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Preparing for the compassionate death of a furry companion

Siwa, just yesterday afternoon

Siwa, just yesterday afternoon

My dog has been living with canine melanoma for the past two years so I’ve had some time to prepare for her death.  She successfully fought off the cancer for 1 1/2 years and only since July did she start losing the fight. Since then, I’ve been preparing myself emotionally and mentally.

For instance,  I found a local place that individually cremates animals;  they even allow for private viewing if you want to be certain that they do what they say they will do. I’ve also contacted my vet about at-home euthanasia and whether or not this was a service they could provide.  It turns out that they may, depending on how busy they are that day. They also offered the names of other vets who performed this service. These are the questions I did not want to deal with in an emotional frenzy.

So this morning, when my dog’s breathing became labored, and she was unable to get up on her own, and when she did not eat her food, I knew the time had come. What I did not anticipate was that day would be today, Sunday, a day when neither my vet’s office, nor the animal crematorium, would be open.  My only option would have been to take her to the emergency vet, where I knew they would just tell me that she needed to be put to sleep. I did not want her last memory to be that of a cold emergency vet’s office.

The dogs beds are in my messy studio.

Siwa & Sam inside my messy studio, where their beds are located. I've set up camp next to Siwa on the floor of my studio.

My dog’s mouth was also bleeding quite a lot, with bits of the tumors in her mouth dislodging. Amidst my tears, I tried to keep her as comfortable and pain-free, and as clean as I could. But because she did not eat her food, she also did not ingest any of the meds and painkillers that she normally would have eaten with her food. I was concerned that she was in a lot of pain.

I contacted her oncologist’s office to get some guidance. Fortunately, this same office also operates one of only two 24-hour emergency facilities in the Bay Area so I knew as a last resort I could at least take her to a familiar place.

Her oncologist was not in, because of course, it was Sunday.  Instead, I talked with one of the technicians, who upon hearing Siwa’s name, proclaimed, “Oh, I know Siwa.”  They had after all, been treating her for cancer for close to 2 years. When he said that though, I was once again in tears. They did prescribe painkillers, which Jon picked up, that I could inject to her that would last until tomorrow, when I could contact her regular vet.

Siwa is still on her bed, where she’s been since early this afternoon. She’s sleeping, occasionally waking to look at me, then goes back to sleep. I haven’t left her side; I plan to spend the night next to her, in my sleeping bag. It’s the least I can do for someone who has been with me for the last 14 years of my life.

Siwa, today - she has not moved from her bed in over 8 hours. I know shes ready to go.

Siwa, today - she has not moved from her bed in over 8 hours; when she tried, she stumbled, and it was all I could do to help her back on her bed. I know she's ready to go.

A little journal therapy. When I wrote this, I had made peace with the fact that Siwa was ready to go.

A little journal therapy. When I wrote this, I had made peace with the fact that Siwa was ready to go.


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3 Responses to “Preparing for the compassionate death of a furry companion”

  1. Kim says:

    Hi, Trish. I’m from the WW mailing list – I have several WW blogs in my reader, and saw this today. I’m so sorry to hear about Siwa. We had to euthanize one of our cats about two years ago now. She was 17 and I believe she finally had kidney failure. I just wanted to let you know this post brought tears to my eyes. I hope the end was peaceful. Take care.



  2. Raena says:

    Oh, this one made me cry. It brought back so many memories of when I had to put my Chaz down. That was horrible, being the first time I had ever had to put a pet down. For weeks afterward, I would walk in the door and suddenly burst into tears because he hadn’t greeted me.

    I know you will miss your dear friend. I am so sorry for your loss.


  3. BettyPieper says:

    Dear Trish,
    Belated condolences. I was touched by how you set up a bed
    on the floor to be with Siwa. Julie did the same when
    she was losing Samantha. I nursed our Tigger a long time
    and worried if I’d know when. Unfortunately it was a bad
    death for him…at the vets…and I wish I’d had the foresight
    to do something differently. It is amazing the bond we have
    with animals…and one reason why frankly I am not ready to
    have another. We make what people have called “crazy” commitments
    to our animals and suffer greatly when they pass.
    It’s nice to hear of a like minded soul.


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