Letting go

Last month, we had to put our girl Kendra to sleep. It was a dignified, painless, and quick  way to end her pains caused by a very aggressive cancer.

If there was anything difficult about the process of euthanasia, it was getting our family to come to the decision. Kendra’s cancer came to us as a total shock. We had simply thought she was gaining weight, but her tummy seemed to be a tad too hard. A vet check revealed a mass that was too large to be excised, and had clearly metastasized. The vet opined that chemotherapy would most likely not have any effect on it. We were advised to just keep her comfortable for her remaining days.

Digesting the news took us what seemed like forever. At ten years old, Kendra was – at least in our thinking – a relatively young dog. Although we had already accepted that we had limited time left with our geriatric dogs, the truth was that we were expecting our 14- and 15-year old pack members to go ahead of the rest. But then again, life has its own plans.

Since no one really knew how long Kendra had to live, all our efforts were focused on just making her comfortable existence even more comfortable. That meant giving her extra cuddles and attention, and making sure she knew she was loved. We were all somehow thinking and hoping that she would just go naturally without need for any intervention. 

In the next few weeks, it was evident that her cancer was growing. She started to eat less and slept so much more, but was restless at night. But somehow, she still managed to get very excited and happy whenever she saw us, especially my husband, her favorite human. She happily accepted whatever treats he gave her, so we were not quite sure if she had truly lost her appetite or was simply angling to get something better, like steak or roast chicken. Seeing these bursts of energy and excitement, we began to think that we still had plenty of time with her.

One day, she simply refused to eat. By then, her abdomen was so big that it had become difficult for her to stand up. We could also see that her legs were always shaking. She also could not fall asleep, with the mass in her abdomen already affecting her breathing. She refused to eat for a second day and by then, we could see that she was clearly very uncomfortable and in pain. On the third day of refusing to eat and drink, we knew her hours were numbered. She started to vomit a brown, sticky substance, and when I looked at her eyes, I could see how tired she was. Seeing this, we knew that letting her go was the kindest thing we could do for her.

Five weeks after our vet told us Kendra’s prognosis, we called her to help our dog make her final transition. Thankfully, the vet was able to accommodate our request to perform the euthanasia at home so that Kendra would be with all the people and dogs she loved in the comforts of her own bed in her final moments.

When the vet arrived, Kendra could not even get up from her bed, and could only cock an ear to those who were calling her name. Clearly, she was just too sick and tired at this point. The vet did a quick examination, expressing sadness on seeing how quickly her cancer progressed in just a little over a month. She allowed us time to say goodbye and then asked for permission to proceed. Then, she delivered one shot to put her to sleep. Within seconds, Kendra was finally asleep  – the first time she managed to do so in almost three days. The second shot was administered straight to the heart to make it stop. With that, Kendra’s sufferings were over and she was well on her way to the rainbow bridge. She did not even wince or react when the plunger was pushed, looking very much like she was just in a deep slumber. 

Although we are saddened by Kendra’s demise, I am still thankful that we were able to give her a dignified death to end her pains. To all those whose pets are terminally ill and are considering PTS, know that in the right circumstances, you could be doing your dog a big favor by ending his or her agony. 

Looking back, I find comfort in remembering Kendra’s peaceful face, devoid of pain and suffering, as I thank God for the honor to have cared for another one of His majestic creations. 

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