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Euthanasia guilt and your pet

by Kitty Walker, LMSW-ACP

Dear Kitty,

How do we work through the guilt of putting down our 10-year-old rottie, even though she was fully aware and mentally sharp but arthritis had made her back legs useless?

A and T

Dear friends,

I am sorry that you had to go through this experience with your rottie. Making the euthanasia decision for a beloved pet has to be one of the most agonizing crossroads a human can confront in life. Obviously, you made the decision based on seeing her struggle with a poor quality of life, and now you are left with the pangs of guilt that are common to all who travel in your shoes.

In terms of "working through" the feeling of guilt, I would recommend that you first of all see them as an inevitable part of the grief process---especially for those who are forced into the decision regarding euthanasia. One works through the feelings by first of all allowing them, then talking about them and perhaps writing about them. When you feel bogged down by guilt feelings, it might be helpful to consider the memory of your healthy, mobile rottie and the loss of her quality of life when arthritis took away the use of her legs. You could not give her back her legs, which I am sure you would have done if you could, but you could ease her pain and suffering in a way that she could not do for herself.

My heart goes out to the two of you at this time. May your healing be deep, and may you find comfort in both your memories and the knowledge that you did the best you could when confronted with the most painful dilemma a pet owner has to face.

Kitty


Ask Kitty is a psychotherapist specializing in grief and loss issues which humans encounter when their pets die. She has worked in this area for a number of years, providing counseling to people at this special time of need. She also provides consultation and education to employees of veterinary clinics in her area.

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