We took our much-maligned dog to the vet; she had been having these strange seizures and we couldn’t tell if it was joint pain or something else.

Before we had finished describing all of the dog’s various symptoms the vet brought up the dreaded “quality of life” phrase.  We thought it would be easy.  We thought we were prepared.

We were not.

Even though she drove us crazy it was really hard, when it came down to it.  What’s worse, we had been putting this off because we didn’t want to seem too hasty, and the vet said something along the lines of “when you see these symptoms… it’s just cruel to make them live that way.”  So great — our self-consciousness turned to cruelty.

And, as we were absorbing that little nugget, Grey asked “Why is he going to kill our dog?” Now, we had talked to him about this possibility at length in the preceding weeks.  But how do you get that to sink in with a six-year old?  It’s pretty abstract.

Shoshanah dissolved in tears and took Greyson to the waiting room. The doc had me pin down a confused and struggling Coco.  I desperately wanted to tell her that it would be okay, that the pain and misery and confusion would be over.  I talked to her as best I could in those few seconds, hoping the lower tones in my voice would pierce that deafness that had started making everything so much worse.  And as the anaesthetic rushed in, she did relax and seemed happy, happier I imagine than she had been in months, and soon she lay quietly in my arms.

The guilt was piercing and multilayered.  The guilt for keeping her alive, the guilt for putting her down. The guilt over how we honestly felt about her when she was alive.  The guilt from the uncertainty about whether it was wise to have Grey involved in this final process.  The conflict about my support for voluntary human euthanasia and the difficulty of participating in pet euthanasia. (I know, those are very different but it didn’t feel like it just then.)

As for Grey, there was method to our madness.  We have a beloved relative in poor health, and I think that Greyson will be confronting death imminently.  I felt it was a disservice to try to shelter him from it at this time.  Thoughts?