Saying Goodbye At Home - 5 Ways to Make it Easier on You and Your Pet

In recent years there has been a growing trend among pet owners to say their final goodbyes in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes. The strange smells and noises often associated with visits to the vet can be stressful for old or unwell pets and for their owners. In recognition of this, more veterinarians are now offering At Home euthanasia to help make the process a little less traumatic for pets and their families.

Mike and Natasha recently made the difficult decision to have their 10 year old terrier Chloe put to sleep at home.

“Chloe had been going downhill since being diagnosed with cancer several months ago,” said Natasha. “Our vet had been doing everything possible to keep her comfortable, however we knew the time to say goodbye was getting closer.  Chloe’s quality of life was deteriorating considerably. She had stopped enjoying her favourite foods and wasn’t interested in walks anymore.”

After discussing Chloe’s condition at length with their veterinarian, Mike and Natasha made the heart-breaking decision to have her euthanased. They wanted to make Chloe’s last day as stress-free as possible and so their vet offered to carry out the procedure in their home.

“We were devastated to be losing our girl, but towards the end of her life visiting the vet became a fearful experience for Chloe. We knew that having her surrounded by her family, familiar smells and her favourite blanket at home was the kindest way to allow her to pass peacefully,” added Mike.

Here are 5 ways that will help to make this hardest of days feel just that little bit easier – for both you and your pet.

1 – Deal with the practicalities ahead of time

Although it may seem unfeeling to be thinking about invoices and payments at such an emotional time, settling your accounts prior to the vet visit can help to prevent further upsets and distractions after your pet has passed. 

Speak to your pet cremation company about your options and preferences for burial or cremation. It’s best to make these decisions prior to the day if you have time to do so.  There are many beautiful ways to remember your pet and honour their life with memorial plaques, urns and keepsakes. A professional and caring cremation company will be a big help to you by dealing with the finer details in your time of grief.  They may also be able to contact your preferred veterinarian and make the necessary arrangements for you.

2 – Decide if you will have a funeral or ceremony

Euthanasia is a medical procedure, but it doesn’t have to be cold and clinical.

Mike and Natasha wanted to make Chloe’s last day on earth her happiest. They took her to her favourite park where she sat on her blanket and ate her favourite treat –  ice-cream. 

“Some local kids came up to give her a pat and a cuddle. We took loads of photos and she had the best time,” Natasha recalled fondly.

Natasha and Mike also arranged for a private ceremony at home after Chloe’s passing, to remember her life and to help their children understand what was happening. They gathered petals from their garden to place on Chloe’s fur and they each took turns to say a few words of love and comfort.

There is no right or wrong. Whether or not you have a big day out with your dog, a ceremony to remember your pet, or simply a few moments of quiet reflection, it’s entirely your choice. 

3 – Decide who should be there

Sometimes people are afraid of what it will be like to watch the euthanasia and they choose not to be present. And that’s perfectly ok. However if you are able to overcome your fear and be brave for your pet, they will be able to smell you and your presence until the end and it will help them to keep calm.  Your veterinarian can answer any medical questions you may have, and this may provide some reassurance about the process. You may also want to have friends or family members present to support you.

Whether or not to have your children present is a very personal decision. The best thing that a parent can do is to educate their child (in terms appropriate to age). Explain what will happen, answer their questions and then let them decide for themselves whether or not they want to participate.  Very small children may not understand what is happening and they may be too young to decide, so it is probably better not to have him or her be there.

If your child does decide to stay, let them know that they can leave at any time. Perhaps arrange for someone to be with them so that they are not alone and so that your personal involvement in your pet’s passing is not interrupted.

Other pets are also sometimes involved in saying goodbye. It really depends on how your other pets behave and whether or not they are likely to be disruptive. Families will often allow other pets into the room for a farewell sniff so that they know their best friend is gone. Other pets can also provide lots of cuddles when they’re most needed.

4 – Provide familiar comforts for your pet

A favourite blanket, toy or treat can provide peace and comfort for your pet in their final moments. Stroke their fur, speak softly to them and let them know you are there. 

Natasha says “When the vet arrived, we took Chloe down to her favourite spot in the garden and laid her on her blanket while he administered the sedative. She could feel us petting her and telling her how much we loved her. She had her well-worn teddy with her and she looked so tired, but very peaceful.”

5 – Take Care of Yourself Too

Of course it’s important to consider your pet’s needs and to ensure that your children are guided carefully through this painful life lesson. But you mustn’t forget about YOU. Without you, none of the above can happen, so make sure that you:

Ask for support. Talking with family and friends or to a grief counsellor can be very beneficial in helping you to live day to day with your loss. 

Allow time for grieving. Taking time off work for the death of a pet is much more acceptable these days than it used to be. Your colleagues are much more likely to understand the impact of the loss of a beloved pet. Some people cope better with their loss by going to work and trying to take their mind off it. Do what you need to do.

Don’t feel pressured. Before long, well-meaning people will be asking when you’ll get a new pet? Only you can decide if and when you’re ready to take home a new bundle of fur and start again. But if you do, it doesn’t mean that you are being disloyal to your pet who has passed.  If your home and your heart are open to the pitter-patter of paws in your kitchen again, then why deny a home to a pet that needs one?

Mike and Natasha say that they are glad now that they took the time to plan Chloe’s euthanasia in a way that retained both her dignity and her comfort. Their children were involved not only as participants, but as decision-makers and Mike says that the experience has strengthened their bond as a family. There have been tears and sadness of course but they feel comforted by knowing that they gave Chloe the loving and respectful farewell that she deserved.