Your friend is suffering. She tells you about how her pet is declining and may not be around much longer.
I know you feel sympathy. You want to help. To reassure.
But don’t say this to someone whose dog is dying…
When The Time Comes, You’ll Know
We get attached to these bloggers who share their stories even though we’ve never met. And everyone who loves animals understands how it feels to watch our pets lives pass all too quickly.
As you’d expect, the blog post got loving comments from readers who wanted to reassure its writer. And several said something like, “Don’t worry about how you’ll know when it’s the end for your dog. You’ll just know.”
I know these reassurances are well-meaning and come from a compassionate heart.
But reading them makes me want to knock the heads together of everyone who thinks this is helpful.
Why “You’ll Just Know” is Wrong
Here’s why I think it’s a bad idea to tell someone with a declining dog that they’ll just know when it’s time for that pet to go.
Some people who “just know” stuff are simply overconfident.
I’ve met people who have never doubted a single decision they’ve ever made.
I think they’re idiots.
Remember, some people “just know” it’s fine to drive 80 mph on the Baltimore Beltway. Some people “just know” that a belt is the best way to teach your child not to hit other kids.
And some people have no doubts about every decision they make for their pets.
It doesn’t mean they’re right.
Worrying about your doubts can impair your decision-making.
Everyone has told you “you’ll just know.” But you don’t.
Should you ride it out and see how your dog does? Should you ask your vet to help your dog pass so she doesn’t suffer more?
Obviously, since you’re questioning yourself and everyone else has said “you’ll just know” it isn’t time to let go.
Or maybe “you’ll just know” isn’t true for everyone and in every situation.
Not every dog declines steadily.
Some dogs seem to be suffering one day and rally for a good day the next.
It would be easier to make end of life decisions for our dogs if we saw them steadily decline over time. But life is complicated. And it doesn’t always show clear signs of when the end is near.
You and your partner may not “know” at the same time.
Maybe you’re not the only decision-maker for your pet’s care. If you share that responsibility with family, you all need to feel comfortable with your choice.
It doesn’t matter if you “just know” your dog’s time has come if your partner doesn’t.
It’s only true for some people sometimes.
I’m waiting for that day when “I’ll just know” my dog is ready to die.
It hasn’t happened yet.
I’ve been responsible for helping three dogs pass. I haven’t felt absolutely certain with any of them. And years later, I sometimes wonder if I did the right thing.
What Should You Say
When someone shares that they’re worried about their dog who is aging or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, what should you say?
- I’m really sorry. I understand how hard this must be for you.
- That sucks.
- I’m thinking of (or praying for) both of you.
Or just about anything else except for “When it’s time to help your dog pass, you’ll just know.”
Your Turn: Have you always felt certain about making end of life decisions for your pets? Or have you found the process messy and confusing too?
I attended an excellent presentation on pet hospice that reframed end of life decisions in terms of what would strengthen your bond with your pet. You can read about it here.