adult chocolate labrador retriever lying on brown and white striped textile

When Its Time To Say Goodbye To Our Furbabies

adult chocolate labrador retriever lying on brown and white striped textile
Photo by Binyamin Mellish on

No-one likes to see their loved ones (animal or human) suffer. However, from a distance its easy to say that if we could, we’d do whatever we could to end their suffering. Today, I’m exploring how likely it is we can do this.

Its easy to say what we’d do if we were in that situation. However, recently watching a neighbour walking her dog got me wondering whether our objectivity disappears in practice. My argument is that its difficult to say goodbye, focusing on our needs rather than those of our loved ones.

A neighbour and her dog

Recently, I was looking out the kitchen window while making a cuppa, watching a woman and her dog returning home. Their tenement has 3 steps up to the close (the common entry and stairwell). From watching my neighbour, it was clear that the dog was struggling with the steps.

Tenement housing in Buccleuch Street
Tenement housing in Buccleuch Street by Trevor Littlewood is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

Just so you can see what tenement flats look like. These are very common in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, and typical of where my neighbour and myself live.

A canine struggle

The dog might be fine on flat surfaces, but its clear when watching him, that he really struggles with the steps into the close. He is reluctant to climb the steps. Its more than just not wanting to return home as he’s not behaving in a typical way of a dog wishing to stay out. The poor dog just stands still at the close door until, eventually with a lot of coaxing, he moves forward very slowly, one paw in front of the other, and with the help of his owner, starts climbing the steps. Using a harness on the dog, he is lifted up each step in turn. She takes his weight with each step until he’s in the close. I don’t know if they need to climb more stairs once inside but this looks like an ordeal for the dog.

Its good to see the aids that are available to support animals , but I wonder how much they still suffer. I’m making a lot of assumptions about the health of this dog and how much pain he is in.

My own experience

short coated beige and brown dog
Photo by Vladislav Tsankov on

Watching my neighbour with her dog reminded me of Sheba, my own pet growing up. She was a German Shepherd dog (GSD). In particular, thinking about when my mum had to have her put down when I was about 26. Sheba had been struggling for quite a while with her hind legs, finding it increasingly difficult to move. She must have been in constant pain. One morning mum came downstairs and Sheba’s back legs had given up completely. She was unable to move, stand or go outside for toileting. It was only at this stage that the decision was taken to put her out of her misery.

For me, it was painful to lose our loyal family pet, but it was more painful to see her suffering. I must admit I always felt she should have been put down earlier. Sheba should have suffered less. By this time we, the children, had all left home. As she was living alone, I believe mum couldn’t let Sheba go. Understandable, but selfish motives.

Interpretation of situations

Now as I watch my neighbour with her dog, I am wondering how much suffering we make our pets endure because we are unable to let them go, to say goodbye. We are putting our own needs before those of our beloved pets.

I appreciate this raises lots of emotional and ethical questions. It is not ever easy to say goodbye to a loved one – pet or person. I do think, however, that its important to consider what’s best for our loved ones rather than selfish motivations. I know its easier to say this however than to actually put into action.


People who don’t have pets or don’t hold attachments don’t understand why we get so attached to our pets. Our pets are part of the family. That fact make decisions about end of life care and treatment for all loved ones, including animals, so challenging.

I appreciate this is an emotive topic which will create lots of reaction. If you want to read more of my work, I can be found on my personal blog. I’d also encourage you to sign up to Wise & Shine, if you’ve not already done so.

17 thoughts on “When Its Time To Say Goodbye To Our Furbabies

  1. Oh such a timely post. Our 15 year old Lhasa Apso – Bichon Frise mix is getting older. She still does okay, but we can start to see signs that she doesn’t get around like she once did. And, yes, she’s wormed her way into our hearts. Very much a part of the family. It will be hard when we have to say goodbye. Beautiful post Brenda

    1. Thanks Brian. It’s such a difficult thing to write. Even though we lost Sheba 30 years ago, I was fighting tears as I wrote

  2. The struggle is real. We just said good-bye to our 14 year old family dog. Her legs were completely betraying her, similar to your neighbor’s. With our previous dogs, they ‘told’ us when it was time, because they lost interest about things around them. But, unlike her predecessors, her spirit remained high. She wanted to do what she could to continue being a ‘good dog’ and be part of the family. Constantly wagging her tail and sending off good vibes. Physically, we knew it was time, so we kept looking for signs that her spirit was waning. It never did, but day to day life became harder & harder. Hardest choice we’ve ever made, because she still had some spunk, even on the last day at the vet’s office!

  3. It’s so hard and sad saying goodbye to our pets. In 2020, we decided to let go one of our cats. She was suffering so much and the vet told us it was the right choice. There was no treatment for the virus that was consuming her. So, we said goodbye. In Italy pet’s lovers say that pets when they leave our world they go over a bridge and at the end there is a rainbow. I like this image, and I hope it may give confort to those who are missing their pet-friends. Every time I see a rainbow, I think at all my pets that are already there.

  4. Such a relatable post, B. Thank you…and I love that you’re wondering about your neighbor’s dog. So often we cling because we can’t see the truth and as Brian said, watching the decline is difficult. To make matters worse, we’re in the position to decide…make that one BIG decision. Hugs to you…I think your last statement makes the point clear…putting our needs aside is painful but it’s part of loving. 💕

    1. Thanks Vicki. I wanted to write this post, but worried about it. I’m so glad it’s being well recieved

  5. A complicated topic. Vets and the advice they give plus our own reluctance to play God to make that difficult decision all come into play. I feel for everyone have to make this tough decision. Thanks for the post, Brenda!

    1. My pleasure Wynne. Having the power to make those decisions is a good and bad thing 😁

  6. It’s a heartbreaking time, even when you know you are making the best decision for your furry loved one. I’ve had to help them take the next step too many times, and I know I have more to come in my future. It’s common to second guess your decision, whether to keep them longer or to say goodbye. I’m forever grateful to my trusted vet to guide me and to cry with me after they have peacefully gone. 💔💔💔

    1. Thanks Dawn. It must be tough for vets. Your right, they play such an important guiding role

  7. Ah, that’s a hard thing to do. It is why we no longer have a pet and never will again. We just won’t put ourselves in the situation of having to put one down or lose them way too soon. You’re right, they are part of the family.

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