Euthanasia of a Pet: A Conversation

Excerpts of a conversation between Jake, who leads a group on end of life issues at the ASMC and Dawn whose 14 year-old dog Abbey was nearing the end of her life. ♦ 

Hi Jake,
Over the last few weeks my dog’s kidneys have begun to fail. It’s been so hard to watch her suffering. She has good days and bad days. Her appetite is questionable at best… she isn’t drinking the water she needs to drink in order to stabilize. She’s weak, lethargic, sometimes rallies with her normal sweet spunkiness. She’s confused about where she is. Last night was bad. She was vomiting and then got lost behind the bed and tangled up in the cords so we had to move the furniture to get her out.

The teaching seems to be that the right choice is to be brave and courageous and be there with her suffering. Feed her what she will eat, make her comfortable and let her live out the rest of her life, good days and bad, and just be with it as it arises. As you can imagine, I am in a very vulnerable place, very emotional. My boyfriend and my family don’t want to see me suffer… or Abbey suffer… so they are somewhat pressing me to euthanize. I feel like if I really examine my intention and am honest with myself, I would be doing it to make my suffering stop and hers. I just wanted to reach out to you to see what your thoughts are about the Buddhist view of euthanizing pets.


Hi Dawn.
I am deeply touched by your letter. I don’t think there’s a right answer, and I don’t think there’s a wrong answer. The path through this is to stay with your own pain, which will reflect any confusion and difficulty Abbey incurs. Keep breathing, keep your heart open, and answers will come. I think this is the teaching that underlies all that is said by the meditation masters: stay open, rest in the moment, and the truth will arise.

I (along with Miriam) have euthanized a number of pets over the years, and I would do it again. Miriam expresses it best when she says, “Stay with them, and they will let you know when it’s time.”  Pets are our teachers in the moment; they don’t get ahead of themselves, being present with their pain and distress without anticipating what happens next, without a storyline that says this or that. We can learn a lot from them. I think it is okay to end an animal’s struggle when there is pain, anxiety, and distress on the animal’s part, and no hope for recovery.

I don’t share the deep belief of the masters that karmic events shape rebirth after rebirth.  I don’t know what I believe, except that none of this is very clear. I do believe in trusting my own heart, and doing the best I can, moment to moment.


Hi Jake,
My vet and I had a very nice chat this morning and I explained my feelings on how I would like to care for Abbey during her final days and that I didn’t want to rush into euthanasia until it was the right time. He recommended calling Dr. Sara Schaubert who offers in-home hospice care for pets from both the eastern and western traditions. She’s a practicing vet who provides pain management and acupuncture for animals in the end stages and also euthanasia in the home, if and when that becomes necessary.

She is coming to meet Abbey at 11am today so we can chat about options and see if this feels like a good fit. She offers support through the process which is very comforting.


Hi Jake,
This last weekend got progressively worse for Abbey. By Sunday morning she was heaving and vomiting and uneasy as well as gasping for air at times. I wrapped her in a blanket and laid her on my chest where she finally was restful, and she slept there for an hour. I texted the hospice vet about what was taking place and we agreed that it was probably “time” to make that dreaded decision. I laid her on the bed and got on my knees and looked straight into her eyes and immediately I was struck by the absense of the Abbey I had known for almost 15 years.
The vet came to the house around 2pm on Sunday. Abbey was wrapped in her favorite blanket a heating pad on my chest in our favorite chair. The vet and I had a wonderful talk about my beliefs and what a difficult decision this was for me… but ultimately we both agreed it was time. She gave her a sedative shot which she felt, but just a pinch. She fell asleep again and after ten minutes was sedated and resting very comfortably. Then the euthanasia solution was injected. I had my hand on her chest and felt her heart stop and her last breath. I’m so relieved that she was lying on my chest listening to my heartbeat as she died. I will never forget the intimacy of that moment, so very painful and raw and I’m sure you know from your past experiences.

I’m very sad but relieved that she isn’t living in differing degrees of pain anymore. I am missing her sweet little brown eyes and flipped up ears… at times still in disbelief that she is gone, expecting her to scratch on my leg with her little crooked paw to tell me to hurry up with her food. Thanks for all of your wonderful support and guidance, Jake.


Abbey Photo1

Dr. Sara Schaubert
Healing Arts Housecalls
In-Home Pet Hospice Care and In-Home Euthanasia
(512) 576-0929

Austin Pet Memorial Center
Chuck Hutchinson
Pet Cremation