Saying goodbye to your pet: When is the right time?
I recently met Judith, whose beloved 16-year-old golden doodle, Felicia, was suffering from multiple organ dysfunction syndrome. According to Judith’s vet, Felicia’s time “was running out.” Judith was struggling to accept this reality, and especially the idea that it was up to her to make the final decision of when and how to help Felicia to die. The one thing Judith knew for sure was that she wanted Felicia to die at home, and on her own terms, if possible.
Often it is the vet who decides “the right time,” but Judith felt that she knew Felicia better than anyone. She decided to follow her friend’s advice to keep Felicia at home for a few extra days to assess her quality of life. This was still an option because Felicia was not showing signs of suffering.
Part of Judith’s assessment plan was to make a list of the things Felicia enjoyed doing, and keep track of how many days Felicia did those things compared to how many days she couldn’t. Judith also used the HHHHHMM Scale, an assessment tool proposed by Pawspice, a quality of life program for terminally ill pets. (1)
Judith’s assessment affirmed that Felicia’s time was near. Judith informed the vet of her decision to keep Felicia at home, and to let the process happen naturally. Judith recognized that she needed to prepare for what could be a long, and also painful, process. She organized time off from work so that she could devote her days to Felicia. Her vet was a phone call away and offered to provide pain medication if needed.
She also contacted me for a Reiki session — she needed to look after herself, tap into her inner resources of strength and tranquility. Her main concern was to offer loving strength to Felicia, instead of fear. Animals, dogs in particular, are very sensitive to human social cues. They can anticipate our behaviours, pick up on changes of energy, and quickly sense our emotions. We can’t hide our feelings from a dog, and Judith knew that Felicia could sense her sadness and fear.
I offered to give Judith and Felicia a couple of “Reiki for Two” sessions. Reiki offers comfort to a dying animal. It helps to calm them and to ease the transition for the animal and their human. At the last Reiki session, while Felicia and Judith lay quietly side by side, I held space and time for them, so they could relax, reconnect, and accept. This was essential for helping Felicia to transition peacefully. I left them in a quiet mood, ready to spend their remaining hours together peacefully.
Judith called me the following day. Felicia had passed away peacefully. Her process had been gentle and quick. Judith was sure that Felicia had been comfortable and accepting.
I no longer visit Judith’s home, but I regularly give Judith energy healing sessions. She often tells me a story about Felicia’s wilful and happy personality, how she lived up to her name.
(1) Alice Villalobos, DVM, DPNAP, is a renowned veterinary oncologist. She introduced the Pawspice HHHHHMM Scale. The letters stand for Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility, and More (good days than bad). Each factor is scored on a scale of 0 to 10.