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Dogs Really Prefer to Die Alone?

Do Dogs Really Prefer to Die Alone?


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“He just came to the end of his days, and then wandered off to die.” At least that’s what we’re told, so often, but is it really true? Do dogs really want to die alone? Do they really just wander off, wanting to die alone?

Elizabeth Tumbarello is a contributor to eHow, and she theorizes that dogs want to die alone, in peace. They do it because they are pack animals, and they don’t want to slow down the pack. Or because they don’t want their people to have to deal with the trauma of their death. Personally, I think she’s full of you know what.

I’m much more onside with Wendy Smith Wilson, a veterinarian who tells us that dogs most certainly do not want to die alone. She attributes this theory to the idea that we want to believe that our dogs die gently, comfortably, and without pain, and she offers up a ton of reasons why dogs do not go away to die.

I think I’m in agreement with her, and here is why.

Old Animals Need to Be Cared For

Why would anyone think that an old, sick dog wandered off to die? It doesn’t make sense. It’s far more likely that they’re wandering, confused, and trying to find a safe place to get back to. They don’t wander off to die – they just wander off, and then they end up somewhere that they can’t get back from. Maybe they fall down a hill, or wander onto the road and get hit by a car. Maybe cognitive dysfunction means that they end up in an unfamiliar place, and they can’t get back home. Maybe they are attacked and killed by a stronger animal. Maybe the weather gets bad and they freeze to death. Maybe, for any of these reasons, they just can’t get back home, and they’re cold, or afraid and they die because they can’t get back to the people they love.

They’re Like Young Pets

Old pets, in the later stages of their lives, can be very much like young pets when it comes to the type of care they need. You wouldn’t leave a puppy out in the rain, would you? An old dog needs the same type of care – they need to be kept inside, and taken care of. They’re not trying to “wander off to die” – they need you to take care of them.

When your aging pet’s health is declining, you need to be aware of what’s going on. Your dog is not likely to die peacefully. He is not likely to “wander off.” He is relying on you to know when it is time to take him gently from this world. It is not about you. He feels frightened, and lost, and he needs help – help in dying, and you are the one who must recognize when that is the case. They do not deserve to meet a frightened, bewildering end out there lost and alone. I think Beth Norman Harris said it best in her “Dog’s Prayer”:

A Dog’s Prayer

Treat me kindly, my beloved master, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.

Do not break my spirit with a stick, for though I should lick your hand between the blows, your patience and understanding will more quickly teach me the things you would have me do.

Speak to me often, for your voice is the world’s sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footstep falls upon my waiting ear.

When it is cold and wet, please take me inside… for I am now a domesticated animal, no longer used to bitter elements… and I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth… though had you no home, I would rather follow you through ice and snow than rest upon the softest pillow in the warmest home in all the land… for you are my god… and I am your devoted worshiper.

Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for although I should not reproach you were it dry, I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst. Feed me clean food, that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side, and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life, should your life be in danger.

And, beloved master, should the Great Master see fit to deprive me of my health or sight, do not turn me away from you. Rather hold me gently in your arms as skilled hands grant me the merciful boon of eternal rest…and I will leave you knowing with the last breath I drew, my fate was ever safest in your hands.

–Beth Norman Harris

She really did say it best – know when to let go. And do not let your dog die alone. He does not want that. He wants to die in your arms, the arms that held him and loved him all throughout his life. And it’s up to you to decide when it’s time. I don’t pretend to know everything, but if you’re not sure you have the timing right, read Is It Time to Let Go? for some thoughts on well-timed euthanasia.

I have never let a dog die alone. Every dog that has ever brightened my life has left this life in my arms. I considered it a duty, and I have never believed that a dog would want it any other way.

It’s Hard

There is nothing harder than losing a beloved dog. I have loved and lost many. I also have friends who have lost dogs, and it is so very hard to know what to say. I found comfort in a great book, Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet It’s available for Kindle at Amazon for $7.72. You can also get it in paperback, used from $2.98 or new from $6.25. I’ve read it and re-read it, and it’s helped me through the grieving process many times.

About the Author Ash

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