Ask Zoe is Aleteia’s advice column addressing the every day decisions we make and how faith informs and guides us. If you have a dilemma, question, or need some general advice for your life, email Zoe. All questions are given consideration and names are withheld.
We are a family of six—seven if you include our beloved dog named Charlie, who has been with us for nine years. Charlie recently became very sick and without a number of surgeries, rehab, and medicines, he will die very soon. If we pursue the life-saving measures suggested by our vet, Charlie will probably have another couple of years. Our dilemma is that our family budget is very tight and we don’t know if spending thousands of dollars on our dog, as much as we all love him, is the best use of our finances, especially when it won’t heal him, but just give him more time. On the other hand, he’s a valuable part of our family and our children adore him. They’re broken-hearted that he’s sick and will be devastated when he dies. What should we do?
Parent With Sick Pooch Dilemma
Dear Parent with Sick Pooch,
There are reasons dogs are called "man’s best friend." They become an important part of our families and bring a lot of joy. For many people, dogs provide affection, companionship, assistance, and protection. Dealing with a sick or dying pet can be very difficult for both children and grown-ups alike.
A decision like this requires compassion and prudence: What is wise for your family? What is compassionate for your dog? What is prudent in this particular situation?
Some people don’t believe pets are a worthy investment, especially when there are so many people in the world going without the basics. To be sure, doggy day spas and $10 doggie treats are hard to justify when there are homeless people down the street.
On the other hand, I don’t see the naysayers advocating that we all move into smaller houses, get rid of our second cars, or forget about vacations in order to send that money to the poor. A pet dog is arguably more valuable than any of that. They are living, breathing creatures with personalities and studies show they not only bring a lot of happiness to humans, but are good for our health.
In deciding what, if any, measures are reasonable to prolong Charlie’s life, the first consideration should be for his welfare. While surgeries may give him more time with you, will they be arduous for him to go through? Will he spend a lot of time impaired or in pain? It is not compassionate to make an animal suffer simply because no one wants to deal with the sadness of losing him.
There is also your financial means, which is no small matter; and taking on debt must always be considered carefully. No one ever wants money to be a reason to do or not do something—especially when it comes to life and death decisions. But like it or not, all of us to need to consider our finances when it comes to the big decision we make. Maybe there are ways for the whole family to raise the money to help Charlie? It could be a meaningful project for your children.
You might also consider—if you haven’t already—getting a second opinion about Charlie. Perhaps there’s another way to give him a little more pain-free time without all the surgeries.
Whether it’s right around the corner or in a couple of years, the passing of your beloved Charlie is not far off so begin to help your children prepare for what may be their first up-close encounter with dying and death. Discuss it with them, create some rituals to say goodbye when the time comes, and acknowledge the grief and loss that comes with saying goodbye to a cherished pet.
If you have a dilemma or question for Zoe, please send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Zoe Romanowsky is the Lifestyle Editor and Video Curator for Aleteia. A freelance writer, blogger, consultant, and personal coach, she’s been published in many national publications including Real Simple, Catholic Digest, Baltimore Eats, and TruthAtlas. Zoe holds a Masters degree in Counseling from Franciscan University, and a certification in life coaching from the Coaches Training Institute (CTI). She’s an urban homeschooling mother of twins with a weakness for dark chocolate, Instagram, vintage Harleys, and vodka martinis—not necessarily in that order.