When is it time to say ‘goodbye?’


In the garden, we make life, death, and death-delaying decisions all the time. For the Iris to live, the snails must die.


For the bees and butterflies to thrive, we endure bugs.


And although a plant’s whole purpose is to flower and set seed, we take its buds to extend its season.


A garden isn’t really nature; it’s working with – and sometimes, against it, to achieve our wishes.


With people and our animals, we often work against nature as well. But life-extending and ending decisions are obviously different. Key factors enter the equation: how much can they – or we – bear? Is it better to say goodbye today, or extend today into as many tomorrows as we can get? Is it too soon? Or too late?

People (hopefully) draft directives to guide and free us from the burden of these decisions. Not so our pets, who look to us to ‘know.’

There are “five freedoms” that guide rescue. They are helpful, as well, when faced with the impossible and emotional life and death decisions made for our animal family members.

Freedom from hunger or thirst: is my pet able to feed and drink, or am I able to assist without causing the animal undue distress?

Freedom from discomfort: there are times we choose painful courses of treatment when it means many good future years, but for those with a terminal illness, ask: is my companion comfortable while living with the disease?

Freedom to express (most) normal behaviors:
can they still do the things that make them happy?

Freedom from pain, injury or disease:
can pain be managed at an acceptable level; will the proposed treatment create further complications that jeopardize quality of life?

Freedom from fear and distress: can a better quality of life be achieved by declining life-extending treatments, even if it means fewer tomorrows?

The right choice isn’t always the easiest one.

I’m thinking of my sister and her husband who, yesterday, made the right decision at the right time for our father’s dog.


Had they not taken Butterscotch into their home six years ago, they would not have been faced with this weight or today’s sadness. But Butterscotch would not have had six years of love and happiness with them, either. Her post is here.


At 16, Butterscotch showed my sister the signs, and she had the courage to see them. Butterscotch earned her freedom from this earth and what had become its pains. And my sister and her husband earned their guardian angel wings.

“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” ~ Agnes Sligh Turnbull

Fly free, sweet Butterscotch. Until we meet again at the Rainbow Bridge.