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If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free

People all over the country have been touched by the incredible story of Brittney, a 9-year-old bulldog in Michigan who recently saved her 39-year-old guardian’s life by barking to wake him up and alert him to a fire in the house.

The poignant twist to this story is that just days after the fire, Brittney’s guardian, Scott Seymore, decided to have her euthanized. Brittney had been recently diagnosed with advanced cancer, and her health was rapidly deteriorating.

Brittney is being hailed as a hero for saving Scott’s life, and she certainly is one. But there is another hero in this story: Scott. He made the painful (for him) but compassionate (to her) decision to set his beloved companion free from her pain.

According to a news article, after the fire, Scott “said he realized the only way left to demonstrate his love and appreciation for [Brittney]—dying with an advanced blood-borne cancer—was to end her suffering.”

I’ve had to make this same, heart-wrenching decision twice—first, with my beloved childhood dog, Katie, and recently, with the coolest cat in the world, Molly. It’s never easy. But I’m comforted in knowing that, when their time came, I didn’t let my loyal companions suffer, and their passing from this world was painless and peaceful. The last thing each of them heard were the words “I love you” whispered in their ears.

It’s no fun to think about the inevitable, but Scott and Brittney’s story is a touching reminder that our animals count on us to do what’s best for them, even when that means making difficult decisions.

I encourage you to plan ahead and make a promise to your animals that you will never prolong their suffering just because it’s hard and scary to say “Goodbye.” When animals are very old, ill, or suffering with little hope of recovery and they can no longer enjoy life, the kindest thing that we can do is set them free from suffering through euthanasia.

According to a USA Today article, many animal guardians are opting to have a veterinarian euthanize their companion animals at home, where they are most comfortable, rather than at a veterinarian’s office.

This can be an added solace to both you and your animal during a difficult time. 

None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, so my advice is this: Plan ahead now for the inevitable. Cherish every slobbery doggie kiss and contented kitty purr. Love your animals like crazy, and don’t have any regrets.

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  • EC says:

    Animals are dependent upon us so we should do all we can not just to keep them alive, but to maintain a safe, happy, and comfortable life for them. Like facing facts when good quality of life is no longer there. We must remember that there is some wild instinct left in them, including the instinct to hide pain & illness in order to not be seen as easy prey. We can’t allow our emotions to convince us that a sick dog or cat is fine just because they are still eating or walking; pets are geared to hide suffering and to please us. When an owner is truly in doubt, a good vet will be able to tell if a pet is suffering. We in turn need to be as loyal and loving as they are, and not let them linger when their comfort and joy are dwindling.

  • beth says:

    I agree that having to put an animal to rest can be a difficult decision. I am plagued with that currently. my 14 yr old sheppard has hip trouble. He and I both suffer arthritus. I do wonder if it is our choice to decide the time or not, however I do not want any animal to suffer. The BIG question is why is it we can decide at anytime to put an animal to sleep. I would never do so unless my babies were truly suffering, however shouldn’t there be some regulations on reasons to put an animal to sleep other than we just dont want them anymore. In addition, if our 4 legged family members can b put to rest and out of misery & pain, tell me why Dr. Kevorkian cannot also assit humans, also animals when they are terminally ill. I am perplexed with this daily

  • Emma says:

    Thank you for this story.

    Just over a week ago I had to say good bye to my beautiful, furry best friend and sister of 12 years. I am only 18, and I first met her as a precious little terrier puppy in kindergarten. I was scared to let go of this creature whom I had spent two thirds of my life adoring – she meant everything to me and my mum. But I found the beauty in giving my best friend what she truly deserves – comfort and happiness – even in passing. I love her, I always will, and I know she is still with me in spirit. Yet, despite the heartache of letting her go, nothing felt better than finding it within me than to do what she truly wanted and take away her pain.

    So thank you. And to anyone who is still questioning putting down their animal when they are suffering, I would tell them this – it is not you who has caused them to pass, but rather, it is you who has caused them to pass in the most peaceful and loving way possible, free of pain or anxiety.

    God bless you all.

  • Emanuela says:

    I’m really greatfull for this article, 2 days ago I had to make the same decision for my beloved dog Rocco. He has been ill since he was young. But i manage to give him a good quality of life until last week when he deteriorate so bad that all he felt was pain I tried to bring him back to health once again but at the end I thout that the best think for him was the go to doggy paradise, since i took the decision all i think about is him, he was the best pet someone coul desire, gentle, affectionate, patience.. every single positive thing a pet could be he was. every day i think there is somethimg else could i have done for Him. Every body sais it was the best but I miss him soo much i feel i’ll never recover from loosing him. But thank to reading this confort me that I have made the best choice for his interest THANK.

  • karen says:

    Dear Tara,
    My heart goes out to you, it’s so hard to know what to do. My vet, whom I adore, told me that true love for our little ones was measured in the love it took to let them go, because they would stay with us through bitter and unrelenting pain out of their love and dedication to and for us. My 20 year old precious kitty, Mr. Sheba, was a diabetic and his kidneys were failing. I loved him more than life and had to make that difficult decision just as you did. I believe if we love our little ones as much as they do us, that they would ultimately do the same. Rest easy and cherish your memories.

  • Tara says:

    Thank you for this!

    I have had to do this difficult thing 3 times since December 2007, first with our 15 year old boonie dog, Louize, then our 16 year old boonie cat, Otis, and then my Mom’s sweet little Schnauzer, Josie. I promise all of my animal babies that I will love them and care for them their whole lives, and I mean it. But this is something I’ve struggled with. Is it right to euthanize? Is it right to make that choice? Now that I have made that decision on 3 occasions in such a short time, I am convinced that yes, it was right – all 3 times.