The Final Gift of a Peaceful Passing
Facing the loss of a beloved companion can be a time of overwhelming emotion. The anxiety of the unknown, and the anticipation of grief to come, can make these decisions even more difficult. Knowing what is involved in deciding to say goodbye, understanding the process of euthanasia, and having respectful options for cherishing your companion’s memory can provide some ease in this challenging time.
We hope these resources can help guide you and your companion through their end of life journey, so that you can focus on spending quality time together.
WHEN TO SAY GOODBYE
Knowing when to say goodbye can be a daunting decision, but you do not have to make it alone. Our knowledgeable and compassionate veterinary team is here to help guide you through this difficult process.
If you are looking for additional insights, we have compiled the below resources to support you:
- How Will I Know? Assessing Quality of Life and Making Difficult Decisions for your Pet – Ohio State University
Quality of Life and When to Say Goodbye – Dr. Ashlee Albright, DVM
- Pre-Planning and Pet Aftercare – A Guide for Families – Until We Meet Again
- Euthanasia for Behavioral Issues: A Complicated and Difficult Decision – Ohio State University
- Support and Loss – Suggested Reading List – Ohio State University
COPING WITH LOSS
The loss of a pet, or the anticipatory grief ahead of the loss, can sometimes feel overwhelming. Everyone grieves differently, and each animal plays a different role in our lives. Ensuring that you seek and receive the kind of support that is right for you is an essential part of your healing journey.
We hope that these resources may provide direction, insight, and support during the grief process:
WHAT TO EXPECT
Whether or not this is your first time making the difficult decision to say goodbye to a companion, you likely have many questions about what to expect. We understand that asking these questions can be difficult. We hope this resource will help relieve some of the anxiety and mystery around euthanasia and aftercare options. You are also welcome to speak with us about any questions you have – please reach out to our team as you need.
To help you decide whether you would like to be present for the procedure, it can be helpful to understand what the euthanasia process involves. This is a very personal decision – you may wish to be present for the entire procedure, a portion of the procedure, or none of it. However you choose to say goodbye to your companion is exactly the right choice for your circumstances. We will help organize your euthanasia appointment according to your wishes.
THE EUTHANASIA JOURNEY
When you arrive for the appointment, one of our caring staff members will guide you to our secluded memorial garden. We will then give your companion an initial sedative to reduce any anxiety and make them as comfortable as possible. We will place an IV catheter, usually in one of your companion’s front legs; this will be the portal through which medications are administered. Depending on their comfort and condition, we may bring your companion into the hospital for this step – in this case, we will return to the garden together once the catheter is placed.
You may spend as much time as you need together. When it is time to say goodbye, your veterinarian will administer a drug that will ease your companion smoothly into an unconscious state. Finally, they will deliver the euthanasia solution; this is essentially an overdose of an anesthetic agent, so that your companion will simply relax into a deep sleep from which they will not wake up.
Although this process is painless for the patient, there are some side effects for observers to be prepared for. Often the patient’s eyes will remain open, their body could move reflexively, they may make a little noise, or even draw a deep breath. Death is not a single moment, but a process, and these occurrences are normal as different parts of the body begin to shut down. If being present for this process feels too upsetting, you can choose not to be present, or to say goodbye at any point along the way. You are also welcome to return to your companion after they have passed to say your farewells. This is a very personal decision, and each case is unique – we will be here for you and your companion every step of the way.
Once the euthanasia is complete, your veterinarian will listen to your companion’s heart – the absence of this heartbeat will confirm that your companion has made their transition. At this point you may spend as much or as little time with them as you need. Depending on the aftercare choices you have made, we will make the necessary next steps for your companion after you depart.
PREPARING FOR THE DAY
Once you have made the decision to say goodbye, we want to make the day as smooth as possible for you. Ahead of the appointment, we’ll send you a consent form that you can complete and return, along with options for how you would like to remember your companion. If you like, we can also arrange for you to complete payment for the procedure ahead of time, so there is nothing to deal with on the appointment day but being there for your companion.
Once you have decided if you would like to be present for the euthanasia, it is also time to consider how best to involve the rest of your family. Knowing how important it is to have the opportunity to say goodbye, if it feels right for your situation you are welcome to have other family members, including your children, present. Preparing young children ahead of time for what to expect will help them better understand the experience – try to be as open and honest as possible, and clear about the outcome.
Depending on their disposition, you might also consider bringing other companion animals who share the home to say goodbye. Dogs and cats also experience grief and bewilderment when they lose a friend. Allowing them to be present and sniff their friend once they have passed can help provide closure. It can also be very comforting to have some extra warm furry company on the way home. This may not be the right choice for your circumstances, but if you would like to have your other companions present, we can certainly accommodate this.
There are several things that might make your companion more comfortable for this final appointment. If they have a special blanket or bed that they habitually sleep on, feel welcome to bring that along for them. If they have a particular kind of music they enjoy, you might want to load it onto your phone and we can play this during the euthanasia process. If they have an appetite, you might want to bring along a few bites of something delicious that is typically off-limits – a bite of cheeseburger, or ice cream, or even chocolate. Enjoying this treat could be one more special memory to share.
Finally, consider whether you will want to take your companion’s leash and collar home. You might also want to take a special clipping of their fur as a keepsake – we can help you with this during the appointment if you would like. If they have a favourite item or a special toy, you are welcome to leave this with your companion to accompany them to their cremation.
Although there is truly no way to ease the difficulty of saying farewell to a beloved companion, taking the time to prepare yourself and your family for the day can help ease the transition. We encourage you to reach out if you have any questions; we are here to help with anything you might need.
As the guardian of a companion animal, you have the special responsibility of making aftercare choices on their behalf. We know that your choices may seem overwhelming as you look for the perfect way to honor your companion. At Elk Lake Veterinary Hospital we partner with a local memorial service, Until We Meet Again, to coordinate your companion’s aftercare.
To help you navigate this process, here you will find an overview of aftercare and memorial options available:
In this case, your companion will be the only one in the cremation chamber, ensuring that their ashes can be returned to you. These remains will be returned in your choice of keepsake container with optional engraving; we can help you organize the details of this option.
In this case, your companion will be gently placed together with others in the crematory. Your companion’s ashes will not be returned to you; instead, they will be collected and spread in a private country meadow in the Fraser Valley. There are alternative memorial options, such as paw print impressions, available.
For either aftercare option, Until We Meet Again will provide you with grief resources and a certificate authenticating the cremation.
A standard urn is included in the cost of private cremation. Personalization options are available at additional cost on the metal urns and cedar boxes. The size of the urn will be determined based on the size of your companion.
Metal Tan Urn
Metal Blue Urn
Ceramic Black Urn
Ceramic White Urn
Ceramic Pearl Urn
Cedar Wood Box
Paw Print Impressions
Clay Paw Print
Size of paw print is based on the size of your pet, standard colour and design. Please allow up to one week for delivery to our hospital.
Customized Paw Print
Custom paw print is available in pink, purple, teal, orange, and beige. Please allow up to two weeks for delivery to our hospital for this option.