One of the biggest challenges of animal stewardship is to let them go when their quality of life diminishes. It can diminish with age, disease, injury or lack of adoption if they are living in poor quality conditions while they wait.

It is NEVER when we want to accept it has diminished.

Our pets and companion animals do not dream about tomorrow. I think most of us know better than that. They live in the here, the now. They try to survive because biology begs them to do so from a time when their species’ or ancestors’ survival meant they limped along regardless of life quality on their own, in the wild. Look into nature now if you have doubts about whether this is true.

Not to diminish the value of the lives of our dogs, cats, horses and so forth, but they do not set goals they work to achieve through their lives. They do not dream of spending their golden years with grandchildren, children or the like. They do not worry about what happens in the afterlife. They do not worry about how we will go on without them. These are reasons people cling even when they suffer, if they do at all.

Our animals live in the yesterday and the today. If the current days are painful, but the people who ‘own’ them or are owned by them keep searching for ways to manage their pain or keep them breathing, the animal is not a beneficiary, usually. Some are entirely unable to see their pets without rose colored glasses when they are chronically ill or so aged they are slipping away slowly, only being held on by a person’s sheer will to never let them go.

Sometimes in rescue, rescuers know better, but the donors and public push them to save the animals at all costs. . .often at the cost of the dignity of the animal. I’ve seen posts about extremely senior animals in questionable body condition having strokes with rescuers saying, “She isn’t ready, yet.” But some of us know better. Sadly, this type of story resonates with donors who are commenting and giving without trying to consider what a tragedy is unfolding.

Personally and in rescue, I watch these heart-rending stories take place so often, it breaks my heart and makes me question humanity sometimes because I’ve seen truly inhumane things take place in the name of rescue and “saving.”

Each time I see this, animals pay the price of a person’s wild idealism and lack of fortitude.

We are generally apt to outlive our animals. Being able to make the right call is something we need to decide if we can do early on. This means before we go into rescue, too.

That old saying. . .”Better a day early than a minute too late” could not be more true.

Animals suffer, and in the rescue community, the small amount of resources donated to organizations are spent in unwise ways to save the unsave-able  or those that would, if asked, rather not be kept alive given their degree of suffering. . . while animals that could be saved with a great life quality die alone, unloved and unaided. Over and over again. This doesn’t mean to not spend a lot of money to save the obviously savable or even the likely savable. And this isn’t black and white. There is a grey area, and I LEAVE that to you, those that know the animal and the experts in the vet world.

I speak not only of physical health. I speak about mental health, as well. To put an animal through years of living in a crate alone hoping someone will some day come to adopt, to put them through months of painful recovery with a small chance recovery will ever come offering good life quality. . .to limp them along in their old age when their backs and bodies and hearts are failing because WE can’t let go. . .these are injustices. These are about human weakness, and we need to ask ourselves why we do it. Why? It would tell us a lot about who we are, really. We probably need to know why.

Animals depend on us to make the hard choices they are powerless to make for themselves. How can we make smart, decent and kind choices for humanity if we can’t do so for our pets or our rescued creatures? Of course, some say let nature take its course in these cases, but I think we know that isn’t kind, if we are fair. If we don’t see that, it is a whole other debate for another time.

We know factually that many chronically ill humans and elderly humans beg to just be let go and while this isn’t about human choice in that matter, we are aware that even with the weight of the afterlife on their minds, the heaviness of their dreams, their children, their tomorrows on their minds. . .pain and suffering, even when managed, becomes too great in people. How much more it must be for the animals living only in the yesterday and today? How much greater in animals biologically designed for a millennia to hide pain at all costs for self preservation. . .

I think back on a rescue Pyr I loved dearly. Carly began wasting away before my eyes. We tested her for everything our vet recommended. We tried everything as she wasted away and became a shell. I will always feel I waited too long, though some would say I called it too soon. I know better. The vet said we could open her up and search more, and I looked at her body that had shed 40lbs in a month, and I said, “No.” It was enough. She didn’t know what was happening. She was scared. Someone who was weak might not have been able to see it, but I knew. I could do no more to her. I never had an answer, but I let her go with tears and hugs and kisses galore. I wish I could have been stronger to not worry her with even that show of emotion. It was selfish to worry her in the last moments with tears. She didn’t understand. Some would say I should have kept on and on. . .and that is the crux of the issue. It would have been for me at that point, not her. . . to keep on searching.

While it isn’t entirely black and white, and sometimes your gut says something you need to listen to beyond reason, this isn’t typical. Sometimes it is right and the odds are beat and many years of amazing life quality if achieved, but all I am asking is we really, really pause and ask ourselves is it something in ourselves that is pushing for more days, months or years out of the animal we share our lives with or rescued?

We try very hard, and sometimes we do fail, to be sure that the choices we make at Heart of Phoenix have the animal’s long term interests at and in “our” hearts. We look for a high quality of life that is lived pain free and the ability to have a  life where their environment is healthy, kind and secure.