(Editor’s Note: We received this letter from Bark reader Donna Kane of Portland, Oregon. She writes so honestly and forthrightly about an experience many of us have faced and stumbled over, we thought we’d let her open a conversation about the language we use to describe this difficult passage.)
My husband and I had a rough year and a half starting in June 2006 when we made the decision to euthanize our 16-year-old deaf and nearly blind dog. His quality of life was limited to a very small window of time on sunny and warm afternoons; the rest of the time, he paced and would flinch if you tried to comfort him. After that, our nine-year-old cat’s kidneys failed and we found ourselves in another round of grief, only to have our second cat of 15 die of a stroke six months later.
We are recovered now and have good memories and a great little rescue dog, who is delightful. But the words that come back, not only through our own loss process but throughout other conversations I’ve had the last couple of years, are “put him down.” Just as I’ve never considered myself an owner, but merely a guardian for the animals that I’ve adopted and taken the responsibility for, I’ve never thought when making the decision to euthanize them that we were “putting them down.” I find this term somehow offensive even when it comes out of the best of mouths with the best intentions.
“Putting him (or her) down” feels abusive and not something a loving person would want to happen to their beloved pets. “Putting him down” needs a compassionate replacement, nothing too cute or too blunt, but something that makes you feel as though you have done the right thing by your pet who has loved you unconditionally, given you years of pleasure and then relied on you to make a choice for them that is very hard for to you make.