“I killed my dog.”
The voice on the phone was shaking with emotion. It was Gail, a dear friend of ours who is in her late 70’s and is painfully introverted and socially isolated by her own choice. We are the only “family” she has except for her beloved dog, Buddy.
Buddy had been in declining health for a year or so and in rapid decline for the last few weeks. Being the doting “mom” that she is, she cooked for him and did just about everything she could to keep him going. They were inseparable, and we knew this was going to be a big loss for her, we just weren’t sure when or how it was going to happen.
We hoped for her sake that when his time came that he would simply die in his sleep so she wouldn’t have to make that difficult decision that all pet lovers dread having to make. When we got the call it was apparent that she had, after all, had to euthanize him because he was in obvious pain and discomfort.
The more she talked about how she had “killed her dog,” the more upset she became. It had become a lot of work to take care of him and she wondered if she had, unconsciously, decided on euthanasia for her own convenience. She was, literally, torturing herself with the words she was using, which is why I’m telling you about this sad event.
I have been saying for years that the words we use are powerful and have a strong effect on how we feel. When we are stressed, we can nudge our stress either up or down with the words we choose. Words are that powerful: they can lower your stress or increase it.
In her case, “I killed my dog” is, technically, fairly accurate. But that statement does not represent the truth of the situation, and creates the worst possible image in her mind which, by the way, includes blame for the end result.
Many years ago my mother-in-law had to euthanize a loving pet and she received a note from the vet that said that what she had done was “both correct and kind.” I’ve never forgotten those words because I have had to euthanize my share of animals and thinking of it in those terms is comforting.