When it’s time to say goodbye

We lost a good friend this weekend.

On Saturday morning, our dear friends Amanda and Jon said goodbye to Sierra: their fourteen-year-old elderbelle, cancer survivor, mind-changer, and beloved pet.

We came to know Sierra a few years ago when we moved into her neighborhood, and Amanda and I bonded over our mutual love for pit bull type dogs, and our own beautiful white beasts — her Sierra and my Chick. Back then, Sierra was an energetic, beautiful elderbull on three legs. She could go for walks and play with her human brothers, always sharing a big Sierra smile and a friendly wag with anybody who would look in her direction. The neighborhood kids all knew her and loved her. With her mama Amanda, she taught more than a handful of children how to properly greet and love a dog — and how to not judge a dog by it’s appearance.

But over the past year, Sierra’s physical health and mental lucidity had been in a slow decline. First, she stopped being able to get up and down the stairs on her own three legs. Then, she started slipping and falling on the wood floors in the house. Later, she stopped being able to get back up on her own. Then she became unable to go for walks, because she would grow tired just a half block down the street. And recently, she started to seem confused more frequently, and eventually it seemed that she just stopped enjoying everyday life.

For Amanda and Jon, this was the first clear sign that Sierra was ready to move on. At fourteen years old, her health was not going to get any better, and her frequent falls, spells of confusion, and rapidly declining energy and positive spirit — what made Sierra so Sierra — were a reminder to them to ask: are we holding on for ourselves, or for her?  Amanda and Jon quietly realized that even though they will never be ready, Sierra was ready to leave this world. She was tired of struggling, and they were tired of asking her to struggle.

It’s hard to deny that end-of-life care is one of the hardest parts of pet ownership. The financial costs of treating ailing pets can be significant, but the emotional costs are probably even greater. Watching the physical and mental decline of an animal who seemed so recently in her prime is hard on a family to be sure. And in many cases, it’s later up to the family to make the ultimate call on when it’s time to say goodbye.

Unfortunately, the decision is not clear cut, but rather deeply personal — almost spiritual.  For Amanda, it went like this: “I read a suggestion to sit in meditation with your dog and just ask, heart to heart. I thought that was so sweet. And when I did quiet myself and listened to her, I knew she’s ready…

So last week, they bravely made an appointment with their vet for Saturday morning, and went — as a family — to see her off.

Sierra started her life as a homeless, frightened, deaf pit bull puppy. But in the loving arms of Amanda and Jon, she blossomed into a dynamic, confident, gentle ambassadog. Fourteen years later, she left this world in those same loving arms. A dog could hardly ask for anything more.It rained all weekend in Austin, but at one point on Saturday morning I glanced out the window, and through the stormclouds I glimpsed a little slice of blue sky and sunshine . . . Sierra?

More about Sierra’s life and impact are available via StubbyDog, here.

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43 responses

  1. What a gorgeous family. Anyone who’s had to put their dog to sleep understands the anguish of the decision, but when it’s time you just know. 14 years is a juicy life especially with a great family like that. Well done and thanks for seeing a treasure in a deaf, pit bull puppy.

  2. This is a beautiful story and my heart and respect goes out to Sierra’s family. No doubt she’s quietly watching over them from above.

    I too, am a proud ‘pet bull’ advocate, having worked for many years with them and formerly owned by two (Max-a-million – an ex-pit-trained-rehab’d-animal-loving-kid-licking ‘tuxedo’ pittie who donned a top hat to walk me down the aisle in a crowded church for my wedding. He passed 5/7/07 4 days after his 15th bday. And Boomer, from an unwanted/unplanned backyard breeding who was the gentle, watchful protector and best friend of my small son – who moved on to see his big ‘bro’ Max 6 months ago at age 12).

    These are beautiful dogs that time and time again prove their true personalities and loyalty in the right environment.

    Rest in Peace lil Grrl. Thank you for sharing your beautiful spirit and showing us all that anything is possible.

  3. A beautiful girl with a beautiful “smile” and loving eyes. Im sure she will forever be apart of your family’s priceless memories! Take comfort knowing that she is resting in peace now!

  4. Losing a pet is hard, because they are part of your family and it is so hard to let go, but sometimes that is the best. Rest in peace sweet adorable Sierra, may all the doggies in Heaven greet you with tag wags. Our heart goes out to the family and we’re thinking of them today, and know what they are going through. Sierra was so fortunate to have found your family who provided her with love and affection and a good home that she needed. God bless you!

  5. Those eyes! That smile!! Sierra was just beautiful. I’m sitting here crying – I know how difficult it is to have to make the decision to let your pet go – to know that your time together must come to an end. I went through this recently and it was the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make and while I know I did the right thing, a piece of me wishes I had held on to Norman a little longer. But that would have been selfish. I hope that Amanda, Jon and their boys know they did the right thing….and that Sierra was one very lucky dog to be a member of their family. RIP Sierra.

  6. It’s the hardest thing ever! I remember when my dad made that decision for the English Mastiff who had seen us through some horrible times. You have to think of them though and their quality of life though and I think you do just know when they’re read to say goodbye. It’s sad but I applaud these guys for doing what’s right for Sierra.

  7. She was a lucky girl to know such love through her life, and I don’t have to imagine how terrible her family is hurting for her right now…I’m glad Amanda listened when Sierra said it was time.

  8. Making this decision is never, never easy; listening to your dog is crucial because it is about her, not us, really. I would not have pegged Sierra as a pit bull; like many of my Beagles, breeds and breed types come in all shapes and sizes. But what a beautiful, smiling dog! Prayers abound for all.

  9. Rest peacefully sweet girl, you were and always will be SO loved by those who knew you. Even those of us who never met you feel how wonderful you are, and appreciate the beautiful things you did in your life. I pray your family finds comform and peace, and that they know someday you will be waiting for them just beyond this life. Sweet dreams little Sierra.

  10. My heart goes out to Sierra’s family. It was so beautiful that they could hear, in their hearts, her saying that she had had enough. Too many people hold on to their pets for themselves. Sierra’s family did a very generous, loving thing for her and I know it was very difficult for them.

  11. I am so sorry! I almost know how painful it is to lose a pet, because two out of three of my dog have caddarcks, and because of that, one is blind, and one is deaf.

    –Kayleigh

  12. I’m awfully sorry. You know you were right to end it for her, but it doesn’t make the parting any easier. Totally agree about the spiritual angle. My beloved whippet was like that. Years ago, but I know he was only hanging on for me. Take courage, you did right, and you gave her a great life with you and your family.

  13. Beautifully expressed. And so true that it isn’t always clear cut, every animal is different. Fostering senior dogs, most of them hospice, I have to make this decision more often than most folks and every time is difficult. The advice to sit with your pet and meditate is excellent. What a wonderful family, and I’m so glad they were all with Sierra.

    Here are some thoughts that have helped me when making decisions for my fosters and my own pets
    http://olddoghaven.org/EndOfLife.htm

  14. I am so sorry to hear of Sierra’s passing. She was loved and she was a happy girl. I don’t know yet the pain the family might be going through, but I can imagine. My husband and I recently received bad news about our girl Sasha. I’m devastated.

    Its amazing how a dog can fill our lives with so much happiness.

    ~ L.

  15. What a wonderful lesson about love, loyality and selflessness these parents have taught their beautiful children.

    Sierra was a lucky dog~

  16. This just broke my heart as we are facing the same dilemma with our two beloved dogs. I want to say to the family, you have our deepest sympathy for your loss. I know it was a very hard decision to make. And I appreciate learning about the ways that the decision was made. I asked my vet this very question “when is it time”. She really didn’t have an answer and she knows us and our dogs. I also read a book, Merle’s Door, that, at the end of the book, talks about what to consider. It helped but this post has helped me more. R.I.P. Sierra.

  17. What a beautiful dog and what a wonderful family. I’m so glad you all knew and loved each other.

    It’s so hard to make that decision when your pet has simply declined until their life is no longer enjoyable.

    You all have my deepest sympathy.

  18. Sierra is running in the grass with Jasmine and Jake…no pain, just lots of fun and endless amounts of doggy bones. RIP Sierra.

  19. What A Beautiful Dog, to have such a Loving Family For Sierra, With God’s Help you made the right decision, and someday you will all be together Again……
    My Heart Goes Out to you, Thank You, for sharing her story with us.

    God Bless Your Family:

  20. Oh what a beautiful old lady she is! Her eyes are full of stories. We have a 3-legger in our family too, they make more noise moving around the house than the 4-leggers so you notice their absence all the more.

  21. I’m sorry 😦 It’s one of the most loving and difficult things anyone can do, to let a beloved family member go. But they are always with you as you go forward and welcome other deserving beings into your life (I firmly believe that they assist with it)…and what a smile she had, you’ll always have that.

  22. Alex, what a sweet gift you gave to our family with this tribute. Huge hugs from each of us!

    To all those who have commented, thank you. My whole family has read each comment and it has touched us deeply that you would hold us in your thoughts. Your comments, lessons, and kindness have been a silver lining in this dark cloud.

    With much gratitude,
    Amanda ~ Sierra’s mum

  23. I remember reading about Sierra on Stubbydog. I am so sorry for the family’s loss, she was obviously very loved and left a great impact on her family and others. What a wonderful life they gave her, and how lucky they must have been!

  24. Gosh who couldn’t smile at that adorable pitty face?! That makes me light up every time I brush by this post. This post especially hits home, my sister and her husband had to let go of their doggie of 12 years. He was near and dear to all of our hearts ❤

  25. This made me cry. I kept thinking about my own 12 year old Akita, knowing that someday in the not so distant future, I will have to make the same decision. I pray that I can let go when it’s time.

  26. Pingback: Chix-a-Lot Friday: Anna (the lady-angel Chick) « Love and a Six-Foot Leash

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