Help me throw one hell of a going away party for man's best friend
February 22, 2011 8:35 AM   Subscribe

For those of you that have said goodbye to your dog, how would you spend one more week with your pet if given the chance?

It is with great sadness that I will be euthanizing my dog this weekend, my best friend of 11 years. I'm trying to make his last week special by letting him win little victories (grabbing food off the counter, getting into the trash, bones every day, steak dinner, sleeping in the human bed, etc). I'm trying to make sure he's getting the most out of his last week of life, but I also want to make sure that I'm getting the most out of it too.

It's particularly sad because the little guy is actually in pretty good health; the euthanasia is related to aggressive behavior. Rationally, I know it's for the best, but I'm brought to tears when I look at his innocent little face and realize I'm stealing a few years from him because I failed him as an owner. If you can relate to this scenario, please chime in.

I'd specifically like the input of mefites who have recently parted with their dog. I know I'll be sad and have regrets next week (sigh), but I'm hoping to minimize that as much as possible by having some last-minute great memories with my furry pal. He's such a good boy.

posted by siclik to Pets & Animals (26 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so sorry, siclik.

I would get someone to take videos of you with the dog. It'll be heartbreaking, but I think someday you'll be glad to have them.
posted by shiny blue object at 8:36 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

My high school English teacher had to have his dog put own (sick, old age) when I was a senior. I have never seen anyone more attached to an animal. He said he spent a lot of time reading to her outside in the garden in her final days because she couldn't run around and play any more. He wrote a poem after she died. It seemed to help him a lot.
posted by phunniemee at 8:40 AM on February 22, 2011

What helped me was just doing what me and the dog enjoyed doing. This was somewhat limited (due to health reasons), but we did get in one last road trip and then a final walk on our usual route near the house and one last trip to the beach (where we mostly sat and enjoyed the afternoon, waded in the water a bit). Getting to do those things helped me a lot. So I suggest to just do what you both like to do best. It is your usual routine that you will end up missing.

Afterward, I wrote about it and gathered together and scanned/organized all the pictures of her I had. It seemed to help, but I was a wreck for some time and I think that's inevitable so just let yourself grieve in whatever way you need to and recognize it is ok.
posted by mikepop at 8:46 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't really have anything to add but "whatever the hell he feels like doing," and to let you know another MeFite shares your pain. I may be a gruff ol' bear, but man, nothing melts my heart like the love of and for a dog.

It's scary and difficult, but please remember, he's been there for you - don't leave him when he needs you most. He'll be scared there, near the end. Stay with him. Hold him in your lap. Stroke his ears. Whisper to him what a good boy he is. Don't leave until he's fully asleep (after that point, the vet assures me he's unaware of what's happening). Some people think they can't handle that, and maybe they can't. But I believe if your dog has been there for you, you should be there for him.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 9:04 AM on February 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

Take endless photos and videos. Allow every possible kind of naughty puppy behavior, from food stealing to napping in the people bed to slipper devouring. Cuddles. SO MANY CUDDLES OH GOD.

oh sadface.
posted by elizardbits at 9:05 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

My wife and I went through this a few months ago, with a dog we'd had for more than 12 years (and who had, in fact, brought us together in the first place). It was sad and awful, but I'm very thankful we got to plan things and spend her last couple days doing good stuff.

We mostly just took her to her favorite places and let her sit in the sun as long as she wanted. That, and we each took separate little naps with her on her last day.

The one thing I would advise against is doing anything too out f the ordinary at the moment of the euthanasia. The vet who came to our apartment for our dog let her have this big bowl of unending treats (which was not a normal thing for our dog) and it kind of got her wound up and out of sorts. I wish she had been more calm for her last moments.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:15 AM on February 22, 2011

My MiL made a print of her last dog's paw into a disk of cement her husband mixed up for her. She scratched in the dog's name and DOB/DOD, and it sits in the garden at the front of the house. She also made sure our kids came over and had one last visit, and she took a pictures of each of them with the dog.

She was also just generally her regular, caring self with her ol' friend, which is what the dog wanted -- just like OneMonkeysUncle says.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:31 AM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I went through this in December and my dog was too sick to do much playing and was refusing to eat or drink (I later found out her kidneys had failed) so I just spent as much time as possible with her; the last couple of nights before our appointment I even slept downstairs on the couch next to her dog bed.

Although your desire to make your dogs last days enjoyable is a natural one, remember that this is as much for you as for the dog, so think of things that will give you good memories of your last days together; there are some great suggestions here that I wish I had thought of back in December.
posted by TedW at 9:51 AM on February 22, 2011

I had to have my dog euthanized just a few weeks ago (you can check my AskMes for the advice I got). We knew that it was coming, kind of, but we didn't know when. Aaron got to go for car rides. He got to lick out a not-quite-empty peanut butter jar. He ate french fries and I didn't get upset when he slurped the coffee from my mug. I threw some extra blankets on the floor so that he could snuggle up against me. I second OneMonkeysUncle on holding him at the vet. That final vet visit was the worst thing I've ever had to do, but it was so so important to me (and him) that I was there at the end. I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by specialagentwebb at 9:56 AM on February 22, 2011

My dog (who was getting old, but checked out fine at his last vet visit) died suddenly of heart failure a few weeks ago with no one around but my stepdad (who he loved, but the members of my family the dog grew up around were all out of town). If I had the power to turn back time, I'd just make sure we were all there with him-- that's the most important thing, I think, for both you and your dog.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:02 AM on February 22, 2011

If this is possible, somewhere safe I guess because of the agression issues, walks walks walks walks walks. I've never seen happiness on this earth quite like a dog on a walk. My childhood collie had cancer, and the chemo gave him enough time and a bit of remission for me to take him on as long a walk as he could comfortably do. I still remember that walk and am so happy to my parents for spending thousands on chemo so we could have that walk.

God I miss that dog. I remember kissing the little white peak on the back of his ruff as he got in the car to go to the vet. I told him he was always a good boy.
posted by sweetkid at 10:16 AM on February 22, 2011

I've been there in the room holding both my cats and both my dogs when their times came. For me, there's no other service I can do them in that final moment but it is important to me that they pass while getting a last bit of love showered on them. I hold them, talk to them and pet them.

Some were anticipated in advance and some were sudden. The ones we knew were coming were a bit easier because we had time to wrap our heads around the fact that we were going to loose a loved one soon. We had time to really say good bye and acknowledge their lives and the impact they had on ours. The sudden ones were grueling because they caught us off guard and we weren't ready to say good bye.

When I had to put my Boxer down in the fall, the vet commented that cases like hers were really hard because only half the dog was broken and the other half was still good. I know he meant to be offering up sympathy; but it almost broke me at that moment. She had degenerative bone and nerve diseases and paralysis was progressing up her spine. We knew that leaving at that moment, while an option, would not change the situation and so we stayed. She was a damn good dog.

It has been about 5 months since she died and about 4 months since our Coonhound died. Writing this brought me to tears again.
posted by onhazier at 10:23 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

My dog is a snuggler, nothing makes her happier than laying in bed with us, or on the couch. Lots of playtime. Walks, if his aggression allows that.

Also, I wanted to thank you for being a responsible dog owner. You are making a very tough decision, and I commend you for it. My parents own some little dogs that are very, very aggressive. They've bit many people several times and drawn blood. The only reason they have not been put down is because they are little and therefore cannot inflict much damage. However, my sister and I recently both had children who are now 1 year old. Whenever we go to my parents the dogs have to be kept upstairs, but there's always the threat that they might get out and bite our now walking and crawling children. We can hear them upstairs barking and just going crazy into a frenzy. It's a bad situation that could result in an even more terrible situation. We rarely go their house because of this.

You are doing the right thing. Thank you. Many children, adults and dogs thank you.
posted by fyrebelley at 10:24 AM on February 22, 2011

It has been about 5 months since she died and about 4 months since our Coonhound died. Writing this brought me to tears again.

Yeah, my dog died in 1999 and it still brings tears to my eyes.
posted by sweetkid at 10:30 AM on February 22, 2011

i've lost dogs, but never known about it ahead of time, my dog did run straight underneath a car just two weeks ago so I had a good meditation about this once I recovered from cardiac arrest.

I always cook a steak for my dog for her birthday. a big cheap cut she has to fight it out with. Quick sear on both sides and some salt. she carries the thing around like a little meat pillow, cute little 25 lb blonde thing leaving a trail of gristle/grease whatever on all my hardwood floors. That, nice walks and some illicit squirrel chasing is what i'd hang on to if something happened.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 11:13 AM on February 22, 2011

On my dog's last day, I took him for a really long walk around the neighborhood in the sun. He was quite old and feeble by this point, deaf and blind, and it took us nearly an hour to walk around the entire block. (Luckily I had thought to bring a magazine.) But it made him so happy.

It's my best, last memory of him, hobbling along in the sunshine with a big goofy grin on his crooked, half-toothless face.
posted by ErikaB at 11:48 AM on February 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

man...definitely reading this at work and trying not to cry.
I'm going to second the "whatever the hell he wants to do" opinion.

I grew up with a German Shepherd who loved to go for drives and sniff the air. As she got less mobile that was one of the main things we would share when I would come home from school. I would pack her up in the car and we would just drive for hours around town, and I would just talk, and sing. Sometimes she looked vaguely bored, but the excitement any time you mentioned the car made me realize that she really loved it.

I wish I had more pictures as well, but I almost think that they are a little more special because of how few there are.
posted by aloiv2 at 11:55 AM on February 22, 2011

If this is possible, somewhere safe I guess because of the agression issues, walks walks walks walks walks. I've never seen happiness on this earth quite like a dog on a walk.
Nthing this. Our greyhound, Trai, loved his doggie treats (he knew them as "cookies") and the occasional steak bone, but nothing set him off like the prospect of a walk. Normally calm and sedate, just seeing me pick up his leash sent him into paroxysms of tail-wagging and laps run around the coffee table. In his last days, the arthritis in his spine was so severe that he couldn't get up/down from his blanket without assistance, and even then he cried out in pain. The day before we took him for that final trip to the vet, I was searching for something in the "junk" drawer and without thinking pulled the leash out of it and set it on the counter. Trai spotted it, attempted to struggle to his feet and cried out in pain as he toppled over - he loved walks that much. Aside from walks, lots and lots of petting and cuddling and murmuring reassurances of what a good dog he is and how much you love him. The sound of your voice will be soothing for him, and you'll always remember the feeling of snuggling him close to you. So sorry you're going through this. {{{{hugs}}}}
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:05 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

i am so sorry for your impending loss (& your dog's as well), & i appreciate the thought you've put into making this very difficult decision. i was in the same situation as you last year with a few days' time before the final appointment with the vet, & it was heart-wrenching. mainly, i tried to keep to his routines - i think dogs appreciate normalcy more than even we humans do. i also upped the special treats & very much like that you encompass them in 'victories' for him. & yes, if there is anyplace to walk him safely, time outdoors with his favorite human i'm sure will be not only a superb gift to him but a heartfelt memory for you.

sometimes, no matter how deep our commitment, there are wounds we cannot heal in those we love. i take comfort that i tried everything within my knowledge & ability, that for the time we shared i gave him the best life possible, & that ultimately i did what was right in my responsibilities to others. i cherish the memories of our happy times together & like to think that, under different circumstances, he'd still be here with me, as boon a companion as i could ever hope for. but you have love to give yet still, & while you cannot replace him, it would be a tragedy to deprive another deserving soul of the generosity of your spirit. please know that you are not alone.. it has taken me forever to finish writing this through the tears.
posted by PepperMax at 12:21 PM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

We were too young to understand that doctors are not the mysterious men in white coats who can heal any wound. We had gone home to grandfathers with mother when the international call came from father that Honey had finally been put to sleep. We burst into tears, all of us, simultaneously.

One more week together, no matter what you choose to do, is far better than long distance suddenness.
posted by infini at 1:49 PM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Our dog died almost 2 years ago from cancer, and during the last couple of months, we basically let him do everything with us, even things that we wouldn't have let me him do before. We made sure he got his walks, hikes, and trips to the dog park. We let him eat table scraps to his heart's content, and one of my favorite memories was making cookies and sharing cookie dough/cookies with him (my gosh, he was so happy). We let him sleep in the bed with us, take over our couch, and be underfoot constantly. We also made sure he got to go with us in the car whenever possible (he LOVED car rides!). We have fantastic memories of a very happy dog and lots of awesome time together. We still miss him everyday, and wouldn't trade in those last couple of months for anything.

So sorry that you have to go through this. :-( You'll both be in my thoughts.
posted by I_love_the_rain at 4:07 PM on February 22, 2011

So sorry you're going thru this siclik.

I had to do this once too for the same reason. Very sad.

During the procedure, the vet kept wanting to talk to me, mostly about the logisitics of how to best dispose of the remains. I just wanted to be there to connect to my pet in her last moments. I found this very frustrating. I'm still angry with myself for not saying something at the time.

Just recommending that you might want to talk to the vet ahead of time about what to expect during the euthanasia if you are planning on being there with your dog. And that you might want to ask your vet to please refrain from conversing while you are saying goodbye, if that's important to you. I suppose some people might welcome the distraction from an overwhelming moment, but I was not one of them.
posted by marsha56 at 4:24 PM on February 22, 2011

Doesn't matter if they're crap quality taken on a cell phone. Videos offer so much more insight into the personality of your friend and the unspoken bond between the two of you than a photograph. One of our four-legged family members recently left the corporeal realm and the only thing I would have changed or done differently is I would have taken a crap-ton more videos.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:08 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

My dog was very sick, not walking and not interested in much before we put her to sleep. She was, however, still very much interested in the bones from fried chicken legs. She was small, and so I didn't have to worry about her splintering them immediately and swallowing them; in fact she was feeble and clumsy enough that she would chew on it for a good hour. We ate a lot of fried chicken that last week.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:11 PM on February 22, 2011

We had to put our beloved dog down 4 years ago due to illness, reading these suggestions has brought tears to my eyes. On our dog's last day I got him a vanilla ice cream cone that he happily ate and enjoyed, my husband and I shared the day with him showering him with petting and loving words. My husband did not want to be there when he was put to sleep but I would not have been anywhere else, my dog was not afraid and I was right beside him petting and talking to him when he drifted away. It will be hard, it will break your heart, time will make it easier.
posted by sandyp at 6:16 PM on February 22, 2011

I've written several times (don't really have the heart to search) about my wonderful Hot-dog and how I had to put her down.

She loved me with a devotion that I haven't experienced anywhere outside that relationship - no matter what, she just wanted to be with me.

What she wanted most was to snuggle up right next to me, so that's what we did for a couple days. She got her favorite meals (bubble and squeak, hamburger and mashed potatoes) but what she really wanted was me to just talk with her and pet her. I took a couple vacation days and we spent those days together - I took her down to the garden and reminded her about how it was when we'd just bought the land and how she chased rabbits there, took her out on the deck in the evenings and we sat and listened to the creek and the bird calls at night. I made a "Warm Fire for Puppies" in the wood stove and we sat in front of it - in August - and talked about other Warm Fires for Puppies and how she loved them.

She knew it was her time and she went with a composure and grace I can only aspire to emulate when it is my time.

There are theories, here and there, that it takes an animal's mind a few minutes to really shut down after the injection and I don't know how much truth there is in them, but I sat for a good fifteen minutes with her head pillowed on my shoulder - her favorite spot - afterwards.

Nthing pictures. Gather all you can. It is nearly five years since I buried Hot-dog and I now love to look at them. She was my best friend.
posted by jet_silver at 7:33 PM on February 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

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