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When Your Old Dog Dies, Don’t Make This Mistake

Written by Gary North on June 12, 2012

Old dogs die. Our German shepherd died on Sunday afternoon. She was almost 15 years old, which is old for that breed. She had been close to immobile for weeks. She spent time outside, but she slept most of the time. She was almost deaf. Her back legs were shaky.

I found her in the back end of the yard, lying in the dirt, in the afternoon. She had been sleeping outside, which was warm. I saw that she was dying. The eyes gave her away. They were “glazed” as we say. She looked different.

She was under the trees. It was expected to rain. So, my wife and I put her on a sheet and carried her into the basement. She died a few hours later.

We made a mistake. We should have carried the body outside. Instead, we left it overnight in the basement. The body fluids leaked out. These have stained the cement in the basement.

When an old dog wants to die, which I think they do at the end, outside is the right place if it’s not winter. If you bring the dog inside, do not let its remains stay there.

Don’t let the dog lie inside the house overnight unless you place it on a thick pad that you can throw away if the dog dies overnight.

There are many things you will not think of in the dog’s last hours. Try to remember this recommendation.

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35 thoughts on “When Your Old Dog Dies, Don’t Make This Mistake

  1. Sorry about your Shepherd Gary.

  2. Sorry bastard, putting it in basement. How eould u like to be left to die in the basement?

  3. Robert Blount says:

    Gary, I’m sorry to hear. What a blessing to have had 15 years with your dog. You did what you thought was best, and that’s all that
    matters. A stain is no big deal. Just a reminder
    of your last act of love and kindness for your dog.

  4. What a sorry reply. Obviously they were trying to comfort their dog! Your response demonstrates your insensitivity and gross ignorance.

  5. Bill McCroskey says:

    Tpatrot: Obviously the original poster is auditioning for a place on Obama's Death Panel. They know what is best for a unknown family dealing with their loved one in the way THEY wish….not what some stranger demands them to follow according to "Panel's Policies and Procedures" rule book..

  6. Golden Retriever Mom says:

    This poor dog should have been taken to a veterinarian for euthanasia not left alone to die in a basement. Hardest things I've ever done is hold my dogs as the veterinarian puts the needle in. But I know the left this world with grace and dignity knowing I loved them enough to let them go.

  7. My oldest dog is closer to heaven then I care to admit, but like Golden Retriever Mom, if I am able to be there to tell I will take him to the Veterinarian and ask for there help in his passing and cremation. I am so sorry you had to go through this. That stain might be there to remind you in the future to go the distance. That is: go to the vet or have the vet come to you. God bless

  8. Just offering a practical solution. Once you are sure the pet is dead, put it in a contractor or large trash bag. If you wish to have the dog cremated and it is on a Sunday, as gross as this might sound to you, put the body in the freezer overnight, if the dog will fit into a freezer. Be sure to have the body is a secured body bag first.
    Sorry to hear you lost your pet. I have a 17 year old mutt who has had several strokes and she had her eighth on Sunday. Luckily I have been awake each time, and when I noticed she was not at all right, having seen it before, I grabbed the DMSO my vet issued me, put the drops on her throat and in about an hour and a half she was alert and OK again. She had her first stoke almost exactly a year ago and I thought she would die then and marveled at how quickly she responded to the DMSO at the vet's office. I try to keep the dog and her DMSO near me as much as possible. I do not believe in taking a dying pet to the vet to be put down anymore than I would take my mother or wish myself to be "put down," to be taken out quicker and "with dignity." Think you did right to bring your dog inside and allow God to take the dog when it was the dog's time to go.
    As for Golden Retriever Mom, you did not let your dog go, you played God and killed it.

  9. Michigan says:

    Taking a dog to be "put down" is not "playing God". It's doing as we are supposed to do: caring for it, since we are their caregivers in this world. When their quality of life has become such that they are suffering and doing nothing but laying on the floor like a lump, the humane thing is to take them to the vet. I've had to do it twice, and it was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. I still tear up when I think about it. But they were suffering and I wasn't going to let the poor things just "hang around" because I selfishly didn't want to let them go. Whether you want to admit it or not, animals ARE different than people and as I said before, we are their caregivers. Sometimes you have to make the difficult choice to end their life, but believe me, it's not a decision made lightly, and not done out of cruelty – it's done out of love. Until and unless you've had to make that decision – don't criticize those that have.

  10. WOW, I cannot believe how rude people are!

    Sorry to hear about your dog Gary.

  11. lilbear68 says:

    sad end to the greatest breed. they all die and i dont look forward that day for my own shepherd

  12. Patriot Diva says:

    So sorry about losing your friend. Even though they are only animals, they are truly remarkable creatures created by God with their own unique personalities. Their companionship is one of life's great pleasures.

  13. My dog died several years ago of old age. It is not pretty, just sad. Sometimes I think when they can't move very well that it maybe better to have the vet put them down, but when?. It may feel like you are murdering a friend, but dogs can't be reasoned with especially when you want them to do outside to do their business and they can't move very well. And also, they can't tell you when it is time to let them go. It just hard to watch them go.

  14. Amen — I had to do this with both my German Shepherds. They were suffering and I comforted them as the Vet did his job. It hurt me much worse than it hurt the dog. The price of having a dog.

  15. Cliffystones says:

    Absolutely. I have a 17 year old Pom that has had several seziures. Her brother had to be put to sleep 2 years ago. He was in such pain, a large tumor had blocked his ability to relieve himself of any bodily wastes. While I am a firm believer in God, I also firmly believe God gives us a conscience and common sense. The choices were watching him lay there and suffer needlessly, or do what we knew needed to be done to relieve his suffering. What stunned me was just how quick the euthanasia was. Is was the most difficult choice we ha ever made, and we really miss having him in our lives.

    As for his sister, she continues to surprise us with her longevity. She runs around mornings like a new puppy, then proceeds to take a 5 hour nap. While we do hope she passes one night in her sleep, we are prepared do do whatever in necessary.

    I have always adored German Shepards, and I am truly sorry for your loss. Thank you for the advice as well.

  16. So sorry for your loss. I know how painful it is to lose a pet.

    I currently own an old dog that I got when it was 6 months old. He was never socialized as a pup, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not get him used to meeting strangers, or dealing with even small crowds. He would withdraw or hide, and was miserable. Now he's 13 years old, and his time with me is growing shorter every day. Our vet understands this, and has offered to come to our home to euthanize my old dog when his time comes.

  17. when their pain hurts you more than the pain of losing them it's time to see the vet

  18. will you do that with your aging father or mother? or will you just let them die in hospital? my dad died in the living room of his home with my sister sitting by him.

  19. our 20 year old black cat died on the rug in the living room heated by the fire in the fireplace during last October's snow caused electrical outage. I placed his remains in a paper bag, dug a hole in our back yard, placed his remains in the hole and planted a yellow rose bush above his remains.

  20. A dog is a very lovable pet. They will stay by you all their lives. They will lick your feet if that makes you happy. They don't talk back and are really smarter than we think. If you will take the time with them and train them as yu do your children then they are just as normal in the house as your child. I have known many instances where a dog has given his life protecting his master. Love your dog and treat tham as you would a child and just watch what that love will do with your child. I am sorry you lost your pet and just how you do in his last days is up to you and what others think is immaterial. I have a 11 year old pet and I know I will be devastated when she dies. How I will react, I really don't know, but she knows I love her.

  21. Spoken like a true idiot Gena. Golden retriever mom is right. Animals are not people, they are animals. They dont reason like a person and they dont understand what is always going on. They understand that they are in pain and miserrable and they cant help themselfs. I had to put my 16 year old golden down this last winter. It was extremely hard and the vet came to the house to do it. The kids were all there, my parents and the in-laws and it was the right thing to do. Animals dont always tell you when they are in pain and by keeping them alive at the end of their life is torture. It is inhumane to just let an animal suffer because you arent a big enough person to do the right thing. You judge others on this site and I think you are the one playing God. Your poor dog has had eight strokes but yet you continue to torture this 17 year old animal. You pretend like you are doing it for the dog but your not. You are doing it because you are selfish and inhumane. If you cant bring yourself to do what is right by your animal when its time then do all the pets a favor and just dont get a pet.

  22. madmemere says:

    Gary-so sorry to hear about your Shepard; it is so difficult to part with a faithful and beloved friend. We had to have our Standard (Jewel) put down in Feb., this year. She was one day shy of being 13 years and 4 months old; she grew up with our kids and thought she was one of them. Sometimes, she showed more intelligence than they did. She had been with us, since she was 2 months old. But, her kidneys failed and this was the only "humane" choice we had! We loved her and still miss her- -her nose print is still on my living-room window!

  23. Sharon North says:

    Listen to the assumptions some of you are making. Gary said we brought her in to the basement. He did not say we left her alone while she was dying. In fact, we stayed with her. I sat next to her and rubbed her ears and scratched her head during this time. It was only about an hour. This was in the evening. Some people came over unexpectedly and so I covered her with a sheet to deal with later. As to putting her down before this time, we considered it, but though wobbly, she still got around and enjoyed the attention she got from us and the grandchildren. We attended to her remains the next morning, Monday, when the veterinarian's office opened.

    As to taking a pet to the vet for euthanasia, we know about that, too. Last year at this time I had to take our Great Pyrenees in for the last time. Losing a pet in any manner is painful. Death is painful. Kindness is recommended, not cruel accusations.

    Both of them were good dogs, and we are thankful that they were a part of our lives.

    Thank you to those who expressed sympathy. It is appreciated.
    Mrs. Gary North

  24. Donna in CA says:

    While on a morning walk with my Jack Russell I noticed a suspicious black bag on the sidewalk ahead. The smell got to me before we reached the bag. The head of a large pit bull was visible and it had just been dumped there like garbage. The Animal Patrol was called, but it was apparently low priority because that dog laid there for several days, in the hot summer sun. The fluids leaked out and stained the cement permanently. The stench also remained for months. I go by there every day and am reminded of that owners disrespect God's creatures.

  25. calypsoman says:

    When our Collie-Shepherd died in my arms of old age we put him in our bath tub surrounded by lots of ice (so our out-of-town children could get a last look of Duke). Next day we had him cremated. Don't know if we did the right thing but we're pleased with our decision. That dog was family.

  26. Sorry Gena, but when a pet is in pain, it's time to euthanize them. That is the last true gift you can give a pet you love. The gift of releasing them from pain.

  27. It was the coolest place in the house, which made it a more comfortable place for the animal.

  28. Putting it down is the last loving thing a caring pet owner can do for a pet. I dread the day when I have to do it for my loyal old companion, but will if I have to. Right now, he's not in any pain that his N-saids can't control. I have arthritis, too, and neither of us is ready to be "put down". Ha!

  29. Remember them for how they lived…forget the rest.

  30. Taiji218 says:

    Brent, you violated the posting policy by via your discourteous insulting comments towards Gena. In my opinion, deserve to be thrown off of this site for that behavior. As far as I’m concerned, you’re “playing God” just as much as you accuse Gena of doing so by assuming *your* way of doing things is the Way, the Truth and the Life as far as dealing with end of life care for one’s pet.

    Everybody’s situation is different and different people have different values regarding euthanasia. My paternal grandfather would typically put a bullet in the animal’s brain from the back of the head and immediately bury the animal. I’ve always taken our pets to the vet to be euthanized–the last time was with the entire family petting our dog as the vet injected the fluid. And I know others who comfort the animal (and sometimes provide painkillers if they’re needed) and insist on letting the animal die at home because they’ve seen their pet start to become highly anxious, knowing the trip was to the vet and sensing their pet knew what was coming. I’ve seen that reaction myself a couple times when I was helping my late sister take her dying cats to be put down.

    Don’t assume you know what’s best for everyone.

  31. J.D. Schmidt says:

    You know what they say about folks who assume, just divide by 3! From one shepard fan to another, sorry for the loss of your friend

  32. catchesthewnd says:

    When my black Pomeranian died two weeks short of being 16 I laid her on the couch for her last moments. After she had passed I laid her on a carpeted board and placed her in the basement for 24 hrs out of respect. She had a proper funeral and after two years she still has a place in my heart.

  33. catchesthewnd says:

    If it was right for you then it was the right decision.

  34. catchesthewnd says:

    When a beloved companion animal dies we all deal with the situation in a manner that we feel is best for us. There is no right or wrong just the emotional torment of a trusted and loved companion. I hesitate to use the term pet as companion animal seem so much more appropriate. I extend my condolances to you and your family for your loss.

  35. catchesthewnd says:

    How lucky you are to have a vet that will come to your home for the final moment.