It is such an agonizing decision! I know because I just went through it in May, 2011. May 11 to be exact.
It was my 16 year old "junk yard dog", Jessy. We went to buy a car and came home with the pup of a wild dog. When we went in to fill out the paper work, she jumped into my lap and from that day till her last was my shadow.
She had a super healthy life. Never sick, intelligence to a fault sometimes, and played her heart out most of her life. She and our golden retriever, Lucky were true soul mates. She really never stopped grieving him after he died from cancer in 2006.
She began having increasing arthritis a couple of years ago at age 14 in her hips and back legs. I had her on rimadyl for the last 18 months. Then one day out of the blue in the back yard she some how tore her acl. And at her age, surgery was not an option. She had also been losing weight over the last year, but it seemed at a rapid rate the last 3 months. She went from a 70 lb dog to 45 lbs of bones. It was pitiful to watch, but even more so to watch her long to play and not be able to. She could no longer walk, so I had to carry her wherever she went.
For three weeks I'd say I was ready, then I couldn't. I don't know which is more anguish, trying to make the decision or doing it.
But YOU WILL KNOW. I knew she would tell me and there wouldn't be a question in my mind. Actually, I think she'd been telling me for a while. And my two cents to ANYONE considering this is GO WITH YOUR HEART. And until you know that you know that you know, then DON'T.
The day I took her, I had not planned it. But when I woke up and looked into her eyes, I knew it was time. But that doesn't make it any easier on the heart. I don't let go of those I love easy. The tears still fall as I write this.
I had to do it for her. She could never return to the life she once knew and loved and I had to let her go. Watching her try to play when she couldn't broke my heart almost as much as letting go. So giving her peace and comfort was for me, the last act of true love I could give her and the hardest.
I had never stayed with a dog while they put them to sleep. I just couldn't. But Jessy and I had such a connection that I knew no matter what I had to and I did.
I will tell you that although it was heart wrenching, it was also peaceful. When they gave her the injection she was looking into my eyes the entire time. I held her in my lap while they did it. No pain, no wincing, just those sweet loyal eyes looking into mine. I wanted MY voice to be the last she heard and my eyes to be the last she saw, and so it was.
My Jessy girl went through the best and worst of life with me, by my side through it all. So for the years of pure unconditional love and joy she gave me, she is worth every tear that falls. She will always be my girl, and with time, I'll be able to remember her with smiles instead of tears.
Grief is a journey we all walk at some time in our lives. There is no way around, over or under it. The only way is through it and allow time to heal the shattered heart. And it will.
For now, my comfort comes from knowing that she and her soul mate, Lucky, are frolicking in a big green field chasing squirrels (and each other) together again.