(Originally posted in 2015)
Last October we put down Dylan, our almost 13-year-old chocolate Labrador Retriever (and the best brown dog in the world).
About a year earlier I wrote a post about finally acknowledging that he wouldn’t be around much longer because he stopped running upstairs to the kitchen when he heard me making a meal (or doing anything with food).
Being a soft touch, I always “dropped” something I was making on the floor for him. But when he started staying on the couch in basement instead of coming upstairs to mooch food I knew his health had started to deteriorate.
As I had never put one of my dogs down before, I was petrified that I wouldn’t know when it was time to let him go.
I didn’t want to hang on to him if was suffering. And I obviously didn’t want to euthanize him while his quality of life was still good.
Most dog owners who have had to put down a dog will say that you shouldn’t worry because your dog will let you know when it’s time to let him/her go, and while that was true in Dylan’s case, it may not be true for every dog in every situation.
So what’s the best way to know when to put your dog down?
A few days before Dylan died, a woman who works at Metro Dog Seattle (the dog daycare where we take our dog Miguel) who knew what we were going through told us how she knew when it was time to let a dog go.
She makes a list of her dog’s favorite things to do, and when it can no longer do anything on the list, she knows it’s time.
That made perfect sense to me, and although she told us this just a day or two before he died, it helped us make the decision to put him down because it forced us to think of favorite things and realize he could no longer do any of them.
My List of Dylan’s Fav0rite Things
1. Trolling for food in the kitchen
2. Swimming after the tennis ball
3. Going on walks
4. Going to the dog park
5. Playing with his kickball in the backyard
6. Fetching the tennis ball
7. Go on outings (we had to start bribing him with treats to go down the 45 stairs to and from our house)
8. Sleeping in the sun on our front deck
9. Eating (he was a lab, after all)
When he first stopped eating we took him to Blue Pearl. He stayed for several days and ate a little while he was there, but when he came home he stopped eating again. We took him back to ACCES for a couple of days but he still wouldn’t eat. Hoping they could jump start his appetite, the vets at ACCES tried force feeding him, which we continued when we brought him home, but he fought it so much we realized it was his way of telling us he wanted to go.
He punctuated his refusal to eat by going off to lie by himself in the laundry room while we watched TV in the next room, something he had NEVER done before.
That’s when we when through our mental list of his favorite things to do and realized he could no longer do any of them.
It was time to let him go. We did it the next day.
Regardless of how many times we’ve done it, deciding when to put down your dog is not an exact science. Hopefully, this exercise will help you the next time you have to make this painful decision.
And of course, if you have any questions or concerns about when you should put down your dog, consult with your veterinarian.