does not. If anything, it makes you a compassionate dog owner. Don’t let yourself feel guilty over something you had to do to make your life easier. Doing the right thing is never easy and sometimes, it will hurt. Don’t let the hurt get in the way of doing what’s best for your dog.


  • Go easy on yourself. Stop bouncing back and forth in a soliloquy of thoughts because you couldn’t change the circumstances. Dog age, accidents happen, they get sick, we make mistakes, we move on.
  • You don’t have to go through this alone. Talk to someone you trust; a friend or a family member who can understand what you’re going through. Someone who can make sense of your feelings and put things into your perspective.
  • Redirect any feelings of guilt you may have to remembering good times you shared with your dog. Their whole life, all they knew was that you loved and cared for them.
  • Contact your veterinarian for any follow up questions. If this is a way for you to get closure, then ask for as many details about your dog’s condition.


Getting over the guilt or releasing any negative feelings you have towards the situation doesn’t mean that you don’t love or care for your dog. It means you are both in a better place now and ready to move on.


When is it too soon to get another dog?


We all move at different paces and it’s really up to you when you decide to adopt a new dog. Some people say they feel like they’re “cheating” on their dogs that they recently put to sleep by getting a new puppy. But you need to know that your dog will want you to be happy. Pets are an integral part of our lives and having a new puppy at home will clear the negative energy and replace it with new memories to build on. You’re not a bad person for wanting a new dog right away after you just let go of your beloved furry friend.

However, there are a few things that you need to consider such as how much responsibility you’re taking on right now, are your other dogs still grieving, will you have the energy to train a new puppy, will the new dog mix well with your current pets, etc. If all roads point to a positive place, then it’s a sign. Adopt a new puppy!

Again, we want to stress that it’s 100% natural to crave attention and affection from your pets and adopting a new puppy right away does NOT make you a bad pet owner. If anything, you’re cherishing your dog’s memory by making yourself happy.

Consult with your veterinarian about your options. This is not an easy decision to make and the process isn’t the best either. As long as you prepare yourself emotionally and mentally, you will get through this.

Overall, we want you to know that your dog will understand if you make this decision. When they look at you for the last time, they’re telling you that they’ll be okay, and you will be too. It will hurt at first, but you will learn to channel those negative emotions into feelings of nostalgia.

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