Saying good-bye: euthanasia

The one certain thing in life is that we all will pass over. No matter how we try, our dachshunds only have a limited amount of time to spend with us. It is at the end of this time that most dog owners must face at some point. How we face those final days is vitally important to you and your best friend.

Euthanasia is the process of ending your dachshund's suffering as painlessly and humanely as possible. No one that I know likes to think about these end times and most of us will avoid the issue if at all possible. In fact, even when our dogs are in great pain, with no hope of regaining their normal lives, we still don't want to think about putting an end to that life. It is precisely at these times when you have to stop thinking about yourself and think of your dog and all the great moments they have given to you. You have to be strong, no matter the hurt you know will follow.

Your dog has given you so much that it's your responsibility to help them move on from the suffering. They deserve more from you than putting them through more suffering. As the alpha leader of your pack, it's your job to ease their suffering in whatever way you can. The best way that we know of today is through our vets who have taken care of your friend in sickness and health.

Your vet loves animals. That's why they chose to be a vet. Part of their training is how to end the life of an animal that is suffering. The techniques they use are quiet ends, with dignity and without suffering.

How do you know when it's time?

Most people really reach a point where they aren't questioning when the time will come or whether the time is right, they just know that it is. Most people reach this decision only after their pet has shown clear signs of severe pain, total inability to eat or other severe signs that are hard to miss. Other people reach this moment when the pet becomes extremely inconvenient to care for or when the pain and suffering are chronic but not severe. In the overall scheme of things the difference in timing is usually so short that I think very few people make really bad decisions. It is a time to trust your instincts. You will probably know exactly when the time has come. The decision to take this action is never taken lightly or on a whim. You'll just know that it's the best thing to do.

About euthanasia

For those interested, the technical side of euthanasia is the administration of variations of concentrated barbiturates that are injected. These barbiturates are commonly called thiobarbiturates.

Thiobarbiturates have three effects that induce death. First, they are fairly potent depressives of the central nervous system activity in the brain stem, which leads to depression of all bodily functions controlled by the brain stem. This action is responsible for the loss of consciousness associated with barbiturates in adequate doses. In large doses commonly associated with euthanasia, barbiturates have a direct depressant effect on the heart muscle as well and will cause the heart to cease functioning. This is usually the actual cause of death in most instances when barbiturates are used for euthanasia. There is also a respiratory depression associated with barbiturates but it is probably not a factor since the other effects are more rapid.

Unconsciousness precedes the cardiac depression and this is painless, as far as can be determined.

When the vet is ready to administer the euthanasia solution an assistant will help hold your pet and put a slight amount of pressure on a vein, usually in the foreleg. This allows the veterinarian to see the vein better and aids in passing a fine needle into the vein. When it is certain that the needle is within the vein the veterinarian slowly injects the solution. Many pet owners choose to help hold their pet and if possible even have the pet in their arms at the time of euthanasia. Your veterinarian will try to accommodate your wishes, but remember that it is imperative that the solution be injected within the vein for the procedure to unfold properly. The last thing you would want to do is cause additional pain for your dachshund in his final moments.

Usually within six to twelve seconds after the solution is injected the pet will take a slightly deeper breath, then grow weak and finally lapse into what looks like a deep sleep. (This state gives rise to the questionable euphemism "to put to sleep".) Although completely unconscious, he may continue to take a few more breaths before all movement ceases. The older and sicker the pet the longer this unconscious breathing state might last.

Some pet owners will be more comfortable if they don't observe the pet's final moments and would rather be in the waiting room during the injection. Then when their pet has passed away, the owner may wish to be with their pet privately for a few moments. If you do chose to visit with your pet after it has been euthanized, ask your veterinarian to be sure your pet's eyelids are closed; some pet owners have been saddened even further by looking into their deceased pet's eyes.

At this point you have to decide what to do with the remains. There are many pet cemeteries as well as establishments that will do cremation services for pet owners. It is best to decide on these arrangements before going to the vet so you'll know how to proceed afterwards. The veterinarian usually will place the pet into the container and carry the deceased pet out to the car for the owner if you're planning on using a pet cemetery. If the pet owner chooses to have the pet cremated the veterinarian generally will make the arrangements through a cremation service and notify you when you can expect to have the ashes returned.

If you have any questions about the cremation process, don't be afraid to call up the cremation service and speak to them about those concerns. You should get courteous and respectful answers to all your questions and if you don't, let your veterinarian know. In fact it would be a good idea to call the cremation service long before that final day so that the last moments with your pet are as unstressed as possible.

It is not unusual nor unreasonable for pet owners to save a bit of their pet's fur as a physical remembrance of their special friend. Some people want their pet to be buried or cremated with a few photos, or a rose or even a personal letter or poem from the pet owner to their pet. Just remember it is your friend that is passing away and you can do anything you wish to ease your transition into the time of separation from that friend.

One final note: you may want someone to be with you after the appointment to drive you home. You may be surprised how difficult it can be to concentrate on driving after such an emotional event. There is no need to make the experience worse by being involved in an accident.

Grief is part of the process of saying good-bye

Most dachshund owners experience a strong and lasting sense of pain and grief after the passing of their pet. Part of their trouble stems from having so few human friends who actually understand the deep sense of grief being experienced. Even a close friend might say without thinking that "oh, just go get another one and you'll feel better. Even worse they might say without realizing what they're saying, something like "it was only a dog." Don't feel angry about these careless expressions. People that have never had a dachshund just don't understand the relationship that you've had.

Dachshund owners are often reluctant to tell others the source of their saddened state for fear of ridicule. It's also common for the dachshund owner to think they see or hear their deceased pet in the home or out in the yard long after they're gone. If someone hasn't personally experienced the loss of a loved pet they simply will be unable to connect with the pet owner who is grief stricken.

Dachshund owner's are often self-critical, too. "This is ridiculous feeling like this," or "I can't believe this could wreck my entire life!" And the loss of a pet often brings up memories of other losses in a person's life and a vicious cycle of sadness, helplessness and even clinical depression can result. Our pets are that important and there's no need to apologize for feeling that way!

Dachshund owners who feel they need to talk to someone who understands their sadness have hope! There are a number of grief support groups and counselors who specialize in pet loss counseling. Never feel ashamed or belittle yourself for having strong feelings of loss and sadness over your deceased dog. You are not alone in this sadness. There are numerous web sites that may prove helpful and informative while you progress along the road to accepting the loss. Never feel ashamed for being lost and lonely after losing your little friend. It always takes longer than you would expect to start functioning again.

I'll never own a pet again!

After the loss of a pet, the deep hurt you feel will likely cause you to think that you'll never want to experience that pain again. Your natural feelings will tell you that there will never be another pet like the one now missing from your life. These feelings are natural and part of the grieving. It would be a mistake to try to replace your pet. You need time to move through your grief. This time can be weeks, months or even a year or more. It just depends on your disposition.

There will however, come a point when you'll begin to feel the need to fill that void. This too is natural and you shouldn't feel any guilt that you're trying to replace what you've lost. Your dog became a big part of your life and when that part was taken away, the need for that companionship and sharing remains. It is alright to find a new companion.

A new dog is not a replacement dog, but a new friend. The new companion may look and sometimes act like the one you've lost, but in their own way, they will prove themselves unique and will soon fill the void in a way that is truly their own.

Dogs have limited life spans. The time we're able to share with them are special years and you should be proud that you were able to create a good home and be an important companion to this animal; an experience that they may have missed out on entirely, if it weren't for you and your willingness to share your life with them. Don't let this loss stop you from opening your home and life once again to another animal that also needs a good home and a loving, devoted owner to make their lives fuller and happier than they could find anywhere else.

Dachshund