Have You Ever Had to Say Goodbye to a Pet?

Just to be perfectly clear, my cats (Biddy and Walter) are fine. They’re not going anywhere.

However, on the same day this week, multiple friends made the difficult decision to put their pets to sleep. They both wrote heartbreaking (and heartwarming) posts on Facebook honoring the lives of their dog and cat (respectively) and what those animals meant to them.

Despite how ill Biddy was last month, I still can’t imagine going through this with him. I know the day will come, but I rescued him as a kitten–he’s been with me for over 12 years! And Walter is coming up on at least 5 years in the Stegmaier family.

How do you say goodbye to a furry creature you love, especially when you’re making the decision for them? I’ve seen people try to give their pet some of their favorite things for their last day–a special meal, their favorite toy, one last walk around the block.

After it’s done, how do you tell others and celebrate your pet? Both of the Facebook posts did a great job of that (they explained the situation, talked about the pet, and shared some photos). Perhaps there’s some catharsis in sharing the news when you’re ready.

While I dread this day for Biddy and Walter, I want to be prepared for it. If you’ve lost a pet, how did you say goodbye? In hindsight, did the goodbye work for you, or would you have done something different?


21 Responses to “Have You Ever Had to Say Goodbye to a Pet?”

  1. Jeff Black says:

    The goodbyes have been different with every pet (I have had 2 dogs and many cats over the years) – It’s never easy but taking that moment together…is so very important. It definitely helps!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      That’s a lot of goodbyes, Jeff–thank you for the advice. It makes me treasure my cats now while they’re doing well.

  2. Helen Christie says:

    Danny and I said goodbye to Ski yesterday morning. She was almost 16 years old, and her kidneys gave up. She was at the vet hospital and on a fair amount of pain relief, so all we could really do was give her a cuddle and a kiss and let her go. But we’re having her cremated, and I’m going to get the cremains turned into a blue diamond (to match her eyes) and then have it made into a ring or pendant.

  3. Angel says:

    My pets died because they were to old. I’m more traditional with funerals so I make a coffin for them, they were gerbils so a shoe box work for me. Then I make a ceremony with music and friends, to say goodbye and buried the pet. It’s a hard moment but it makes me happy to know I made their life full of fun and love, that gives rest to my soul.

  4. Matthew Murphy says:

    ‪Yes, my cat Pepper. She was 16. So she was an aged cat. I feel like at the time, I was putting on a brave face like it wasn’t actually going to happen to make her feel, and probably more so myself, more comfortable with what was going on. I took a few pictures with her, told her I loved her and that she would be okay. It was difficult times. But a few years later, we had a cat show up and have a few litters in our backyard that we love and take care of now. Shortly after the second litter, another cat from some other litter ran inside and ran to my mom as if she was always a part of the family. She acts just like Pepper, if not more energetic. Meows at my door for attention and has conversations with me every day. I have a suspicion that her spirit is still with us, in some form or another. 🙂

  5. Dusty Craine says:

    I’ve only had one pet that was MINE as an adult, and before that I was a child and removed from the process except for the tears and grieving, though largely it was the same as an adult. I would imagine it’s easier for dog people to prepare a day the animal will love. Cats, or at least my lone experience with ours, is that one food is as good as any other, and there isn’t any particular set routine she enjoys like Walter and belly time. I’d be hard pressed to do much more for our cat than merely make her as comfortable as can be before I’d have to do what needs doing. But largely it would just be fawning over her or giving her lots of pets and then staying with her as the vet does what they must.

    When the time comes for Biddy and Walter, though may it be a long ways off, you’ll know what to do for them. It’ll be much harder to figure out what to do with yourself, which is true of every death we encounter. But don’t be surprised if the death of a pet feels more significant in the moment than that of a loved one lost. I fear how it makes me look, but I daresay I cried more for my dog, Mimi, as an adult, than I did my dad when he passed. Animals are those rare types who loves is nearly unconditionally. Need to little, but provide so much. Try not to feel guilty if you find something similar of yourself. I’ve had years now without both my dog and my dad, and while I still miss my dog, it’s nowhere near the amount I miss my dad and I think that’s to be expected. So just allow yourself patience and grace.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      It means a lot for you to share this, Dusty. I hadn’t thought about the confusing feels relating to animals versus humans, but this has helped me prepare for that.

  6. When we lost Tom, our bearded dragon, we had a burial and funeral and talked about memories the kids had. There were tears and hugs and talks of how he would eat his crickets.

  7. TMac says:

    As I read this, one of the questions that jumps to my mind is how to best support you when the day inevitably comes. How can those of us who care and want to show support best do so?

  8. Brent and Daisy says:

    I’ve had lots of different goodbyes. As a kid, the family dog was run over in our driveway by my dad, making him late picking us up from the last day of school. We could see him, but not touch once we returned. My aunt and uncle came to clean up and bury him in their pet Graveyard at their farm, so at least we could visit his resting place.

    A family cat moved a few houses down to live with an elderly couple that gave him lots of attention. When I moved out of state after college, I said goodbye to him.

    I was dogsitting one of my mom’s when fluid started coming out of her mouth and nose. Luckily I had time to comfort her and call my mom on speaker phone so she could say goodbye. Snookie died in my arms.

    My mom rescued a replacement for it from a breeder. She later realized that it wasn’t a good fit for her and gave it away to a nice family. I went with for the hand off so I could say goodbye.

    I saved the best for last! I was dogsitting for my mom again. April wasn’t getting up or walking. I took her to the vet, who diagnosed it as slipped disc and referred me to a specialist an hour away. By the time I arrived, she had become paralyzed in her back legs. Before going to prep her for surgery, I said goodbye. We didn’t know how bad it was, so even if she survived, she may not be the same. I the end, she made a full recovery and is back to her old self!

    If you are interested, two of the mentioned dogs are on cards in the game Action Pups. Snookie is under a towel on a boat and April is on a golf cart, which is her favorite thing in the world.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Thank you for sharing, Brent. That’s so many goodbyes! And you were there for most of them. I hope Daisy is doing well!

      • Brent and Daisy says:

        Daisy is doing pretty good. She’s dealing with a UTI right now, but it doesn’t seem as bad as the last. I expect a full recovery within a week.

  9. JB Hogan says:

    This is a terrible idea for a board game theme, Jamey!

  10. Sara says:

    I know I’m late to this thread, but I didn’t want to write in a rush. As a long-time dog rescuer, I’ve had to make the decision to say goodbye to dozens of animals over the years, including some cats and two horses. No matter what the condition of the animal is or how long I’ve known them, I will cry. I will never make the decision lightly, but I also take it seriously as it’s part of what I feel I owe my animals. If there’s suffering – or even going to be suffering – I’m on it.

    Cancer? I’ll have a growth removed, but I’m not doing chemo or radiation because I’ve yet to find people who spent all the money for that who had their pet live longer than another 18 mos. Kidney failure? I threw a BUNCH of money at the first time that happened. Found out the hard way that it didn’t matter what I did – nothing short of dialysis was going to make my dog last longer than 3-6 months. Big surgery on an old dog? Nope – not going to put them through it. Again, it’s big money for little return and lots of recovery on an old dog.

    I know most people hope their pet will die in its sleep so they don’t have to make the horrible decision to euthanize. For me, I feel like I’ve failed my animal if they have to get to the point where they die on their own. (I’m not talking about they die out of the blue – I’m talking about sick animals.)There have been a couple of seemingly-healthy foster dogs that died in the night for reasons unknown.

    Case in point: my coworker has a 13.5 yr old small dog that collapsed/fainted while on a walk. It wasn’t heat stroke; it turned out to be a tumor on her heart that had bled into the membrane around the heart. That created pressure on the heart and impeded blood circulation. $3,000.00 later, the blood was drained from the pericardium. The prognosis: it could come back in days or months, but it is going to come back. The dog seems mostly OK for all that trouble – definitely feeling better with the burden off her heart. If that were me, I probably would have put my dog down rather than spend that chunk of money for a guarded/unknown prognosis.

    I am usually a pretty hysterical mess from the time I make the decision until it’s over. Once the crying starts, I’m even more sure that I’m making the right decision. Once it’s over, I stop crying for a bit – like there’s a relief that it’s over with. I’m not big on memorials; I have stopped asking for the return of ashes. I have enough of those little wooden boxes… One day when I retire, I will scatter all those ashes in my garden and make a little memorial to all my great four-legged loves. Or maybe I’ll have the ashes used to make some bricks for the garden path. I dunno.

    It’s different for everybody, and it’s hard to get the average pet owner to see things from my point of view. I’m more pragmatic about euthanasia than most because of my rescue background.

    There ya go – ask for my 2 cents, you get my 2 dollars.

Leave a Reply