QoTM: Saying Goodbye


This month’s question:

“What’s a decision you’ve made in the past that you know, logically, was the right decision to make, but which you still feel guilty or regretful about?”

I’ve been going over this in my head, and to be honest, the only times I’ve had any kind of feeling like this is when we have had to put one of our cats to sleep.

It’s a hard choice, to decide that it’s time for your buddy to depart for the Rainbow Bridge and to bring it to the vet for that syringe that will send him away forever. Logically, you know it’s the right thing to do, but you just can’t bear to say goodbye. You want them to live with you forever and to keep being your little guy. You want the vet to say “you don’t have to say goodbye! We can fix this!” But you know he won’t, because he can’t.

So you sit with your friend and hold him and pet him and tell him how much you love him as you watch his pupils dilate and he goes limp. And all the way home, you start thinking, he could have lived longer, how selfish it was that you deprived him of life, his best buddy deciding he didn’t want him anymore, even though he could have been cured… you gave up too soon, there was more that you could have done to give your little buddy more time. Your buddy didn’t die, YOU KILLED HIM.

Then you remember watching him drag himself around the house, hair tangled and matted, not even having the energy to clean himself. You remember going to the store and buying the most expensive food to somehow entice him to eat and getting more and more worried as you watched him starve himself to nothing but skin and bones. You remember watching him try and get on the bed or a chair, watching him bang his face into the side, until you finally pick him up and carry him there. You remember the days coming home and finding him stretched out on the floor and thinking that nature had taken its course, taking the decision out of your hands. And you realize, you did the right thing.

Gradually, the sorrow and self-doubt is replaced by memories of the happy times you had together. And you realize that you knew from the beginning that when you brought your little guy home from the shelter or let him into your house for the first time that the day would come where you’d have to part ways, and that you gave him his “forever” home for as much forever as the two of you had. And you thank The Powers That Be that you had that time.

Sorry if that wasn’t the answer you were looking for, but it’s the answer I have, and it took a lot out of me.


Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

22 thoughts on “QoTM: Saying Goodbye”

  1. The way I see it is everybody and every creature dies and sometimes it’s worse to prolong a fading life. Remembering the good times and accepting the inevitable is the best thing, but I know it’s not always that simple when it’s happening to oneself.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out


    1. For sure. We’ve made the decision to say goodbye when we heard what was wrong and how much effort there would be to make them somewhat happy. We’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to keep a couple of them alive, and it gets expensive and just ends up with the animal dying anyway. Now, we don’t even consider it.


  2. This is so powerful, John. I really feel for you, and me, and for everyone else who has had to make this decision for a pet. Your head tells you that you did the right thing but your heart can’t agree at the time. Remembering the happy times with my two Labs, Tessa and Harley.


  3. Good answer to this question, even though a decidedly sad one. I have never been an animal person but my husband most definitely is and although I resisted having pets for most of our married life, about 10 years ago we rescued a cat and she lived with us for 8 years. She finally got so overweight that she began having kidney problems and we had to put her down. I went with my husband to the vet because I knew he couldn’t handle it by himself and I must admit that I felt some sadness, even though, as you say, it had to be done. Hugs to you, John, for reliving the experiences today.


  4. I can’t really comment on this at the moment because I’ve recently brought home a puppy named Margie and I’m just not ready to think about my life without her, even though I know she won’t always be with me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  5. So right. I know that feeling too.
    When I put my Beloved Felicity down, it was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I had unexpected trauma with that, and that’s how I’ll always remember her. 😦 I hadn’t had that with any of my other animals. I now wonder if I should not go in for the rest. I am deeply conflicted. On the one hand, personal pain, and on the other, they shouldn’t die alone. I gotta go before I weep. I appreciate your post.


    1. When we had our 20-year-old cat Larry put down, I went to pieces. I never cried that much for my mother, and it was a week before I could even talk about him again. You never realize just how big a part of your life they are until they go. I’m sorry if this upset you; I could barely get through it myself…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi John – I haven’t ever had to make that decision … but been so close to family, who have had to. Your description is so right. Always sad – but at least the suffering has gone … with thoughts – Hilary


    1. It’s hard to end a life, but in the end you need to ask if doing everything you can to keep the animal alive is really worth the effort. Most of the time, the answer is no.


  7. This reminded me of when we had to put down my beloved Katie, my black lab. You summed it up so well. She was my love and I miss her so much but I also know she had a good life…13 years and she had suffered a stroke so we know to keep her life going just because I didn’t want to lose her yet would have been so selfish. On a somewhat same note, when I visit my mom in long term care, her roomie is a 104 years old. She was born the year the Titanic went down and 2 years before the start of the First World War. The last 4 years she has been in bed staring at the ceiling and just make no these strange noises which sort of sound like a haunted house. She is a shell and I wonder, if she was of sound mind, if she would have wanted to live this long knowing she would be in this state. Is this really living?? I know I wouldn’t want to live like that. Sorry for the veering off topic.


    1. I remember the day my mother told the very determined oncologist who was going to find that cancer wherever it was and eradicate it that she would have to think about it. When he left the room, she turned to me and said, “You know where all my papers are, right?” She had decided they could figure out where her cancer had started during the autopsy. I think an advanced directive, telling the doctors how far you want them to go and who’s calling the shots when you can’t speak for yourself, is absolutely essential. In the case of an animal, they can’t speak for themselves, so it’s the owner’s responsibility to make the call. Right now my brother’s dog is terminally ill, and they decided to wait until it takes a lot of effort to keep him alive before they say goodbye.

      I’m surprised your mom’s roommate has hung in that long. She must still have some will to live…


  8. Beautiful post John. I know so well that guilt. But like me, you know in your heart that you did the most loving thing you could do for your little buddy and that, ultimately, he’s very grateful that you did because he has his dignity restored now. It’s soooo very hard to let go, but we have to, for them. I’ve lost 6 greyhounds and it doesn’t get any easier.
    Bless you for giving him a forever home. I’m sure he was extremely happy…

    Michele at Angels Bark


    1. It is. Sometimes it comes down to which you would rather see, your pet die or your pet live in obvious pain. The tough thing with cats is that they’re stoic and you don’t know they’re in such bad shape until it’s too late.


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