• Sue Steiner

A Difficult Decision



I am reminded while I watch a co-worker struggle with the difficult decision to decide when to take her much loved, but ailing, dog to be euthanized, how hard it is to be the one who decides on the time.  This is truly one of the hardest aspects of pet and horse ownership.

Sometimes we aren’t the ones to say when it is decided for us.  That has its own grief but in this post, I want to focus on when the vet tells you your horse or pet won’t recover but it isn’t time…..yet.  The progression may be slow or it might feel like a fast decline. Your pet or horse is still mobile and eating, more or less but their quality of life slips away, day by day.


How in the world do you know?  The advice I am going to share might feel cold, calculated or clinical, but I can assure you it will be helpful- especially if you think this thru before you need to decide.  That is really key.  Spend some time now on how you will know when it’s time if your vet is leaving the timing to you.


I am going to back step just a bit.  Years ago I had to decide when it was time for our much loved and ancient, toothless pony.  This poor little guy was a rescue.  I found him while looking for a pony for my small daughter.   I answered an ad for a pony and found Trixie tied to a lawnmower with overgrown hooves and so underweight his spine showed.  He was already ancient when he came to our farm but he went on to live several more years as our ‘free-range’ pony.  Our farm sat way off the road at the end of a dead end road.  I couldn’t turn him out in our pasture with the full sized horses for his own safety, so he was allowed to be ‘free-range’ in our large yard.  He did perfectly well just ambling around with our free-range chickens. He never covered much ground, but he walked and moved about during the day which kept him healthier.  His arthritis was already so bad he could barely bends his legs but his ears were perked and he had a sparkle in his eyes.  He was the perfect size and temperament to teach my young daughter ground handling and grooming.  He wasn’t ridden but that was fine.  We put weight on him and kept him reasonably healthy and happy for 7+ more years.  We knew it was time when the sparkle was gone.