We have a woman in our church who is wrestling with when to put her dog down. The dog is older and keeps alternating between good days and bad days. She fears that she will have a ton of guilt if she does it “before the dog’s time.” How might I pastorally advise her on such a situation? And also, what resources do you have that deal with this from a Christian perspective? This dog means the world to her, and I am anticipating needing to shepherd her through the grieving process when that day comes.
This is a tough situation and the very fact that you’re sensitive to her will help immensely. Many people are made to feel guilty because they love their pets so much. My take on it is that God intends us to love our animals—of course, not more than we love people—but still, they are to be precious to us. He understands and whenever His children grieve, He grieves with us.
I would recommend the two chapters on animals in my big Heaven book. Also, this is a blog I wrote about having to put down our dog Moses, which many people say has helped them. And here’s an article about Scripture and pet euthanasia.
The key is this: when the animal is suffering and you can sense they no longer are hanging on to life, you don’t want to let it go any longer. You need to step up and for your pet’s sake do the hard thing (for you) because it is the best thing for them.
When you believe, as I do, that we’ll be united with our pets one day on the New Earth, it’s immensely comforting and helps to know that by putting them to sleep you’re not ending your relationship with your pet, you’re simply acting out of love, and relief and reunion await.
Tell her that her dog trusts her to do what is best for him. We should trust God as much.