As many of you know, we had to put to rest my buddy and lover, Paco. You can see more about him at www.thegreatest.dog, but thought I’d pull from my experience some important information about putting your pet to sleep.
You should start worrying about your dog dying as soon as they emerge from the womb. For me, I had 13 incredible years peppered with the notion that the most amazing relationship I ever had would likely end with the better half perishing too soon. (You'll also have to let others in your life--wife and children, for example--know that they're great and all, but tied for second.)
But your friend will age and you'll get to that point. What is that point? You'll know, but if you need some benchmarks, the veterinarian trying to make eye contact with you to say something like, "We're at that point," is a good sign.
How do I know it's the right vet?
You should probably already have one, but if they don't respond to your request about the euthanization of your pet with the soft, friendly tone of the gate angels of heaven, then hang up and call the cops. The slightest briskness is unwarranted. This is the life of the most loyal, loving creature you have ever known. A family member that didn't judge you even if you did leave it in your house ten hours a day, 6 of those with a severe urge to pee. So if Dennis at the front desk is having a bad day, he needs to man up about his mild irritations and deliver the harp string serenade of a goddamned fleet of groveling songbirds.
So what is the protocol?
You'll want to know everything about every moment because you'll be freakin blind with sorrow. Ask the clinic about the most minute details. Which way do I move? And not just to the right or left, but how should I pay and how far will my form of payment need to be extended from my body? Is there any furniture in between me and the death suite? Is there a secret way I can cry my way out? I knew it was going to be difficult enough without having to think, so the velvety voice of South Park Animal Clinic in Littleton guided me through, even pausing patiently when I tried to talk but started making gurgling noises instead.
What should your expectations be?
Your expectations should be along the lines of having ceremonial drummers line the streets while the entire community (that's been given the day off) carries you on a gilded platform to the double doors of the clinic. At that point, there should be a solemn sermon of stringed instruments whisking you to a fantastic brass fanfare (six trumpets, as many trombones, a raptor emerges from the tuba and circles as its dramatic shrieks rise with the rhythmic drumming.) Whereupon you and your loved ones are cradled by large muscular men/women who whisper to you the greatness of your pet as they gently lay you in a mound of pillows. Reality may vary.
Am I doing the right thing?
You did the right thing when you engaged with this relationship. The only wrong thing is that you're in this terrible spot wondering about the right thing. But you know. They know. They're really counting on you to know. Nature would likely have already taken them. Be nature.
Now if you're just some kind of monster who's tired of a poorly trained puppy piddling on your floor then, yes, you did the wrong thing by getting a pet in the first place. Don't be the wrong thing.
The traffic will be traffic and the road will be a road. The sky won't dim so that the rainbow bridge will be brighter. You will get a woefully plain waiver asking you to sign an actual life away. You'll pause at the banality of it all. The first shot will put the animal to sleep; the second to rest. For however peacefully they slip away, it is terrible. Some things are terrible. But oh to have known how great it all can be.