A question I wish I weren't asking
November 20, 2013 12:29 PM   Subscribe

We put our 20-year-old cat to sleep at home last night. I had read about what to expect, but did not anticipate her struggling so desperately throughout the procedure. Now my mind keeps going back to those awful moments over and over. I’m wondering if anyone here has had a similar experience, or just has some thoughts on how to process this.

It was time for our cat to go—over the last week she had noticeably declined to where she was very, very weak, had trouble walking, no appetite, etc. She also had dementia that seemed to leave her in a fog most of the time.

We had problems scheduling anyone to come out and do it at our house, but we really wanted to avoid taking her the vet (a place that, like any self-respecting cat, she loathed).

Finally we were able to schedule someone to come out last night. After they spoke with us, they began the procedure, and she struggled and fought against it every step of the way. Even after they had injected her with a sedative and we’d waited several minutes (ten? fifteen?) she remained seemingly lucid and terrified, growling and hissing, lashing out with a strength that I had not seen her show in literally years. She was so dehydrated that after trying several times to inject her front leg, they had to shave and inject her rear leg. The whole time she was on my partner’s lap on the couch, with the vet and vet tech leaning over and holding her by the scruff and trying to arrange her so that they could do the procedure. At one point she slid upside down between him and the back of the couch, and at another point her hind leg got twisted under her in what looked like an uncomfortable position. The whole thing seemed horribly traumatic for her. It seems like it lasted maybe 15-25 minutes, though I really have no idea.

I realize that her suffering is now over, and am trying to take comfort in that fact. But is there any other way of processing this? Her final moments are haunting me. We really wanted it at home because we wanted it to be as peaceful as possible for her, but now I’m second-guessing that decision.

Also, I know I shouldn't try to dictate answers, but I really don’t need anyone to tell me that it was a botched euthanasia, because that would make it worse.
posted by whistle pig to Pets & Animals (41 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
If it were me I wouldn't fight seeing it over and over in my mind's eye. If your mind wants to replay it then let it, but add a narration that your kitty's suffering is over now and as awful as that experience was it was a necessary one in the best interest of your pet.

For me, if I fight instant replays like that, they just grow stronger and more vicious and sneakier. Letting them play out robs them of their power so to speak.
posted by ian1977 at 12:33 PM on November 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've been with a person who asked me to euthanize her when I couldn't. Believe me, it would have been easier for both of us to go through 15 minutes of struggling than several more days of pain and suffering. You did the best that could be done.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 12:35 PM on November 20, 2013 [19 favorites]

Oh wow, I wish I could give you a hug. I'm so sorry that happened to all of you. You made a big effort to do the best you could. It's natural for you to feel bad, but you don't deserve to feel bad. You did do the best you could. Much more than many people would have. I hope you can feel better soon.
posted by amtho at 12:36 PM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

You basically brought the vet to her. She didn't like them, lashed out like she did in her better days and it complicated things, but the object of this isn't to cause more pain, it's to lessen it. The sedative likely made her feel little to nothing after it took effect and the rest just put her to sleep forever.

She just didn't like the vet. It's a deep visceral reaction. But I don't think it at all added to her pain.
posted by inturnaround at 12:36 PM on November 20, 2013 [11 favorites]

Regardless of what precisely happened in the moment, she was in familiar surroundings with familiar smells and people who loved her. Ultimately you lessened her suffering--possibly by what could have been any number of terribly traumatic days. You did the absolute best you could by your cat, and that's what matters.
posted by phunniemee at 12:41 PM on November 20, 2013 [15 favorites]

I worked for a vet when I was in high school. Quite a number of animals who were brought in to be put to sleep, animals who had been tired and placid and lacked any sort of energy at home, would get agitated in the office and would require very strong hands to hold them still for the euthanasia to take effect.

I'm sorry you had this upsetting experience, but it's not uncommon, and the fact that you had the strength to help your cat to end its suffering is commendable.
posted by xingcat at 12:42 PM on November 20, 2013 [8 favorites]

I've had to put animals to sleep, personally. It's hard but you prevented further suffering. Sometimes it's just their nervous system reacting automatically. Let it play out, know that you did everything you could and went above and beyond to ease her suffering and you are a good and humane person.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:42 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

You did the best you could with the circumstances you had. You sought a more comfortable area than the vet's office and she was surrounded by the people she loved. Perhaps her last moments weren't ideal, but you did the best you could and you prevented further and continued suffering. You were a good owner until the end.
posted by Flamingo at 12:46 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry. You did the right thing and she is not hurting now. Maybe you can see it as her getting a last burst of feistiness, a final flipping of the bird to the vet, before it was time to go? I hope that's not insensitive, but what I mean is to not see it as struggling but rather a little show of strength for the people she loved (you) and hated (vets).
posted by dayintoday at 12:46 PM on November 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

If it helps, the first time I had a cat put down, the vet asked me if I was sure I wanted to be in the room because, he said, you can't actually tell what the anaesthesia will do -- sometimes cats struggle even though anaesthetized. I've always been aware of this and tried to prepare for it, and I don't wonder that it must have been traumatic for you to go through.

I've never had a cat with dementia, but I've been around a bunch of dying people with dementia and you never know what they'll lash out at. It's so incredibly hard for the family, but for the caregivers, it's much easier because we knew not to take it personally, that it's just the dementia talking.

If I were in your position, I think I would focus on the fact that you and your partner were the last people your cat saw, holding her and surrounding her with love in her familiar home, and I would attribute any struggle on her part to dementia.

You took such good care of her for so long, and you took such good care of her in her last moments. She probably bit you once or twice over the years, and you don't remember the bites or scratches or the occasional hiss. Let her last "words" to you be those she conveyed in the last weeks, not the last minutes.

Take good care.
posted by janey47 at 12:48 PM on November 20, 2013 [9 favorites]

Depending on what sedative they used, it might have caused a paradoxical reaction. It's not uncommon in cats. That certainly would have made getting a catheter in very difficult for the vet and tech, especially with the cat on someone else's lap, which is not the usual way techs are trained to restrain cats. It's understandable that your vet-hating cat would hate getting handled and poked whether at home or at the clinic, and I can assure you that the medications they likely used to perform the euthanasia we no harsher to your cat than falling asleep.

I'm sorry for your loss. You've just done the hardest and most important thing a pet owner can do, so I commend you deeply for that.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:51 PM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

We were in a similar situation about a year ago: our lovely ginger cat had been sick for a while, deteriorated badly over the course of a few weeks, stopped eating, and it was time. The vet came to us, and though there wasn't the same kind of extended struggle, because the poor boy was so so weak, it was still distressing at the end; because it was at home, it's harder to dispel those memories.

It's going to take time. You'll start remembering the good stuff. And you did the right thing all the way through to minimise her suffering. Can't ask for anything more.
posted by holgate at 12:53 PM on November 20, 2013

I've had the very sad experience of holding two different cats when they had to be put down at our home. One of them went a bit like your recent experience and one went absolutely perfectly smoothly. Despite the fact that one was exactly the kind of calm soothing experience I had hoped for, I was still troubled by the experience later. You've suffered a loss and you are grieving. The shape of it for you right now is questioning if you made the right choices, but if it wasn't that you'd have some other anxiety. It is just your grief finding a way to percolate out.

Had you chosen to take her to vet, not one thing would have changed. She still would have had the same reactions, but on top of it you would have added the stress of the journey and her reaction when she arrived at the vet. It is sad that the process was not smooth, but you still did everything you could to make it better. Your other option would have been worse.

You were brave to handle it in the most loving and compassionate way that you could. I'm sorry that it didn't go as you hoped, but you did the best thing for her. In time, you won't feel so bad (although I have to confess that reliving it here as I typed a reply, I still feel somewhat upset about the one of ours that didn't go well). Most of the time, I'm able to think about the happy memories and, in time, so will you.
posted by Lame_username at 12:58 PM on November 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

you acted with the most humane intentions, and the plan was reasonable to effectuate these intentions, and that's all that really matters. sometimes unexpected shit happens. it's perfectly natural to be a little disturbed immediately after, but this feeling will soon go away.
posted by bruce at 1:11 PM on November 20, 2013

Hugs to you. What a thoughtful pet owner you are to have made the loving choice of euthanizing at home - sounds like a very well-loved, and long-lived cat indeed. I want to offer you the idea that Anger is one of the stages of grief. Maybe the disappointment you feel is derivative of that kind of emotion. I've been in your shoes, and can say that watching your pet die is shocking and upsetting, even if you saw it coming. I replayed my dog's last moments in my mind for ages. Be gentle with yourself at this time. I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by hush at 1:12 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

My unimaginably sweet golden retriever was suffering from cancer and it was time. Given her fear of the vet's office and the pain caused by her cancer making it impossible to get her in and out of the car without her crying out, I had a vet come to the house to put her to sleep. They gave her the sedative which did indeed paralyze her, but it took trying each of her legs multiple times to get the needle into her rolly veins. It was not what I envisioned would happen and I found it terribly distressing imagining that she might be feeling all of the repeated poking and flipping her to get to the various limbs. I struggled with those being her final moments as well. I imagine these things happen more than we'd like to think. But even with all that transpired, I'm glad I was able to end her cancer pain, that she never had to endure getting in and out of a car again, and that she was spared the fear of a vet visit.

I'm so sorry it was such an unpleasant and disturbing experience for your pet, but please take comfort in having spared your kitty similar distress you knew would happen despite encounter different distress you had no way of anticipating. I think we both did our best.
posted by cecic at 1:20 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, this is definitely a thing that sometimes happens during euthanasia, and a reason why vets generally give owners the option to leave the room, because it is extremely distressing for owners who are trying to give their pet a peaceful, merciful death.

The thing is, you did give her a peaceful (at home, instead of at the vet), merciful death instead of letting her suffer. Your final gift to her is that you did it in your home, held her, and stayed with her the whole time even though it was really traumatic for you. She died with your scent in her nose instead of in a strange and lonely veterinary clinic that smelled like disinfectant and dog.

Sometimes the only gift we can give people (or animals) is being there to witness their suffering and to stay there and comfort them when it would be easier to leave. Another tough version of this is holding a baby having an uncomfortable medical procedure. It would be easier for you, as the parent, not to have to helplessly witness your baby shrieking in agony, and the baby's not going to remember you being there to hold her, but it is a service to someone you love. You gave your cat the gift of a merciful death, and you gave her the second gift of staying with her even though it was awful for you.

That was really brave. You guys are really brave; it takes courage to face those moments of death or pain in those we love. Know deep down inside yourself, in the center of your chest, that you have a rock-solid strength of love that gives you that courage. When you think about how upsetting it was (and it's okay to think about that, for a while, when you need to), also think about how bravely you faced it, and hopefully that will give you some peace and comfort, knowing that you are strong.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:22 PM on November 20, 2013 [59 favorites]

To this day, and fifteen years have gone, I regret that I did not put my beloved Pip to sleep. For a year and a half, as we hopped from vet to vet in search of answers, she suffered. She died a difficult death in front us.

Keep telling yourself that you did the right thing. You did.
posted by francesca too at 1:24 PM on November 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm so sorry. It's such a tough decision to make.

I had my 17 year old dog put to sleep in August. While the actual procedure went fine for us, his last day, and especially last hours, were dreadful. At first, that was all I could think of, how horrible that time was, and couldn't I have done something differently (and there were things I could have done differently), replaying everything over and over.

A few months later, though, I think of him in happier, healthier times much more often. I feel glad for him that he won't have to face winter when he was in no shape for it. I'm glad that I was home when he needed me. I wish his last day could have been easier, but I'm more or less at peace with the thought that it was a blip in a long, happy, comfortable, loved and loving life.

I think you just need to give yourself time to process last night. I'm sure it's not the first time you had to do something your cat didn't like for her own good. It is sad that it was the last thing, but it doesn't make it the most important thing in her life. In time you'll have more perspective and it will fade.
posted by Kriesa at 1:25 PM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you took her to the vet, she would have been stressed out on the trip there and in the waiting room as well. You saved her from that.
posted by yohko at 1:31 PM on November 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

I had a cat go through an extremely difficult death--the euthanasia part didn't go great but it was not nearly so bad as getting her there, we knew it had to happen but her decline was much more rapid than we'd expected and she was quite young. What has helped me in general is remembering that transitions are difficult. Birth is difficult. But it's a temporary difficulty. It's nice when death can be completely peaceful, but it's also extremely rare. Whatever fear and discomfort there were, it was such a tiny portion of your girl's 20 years. What's half an hour compared to that? You can never make it perfect, one way or another--you can only make it easier than it would otherwise have been, and you did that.

Even if she'd responded perfectly to the euthanasia part, she would have had a lot longer than half an hour of being scared and uncomfortable if you'd taken her in to the vet, so I think in the end you did very well. It was still a hard thing and it'll be awhile before you stop feeling traumatized, but don't think that this was a bad call on your part just because it wasn't perfect. It wasn't perfect, but in comparative terms, it was good.
posted by Sequence at 1:40 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

This happened to me as well, except it was at a vet's office. I debated taking my beloved cat, Goblin, in - he was thin, and in pain, but painkillers helped and he was still happy to sit on my lap and purr. But he wasn't eating or drinking, and had terminal kidney disease. He'd lost over 15 lbs (was down from 21 to 6) and I decided it was time.

He was good right up until the needle went into his hind leg. He then struggled and pulled away and struggled some more. I rushed forward, held his head, and put my forehead on his and chanted, "I love you, I love you" over and over until he was gone. He died looking into my eyes.

I hate that he was scared. I hate that he struggled and may have felt pain. I often think about it in the middle of the night, when I'm awake at 3AM and my brain is being mean. However, I think about the fact that he was on heroin-level painkillers. I think about how he was slowly wasting away, and know it was for the best. (It really was). And at least he knew I loved him. But it is hard, and sometimes I feel so bad, and when that happens, I go ahead and cry, because it was hard and it is hard and I still miss him even though it's been three years. Grief is hard. Many hugs to you.
posted by RogueTech at 1:44 PM on November 20, 2013 [11 favorites]

It struck me that you used the phrase that the cat was "fighting it every step of the way". I wonder if a lot of your pain about this is the thought (or subconscious thought) that the cat was expressing in its behavior that it knew what was happening and was trying to tell you that it didn't want to die. NO. Your kitty was old, sick, and in pain. Strangers were poking and prodding at it. The struggle that you're having a hard time dealing with was just the kitty's natural reaction to the situation, not a greater statement about the outcome. And kitty would have had the same reaction no matter the location. If any of this rings true as a possible cause of your guilt, please rest easy that you did the right thing and know that any additional discomfort at the end was brief and necessary.
posted by Eicats at 2:32 PM on November 20, 2013 [6 favorites]

I'm so sorry you've lost a faithful companion of 20 years. Any decision to end another life is hard - and you know you did best you could at the time.
That's all any friend would ask.
posted by dbmcd at 2:37 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Please take this in the spirit it was intended: an attempt to comfort you with gentle humour and borrowed wisdom.
Where you are now, there I may go soon, too. You did the best thing you could do, the loving thing. And you have my heartfelt sympathy and hugs.
That said:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and hiss at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise cats at their end know dark is right,
Because their claws had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good cats, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild cats who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave cats, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my kitty, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:38 PM on November 20, 2013 [12 favorites]

There was nothing else you could have done.

It's how we settle up for all the love and companionship we get for free during their lives. We take the decision to give them ease, and by doing so at home, surrounded by familiar smells, familiar light, familiar sound, you did all you could to pay the debt. The struggle was just an automatic cat reaction to strangeness - cats live in the moment and she would not have processed this as anything other than some minor diiscomfort and awkwardness for right now.

We have had three cats put to sleep this year for various reasons (two very old / kidneys, one a little younger, cancer) and one thing the vet said for the last one (Prudence, about 18 or so) was "Only cats that have good owners die from kidney problems". Meaning that cats with caring owners make it to 18 or 20 and then only succumb to the diseases of old age, such as kidney problems. So you gave your cat a wonderful, cared-for life and the kindest passing you possibly could have. I'm very sorry you are in such pain.

There was nothing else you should have done.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 2:53 PM on November 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

I've had my kitties go easily and hard. Many of them. A few mercifully died without my involvement. No matter, I never lost one that did not feel like my heart would explode. You lost a 20 year intimate. Of course you are going to be in pain and in denial and in replay mode for a long time.

Cats (and dogs) learn about death when they die. Their sole job is to react to the moment.

Part of what makes this difficult is our tendency to anthropomorphize our pets. We think they know they are going to die. What is really going on is that they are in the moment, afraid of how they feel or what they sense.

Some sedatives have paradoxical effects, and what might knock one critter out today might excite it on a different one. Maybe that's what happened. I've seen it in cats that were given sedatives and clearly went ballistic.

How to react?

First, recognize that the outcome was going to be painful, and it is, and that's what you expected. If it weren't this pain, it would be a different pain. Actively ignore the bad parts. There is no going back, no need to go back, and sometimes, you just don't get optimal results.

Second, if ever given the chance again and things appear similar, maybe put it off until you can get an effective sedation, prior to euthanasia. It's generally better if you can, but still heart wrenching. Some stuff is never easy.

Hugs, friend. Sorry for your loss. I've lost so many that I've lost count for the moment. It never got a bit easier. Soon, you'll think mostly of your cat with good memories, and not the one bad one.
posted by FauxScot at 2:59 PM on November 20, 2013

That sounds really traumatic, and I'm so sorry.

It might help to replace the images that are flashing in your head with images of your kitty being happy and cozy at home. Every time you see those sad images, try to replace them with happy ones. Sometimes that kind of imagining really helps me unlock myself from intrusive thoughts that are really unpleasant.

You might want to look up the idea of intrusive thoughts and how to cope with them as you process this.

I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by k8lin at 3:02 PM on November 20, 2013

It will pass. It will also, every once in a while, wake you up in the middle of the night. I have a fairly similar memory, and I'm still frustrated/unhappy about the circumstances around it, but I have to just draw a line under it as no longer alterable and remind myself that it actually could have been a lot worse.

Your experience isn't actually all that unusual - it wasn't a botched euthanasia, it just doesn't always go very smoothly.

When the thoughts come, take a breath and redirect to good times and remind yourself that everyone was acting in good faith and it is sad but it is over. I'm very sorry for your loss.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:24 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

When one of my best friends was out of town, the beloved elderly family dog took a sudden and horrifying turn for the worse. He was screaming in pain, couldn't walk, and ultimately the decision to euthanize him at home was made. She asked me to be there for it to support her husband, who was having a hard time dealing with the whole situation on his own. It was my first time witnessing a pet being put down and it was not easy. He was already in so much pain but he cried piteously with the first shot that was supposed to relax him and the next shot that was supposed to put him to sleep didn't work, so we had to wait while he still screamed until the third shot slowly worked. When it finally happened, he had at least one full moment of pain-free existence before he took his last breath. You could almost see he was in bliss. And that was what we had to remind ourselves - as hard as his last few days were, his last moment on earth was pain free.

But he died in his favorite spot - basking in the sun, on his favorite bed, held and caressed by those who adored him, and the last thing he saw and felt was his daddy telling him to go in peace, that he was the best puppy in the world, and he was loved.
posted by HeyAllie at 3:51 PM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's also possible that it had nothing to do with the euthanasia at all. My dear Siamese had to be put down (and driven 40 minutes across town to my mom's vet when his own vet's partner was being a callous, clueless bitch and attempting to prolong his pain to earn a few more bucks). Turns out he had undiagnosed high blood pressure, and that made it even more difficult to give him the appropriate drugs. I'm still incredibly angry at that vet, but what hurts worse is knowing he didn't have to go through all that, and that I had to go through such machinations to get him help.

You let your sweet kitty have the best possible setup, at home, surrounded by everyone and everything familiar. You did everything you could. I hope you can take comfort in that, at least. Perhaps you can adopt a shelter cat and honor your cat's memory by giving someone who really needs a home a good and loving one. Hugs to you. I know how much this hurts.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:51 PM on November 20, 2013

Maybe this will help; it's a little bit of fiction, but sometimes that's what you need...

My grandfather didn't fight his doctors/treatment until he had decided he was DONE and no longer wanted treated. If he'd had alzheimers or something, he wouldn't have known the difference between cure and palliative care at all (luckily he was fairly lucid and did know the difference!).

I have a clumsy accident-prone cat who's been to the vet many many times. He doesn't like the vet, but he's compliant, and he's good about whatever shots or meds he ends up needing. He's a trooper. I suspect he "knows" that we love him and ultimately these things we do end up fixing whatever problem he's having.

If it's even remotely possible, I would go with the story that your cat knew you loved her, and while she hated the vet had been there enough times that she knew on some visceral level that vet = feeling better/care from you... and she was done and that's what she was fighting. I would decide to think that she was saying 'no - don't fix it anymore. I'm tired, it's scary, and this sucks' - that in fact, she was after the same thing you were: an end, and peace. You just couldn't explain things to her.

You did a really really brave thing, and you did the right thing. Hugs.
posted by jrobin276 at 4:46 PM on November 20, 2013

Your cat didn't have a botched euthenasia; she had one more chance to assert her own set of opinions on the world and, in very cat-appropriate style, she did. As others have said, her reaction to the shots is dependent on her own biology and psychic space at that time and you couldn't have predicted it, nor could you have done it differently. The best you could have done is what you did: go along on the ride with her. She probably wasn't in extra pain because of the shots, she was just a little extra pissed. But if she was coherent enough to pick up on that indignity, she was also coherent enough to pick up on your presence, and I firmly believe that whatever the circumstances the very last brain waves that cats and their humans have are occupied with feelings of love. And you were there for that. So feel good and confident that you did right by her in her last moments of righteous kittyhood. And that she knew you were by her side. She loves you too.
posted by dness2 at 4:52 PM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Your question is helping me, actually - I had to put down my quite sick, quite elderly dog just two months ago and went through the same thing. I won't go into all the sad details, but it was extremely similar to your experience, and it has been staying with me.

I hope you can take some solace in that what happened was pretty typical, and she was quite sedated and acting out of instinct without much of a thought process involved.

Also, remember that she did not know she was being put to sleep, so she was not frantically fighting for her life or terrified the way someone with a real understanding would experience what was happening. It was, in the end, just a few minutes of not liking the situation out of years and years of a good life.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 5:10 PM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, we had this experience too, with one of our most beloved cats. She was sweet but feisty. We had to do it after she fought us at home on last-ditch efforts to get fluid into her via an IV (provided with detailed instructions by our vet) and then she fought dying at the office too. My husband and I felt sick about it, as did our poor vet, and I have not forgotten it.

This is just plain the awful thing about pet ownership. We outlive almost every pet we have. And I will tell you, also, that a peaceful death replays in your mind just as much. When we put down our 80 pound lab, she literally just put her head down and died immediately after the shot. Our vet said what we were thinking -- "Sweet to the end" -- and it breaks my heart to recall that moment of seeing her leave us, from the time it took her head to go from upright to the table. I do think of it, too, every time I think of her.

There isn't any good way to bid farewell to a beloved pet. But if they could choose, they would all prefer this to the prolonged and painful deaths that would otherwise be their destiny. Who wouldn't?

I too send you a big virtual hug. You did the right thing. You saved your cat many hours and days of suffering. And you provided years of joyousness and contentment too. Try to remember that as well when you think of this departure.
posted by bearwife at 5:35 PM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I did have a similar experience, with my dog, and I'm very sorry it happened to you--I know all too well how upsetting it can be. I'd say that we did the best we could, with all the love and care in the world. And really, I think asking your question here and listening to other people share their stories is a very good thing to do--I've never told anyone in my life how it really went, and I honestly didn't have any idea until right now how many other people had had the same thing happen. I wish I had known the possibility existed before the event, but in any case, just talking about it, and knowing we couldn't have done anything differently and couldn't have controlled the outcome, is important.
posted by theatro at 6:33 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone. Your answers have helped me so much. Truly.
posted by whistle pig at 7:58 PM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've done it, for both animals I loved, and animals that were injured beyond saving (side-of-the-road injuries). I have vivid memories of it, because death never ever comes sweetly and gently like in the movies. Life wants to hold on, and fight for every moment. When you're trying to end suffering, it's really hard to watch those last few moments while that urge of the body is overcome.

My sympathy goes out to you. Remember, every time the memories come back to you, that you acted out of compassion, and reduced the creature's suffering, even if it was especially upsetting in the last few seconds or minutes.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:31 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's very hard.

I can't write about this too much because it happened last Sunday, and it's too raw, but my nine-month old kitten was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure. He died in my lap, and I didn't really need the doctor to tell me when he was gone -- it was like I could feel his little life leaving him.

It's very hard, and people who aren't into pets or deeply attached to their pets don't really get it.

Hugs to you.
posted by angrycat at 4:49 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

My condolences go out to you (and you too, angrycat - I'm sorry to hear of your loss).

My wife and I have had to put a few cats to sleep, and we always opt for in-home euthanasia, because it definitely minimizes trauma for the cat...even those that struggle. (And in my experience there is always some fear and struggling, even when things go smoothly. Yours does not sound like a botched euthanasia to me, at all.)

It's the hardest decision we ever face as pet owners, and can be quite traumatic. And sadly, those last moments tend to stick in our memories, but we try not to dwell on it and make a conscious effort to remember the good times as well.

There is no doubt in my mind that in-home euthanasia is the kindest and gentlest way to say goodbye when the time comes. I understand your doubts and second-guessing; these are perfectly natural feelings and I've gone through them myself. But you certainly did the right thing, as difficult as it was.
posted by malocchio at 9:22 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's horrible any way it goes - peaceful or dramatic and messy.

I had a cat who had leukemia who yelped once and then passed the minute they gave him the first shot.

I had a dog who I pre-sedated and pain medicated before carrying him to the doctor's office. I knew that he was in no pain even before they started administering the euthanasia medicine, but the sounds of his body fighting to live (irregular, deep phlegmy breaths) that went on for what seemed like 15 minutes tore something inside me to shreds.

It's been two years. I'm crying so hard right now that I can barely see the screen. I know I did the right thing. I know he didn't suffer. It was still a horrible experience though.
posted by echolalia67 at 10:57 AM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

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