It’s one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make in your life. Knowing when it’s time to help your best friend pass to the other side. Unfortunately, there are no black and white rules for knowing when it’s time though.
Over my lifetime I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my home with a great number of dogs. Each one of them brightened my life and left me with so many happy memories that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
Only one of my four-legged friends was able to leave this earth on his own though. As for the rest, I had to make the tough decision and help them cross the rainbow bridge when I thought they were ready. Each and every time I felt like I failed at getting the timing right.
What You’re Feeling Is Normal
I’m writing this to tell you that first of all, it’s totally normal to feel like you failed your pup and didn’t get it right. I’m also here to tell you that you never will feel like you got it right, so don’t beat yourself up over it too much.
People always say that difficult things in life get easier the more you do them. That saying does not apply to helping your fur baby cross to the other side. Each and every time I’ve had to do it is exponentially harder than the last.
Experience Doesn’t Bring clarity
With most things in life, experience brings clarity. This is not one of those things. Since your dog cannot tell you exactly how he’s feeling, you’re left to try and figure out how he’s feeling based on his actions. This is not a hard science and it’s left widely up to interpretation.
Anytime things are left to interpretation, doubt is likely to creep in. After all, isn’t interpretation really just an educated guess made based on past experiences? If so, in order for your present interpretation to be correct, didn’t your past interpretations have to be correct as well? What if they weren’t though?
Guilt Is Normal
What I’m trying to say is that knowing when to help your dog cross the rainbow bridge isn’t a scientific process and it’s filled with flaws that will leave you feeling guilty no matter when you decide to make that decision.
Guilt is normal, but beating yourself up for years to come is not. We can never know when the exact right time is, so there’s no sense thinking that we should. We know our dogs the best, and if we think it’s time, then it’s time.
It doesn’t matter when you decide the time is, you’re always going to doubt yourself after it’s done. Again, totally normal and expected without knowing exactly how your dog was feeling at the time you made the decision.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
However, this does not give you a license to beat yourself up. You made that decision to the best of your ability and you knew your loved one better than anyone else. If you felt it was time, then no one else on this earth was more qualified to make that decision than you were. No one could have timed it better.
Your Dog Forgives You
The one thing that helps and gives me peace (as hard as it is to witness) each and every time I do it, is seeing my best friend go from a state of discontentment to one of complete relaxation and comfort right before they pass.
In all the times that I’ve had to do it, every single dog has given me one last special lick and/or look in their eyes telling me that they completely understand and that everything is going to be alright. It’s that final act of unconditional love that brings me comfort and should bring you comfort too.