As a rule, people outlive their dogs. In the last month, we have had to say goodbye to our beloved four-legged friend and family member Oscar, who has made his way over the rainbow bridge. After a certain period of mourning, I would like to share with you my reflections and experiences in dealing with the death of my own dog. In the end, you will find out how we preserve our memories of our dog.
Our beloved dog, Dogue de Bordeaux Oscar, has had cancer since he was six years old. If the first operation was still very successful, we were informed about two years later that the heart was now also afflicted with cancer and was inoperable. Life expectancy was now only one year.
This certainty of the inevitable helped me to deal with the topic early on and to think about it. Of course, as I write these lines, I am aware that death can also occur much more suddenly.
As a consequence, I can say for myself that I enjoyed the remaining time with our dog even more and was more forgiving of his behavior. A strict “Oscar here” became a more patient “Oscar here” when he has loitered a little during the walk and forgotten the world around him.
Put the Dog to Sleep or Let it Die
A frequently asked question is “Can the dog just gently fall asleep at home or does the vet have to put the dog to sleep.
Almost all dog owners have the idea that the dog will fall asleep gently and peacefully at home. And yet only a few dogs have the privilege of ending their lives with their families. It is more likely that the dog should be redeemed by the vet due to illness or physical infirmities.
In our case, my wife in particular fought for the animal up to the last minute and looked for ways to fight back against the disease. However, about a week before our dog died, we were informed that the heart tumor had quadrupled since the last examination and that our family member will no longer be able to see the summer of 2019.
Since the final diagnosis, Oscar has been visibly going downhill almost every day, and his condition has steadily deteriorated. A last attempt to change the feed, a small medical intervention and a change of pills brought no improvement.
And at this point, the caring dog owner is asked and challenged to correctly assess the condition of his beloved animal and to go to the vet. In our case, Oscar made no effort to eat normally on Fridays. The following Saturday he barely moved out of his basket. We still had some hope that the drugs might just need a day to take effect. But even on Sundays Oscar was very, very bad, he just lay in the basket and took neither food nor water. With a heavy heart, we made the decision to take him to the vet on Monday or to call a vet at home. Oscar never liked visiting vet offices and clinics, so we didn’t want his life to end in such a place.
The dog dies in our arms
As if Oscar had noticed that his mistress “released him” he died in our arms in the night from Sunday to Monday. The dying process begins at around 5 a.m. in the morning. He lay in his basket in the bedroom and let himself go, something he hadn’t done once in ten years before. In the middle of the night we still didn’t fully understand the situation and dutifully cleaned the basket and went back to sleep.
At around 7.30 in the morning, my wife called me and said “I think Oscar is dying”.
We both lay down next to Oscar, stroked him, and told him about the many wonderful days we had together. We also told him that we are quite sure that we will see each other again and that he should keep a place free for us and that he can get by swimming and browsing in the garden without us until then. We thanked him for the wonderful years while he breathed his last.
Then Came the Emptiness
I’m sure that this moment is felt completely differently by everyone. So, in addition to the deep sadness, I even felt some relief that Oscar had “put it behind him” and – so my impression – he didn’t have to suffer. I was also very grateful that we didn’t have to call a vet as he made that decision for us.
And yet the first minutes and hours passed us by in a somewhat surreal way. We were about to move to our new home, so I decided to dig a grave for Oscar.
What happens to the dog’s body?
As a dog owner, you have various options, which I would also like to introduce to you.
Bury the dog at home
Can you bury the dog at home? – Yes, you can. The regulations that the legislature makes for this are very few (see also Regulation No. 1774/2002 para. 24). A permit is not required unless the animal has suffered from a reportable disease. However, if the property is in a water or nature reserve, burial is prohibited there. As an alternative, you may have understanding parents or relatives who will allow you to be buried in your own garden.
Another restriction is the distance to public paths. This should be at least 2 meters. The grave should be dug so that the carcass is covered by at least 50 cm of earth. This is the only way to ensure that no other animals dig up your dog again.
If you live in rented accommodation, you also need the consent of the landlord in order to be able to bury your dog on someone else’s property.
Equipped with a spade, I dug the grave for our recently deceased dog in the morning. I refused help from my parents-in-law, which was a very personal moment for me, which I wanted to spend alone with my thoughts. After about two hours the grave was spacious and dug deep enough. Towards the afternoon I carried the now stiff body, wrapped in a blanket, to his grave.