Is it ever right to play God? I know I am not the only one who has ever been posed with this question. My faith and my religion, tell me NO, it is not ok; however, when it comes to another living creature suffering, what is the right thing to do?
Just recently we had the agonizing task of choosing to put our aging, ailing dog down. Sasha was our first rescue dog and when we got her, she was a year and a half old that was back in 2005. Sasha was a Shiba Inu, a distinct Japanese breed. Shiba Inus are alert dogs that are intelligent with fiery personalities, well tempered and affectionate. Sasha exhibited all of these traits and more.
Like most breeds, Shiba’s are also prone to health issues, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and hip dysplasia. As Sasha aged, we watched our once vibrant, happy and energetic dog start to struggle with age and some health issues. The past two years have been exceptionally bad.
Sasha used to love to go on walks, the first few years we had her, she would accompany me on my endurance walks up to 3 miles; 3 to 4 times a week. Sasha would also love running around in our then back yard that was on about a ½ acre of land.
Sasha loved to hunt, and unlike a typical dog’s prey, her penchant was for reptiles; and that yard had plenty of them. She would spend much time out in the back yard looking for turtles, frogs, lizards and geckos. If she found any, she would pin them down with her paws. She wouldn’t kill or eat them, she just liked to hunt and trap them. In fact, you could say that Sasha had refined taste; she was very particular about what she ate. Her favorite treats were gourmet dog cookies, but if we really wanted to spoil her (and occasionally we did) she would indulge on wine infused salami and aged, smoked gouda…the other dogs could not have cared less, they would have been just as happy eating cat turds off of our front lawn.
Sasha was a great family pet, she loved and watched over the family, like great guard dogs do. So about two years ago, when we noticed her walking distance was becoming harder for her to handle, on the walks that she loved so much, we knew she was starting to age and starting to slow down.
Her walks and activity level became shorter and fewer, however, her trips to the vets had increased. The vet had prescribed her inflammatory and pain pills, low and short doses at first, but over time, those had changed and increased as they were having no effect on her. About a year ago, Sasha’s whining and crying had started to become noticeable and we knew it was due to the arthritis she was suffering in both her front and back legs. At this time, I personally had to have a full knee replacement, because I could not deal with my own physical pain, so I can imagine what Sasha was feeling.
We watched Sasha suffer from arthritis, knee and hip pain as well as cataracts; and over a two year time span, these conditions were becoming increasingly worse. We had now reached a point where watching Sasha stand up, sit down or try to crouch to relieve herself was excruciating for her. Her legs were severely stiff as she would try to walk across each room in our house. We were now taking Sasha to the vet approximately every two weeks not only due to her intolerance of pain, but now also the constant medications were wreaking havoc on her digestive system and stomach.
The final breaking point came at what was to be her was her last trip to the vet. She was suffering from dehydration and our vet prescribed her another round of medication to help her stomach, however, when we would try to administer the doses at home for the recommended upcoming week, Sasha refused. She spent the next day or two refusing her medications, even after my husband did his best by getting down on the floor and trying various methods and trickery to get her to take it, but Sasha was to smart and stubborn to take it. Heartbreaking as it was, we could see in her eyes and in her face…she had, had enough.
Failing after many attempts of trying to get her to take her medications, and now she had also stopped eating and drinking, my husband and I knew the moment and the decision that we never wanted to make was upon us. With many tears and heavy hearts, we chose to put our beloved Sasha down.
We had chosen a vet that performed pet euthanasia at home. While at first, we were not entirely sold on this concept as it was a little out of our comfort zone, we came to realize that not only would this be more comforting to Sasha, as she would not have to have her final impressions of this world, in a cold, sterile vets office but it would also help bring closure for our other 3 dogs. Them being able to see and smell her body, they would not constantly be wondering…”Where did she go?” and “When is she coming home?”
As heartbreaking and gut wrenching as this process was, I would like to think that Sasha would suffer from physical pain no more and that she was assured that we loved her and that we were present in her final moments. As both my husband and I, feverously tried to hold back tears of grief, we hugged her and told her we loved her and that we would see her again one day and expected to see her running and playing in all her youthful doggy glory as she once was. My husband sat on the floor at her bedside, kissing and stroking her head as she peacefully transitioned to The Rainbow Bridge.
When it was over and the vet took her away to be cremated, both my husband and I were consumed with regret and wanted nothing more than to have our Sasha back. This feeling of grief and pain went on for days and had me questioning what kind of a Catholic am I? A bad one if you would have asked me, because this act of “playing God” went against everything that I had known and believed in, but on the other hand, I would remember witnessing the pain Sasha would endure, getting up from her bed to be let outside, the constant crying; and what I can only describe as “diesel truck engine” like panting due to her pain. What kind of Catholic would I have been to let her suffer? The answer to these questions, I will never know, until God himself tells me on my judgment day. Until then, I will live with the both the guilt of taking another life and the acceptance that I have relieved another soul from physical suffering.