A few weeks ago my husband and I faced one of the hardest things pet owners encounter: the decision to euthanize our elderly dog, Chloe, our companion of 15 years.
For me, the emotional turmoil of finally coming to the decision proved to be nothing compared to the agony I experienced after we set the date. Five days before the date, I was beside myself with anticipatory grief, and more, a sense of terrible betrayal. I felt as if we were heartlessly doing away with this dog who’d placed her faith, her trust and her life in our hands so many years earlier.
From years of using EFT I knew something else was going on, and I tapped for it. It turned out to be about my own family of origin issues, feelings of betrayal as a child, and feelings of not being protected at a vulnerable time. Clearing this also allowed me to realize that far from betraying my faithful pet, I had the privilege to assist her in a normal life passage, spare her further suffering and disability, and make her transition as easy as possible.
The next day, I sat with my husband to discuss setting our intention for how we hoped the day of the euthanasia would go. First we tapped to clear our emotions at the need for this decision, at imagining life without our pet, and our interpretation of how our beautiful dog might be feeling.
After we cleared our own emotions and felt more relaxed, I suggested we consider what we would like to be thinking and feeling after the euthanasia was over.
We agreed we’d like to be feeling peace, and to be thinking about the happiness we had with Chloe. We also wanted to be as centered as possible in support of our dog
We tapped on
Even though I’m worried about how this will go, I deeply and completely accept myself, and I allow the possibility that we can leave the vet’s office feeling at peace with the outcome.
Even though I’m already grieving the loss of Chloe, I deeply and completely accept myself, and I allow the possibility that we can leave the vet’s office with our happy memories of her life.
Even though I have so much anxiety, I can’t imagine a euthanasia feeling peaceful, I deeply and completely accept myself, and I allow the possibility that we can leave the vet’s office feeling that Chloe’s passing was peaceful and timely.
We also used language such as, I’m setting my intention, I would like, I’m open to the possibility, and we continued to tap for all the things we were still feeling as well as all the things we hoped for at the vet’s.
We did this again the night before the euthanasia appointment. This time, I voiced my anxiety about Chloe and the vet. Chloe had a nervous personality, and although she’d been going to the vet’s for many years for both boarding and healthcare, she usually trembled visibly and paced when we went into the treatment room. It had always been hard to calm her or to restrain her.
So for our Friday intention-setting, I concentrated on my fears about how Chloe would react at the vet’s; about her being anxious, shaking, and being afraid of what was in store.
We tapped on phrases such as,
Even though I’m afraid that Chloe will be afraid, and I’m anticipating all of us being afraid and tense, I deeply and completely accept myself, and I allow the possibility that this time at the vet’s office can go peacefully, tranquilly, and easily for Chloe.”
Chloe Tuned In
On Saturday, we took a last trip with our dog to a park she particularly loved. All week, any time we had taken her in the car, one of us held her firmly in our lap as she wasn’t physically able to run back and forth on the back seat as she’d loved to do her whole life. Although frail, she still struggled against being held in the front, wanting to be free to move around as she’d always done. The final trip to and from the park was no different, as Chloe tried to see out the passenger window, turn to my husband who was driving, and so forth.
When it came time to take her to the vet, my husband carried her in his arms to the car, and I chose to be the one to hold her on the way. I was particularly worried about feeling her trying to move around in my lap, knowing I would anthropomorphize it as anxiety about what was coming.
Chloe, however, was in on the plan. She relaxed in my arms for the short ride to the vet, and I gratefully held and petted her.
Once in the office, they showed us into the treatment room where we’d always had exams. Chloe was trembling a little bit, and walking quickly around the room as usual. As the receptionist left, I picked her up onto my lap, thinking she’d probably wiggle to get down, but giving it a try nonetheless. She relaxed, and I couldn’t feel any trembling either. After about a minute, she turned to my husband in the next seat and moved into his lap, where she stayed until the vet came in to prepare us for the procedure. We felt as if she were giving us both the last chance to hold her, and not once did she try to get down.
When the vet came in, he first gave her a shot of a sedative and told us he’d give it a few minutes to work. For the shot, we lifted her onto the exam table, a place she hated to be placed and restrained for normal procedures. But this day, she stayed on the table quietly.
We held Chloe in our laps as the sedative took effect, then placed her back on the table. We had brought a beloved blanket for her to lie on, and her favorite toy as well. We stroked her and reminded each other of the funniest and happiest things we could remember from her life, as we waited for the vet.
From that point, the euthanasia procedure went quickly. Just as we had hoped, planned for and intended, it felt peaceful too. The vet and the tech were kind, compassionate, speaking quietly and saying lovely things about our beloved dog as we stood at her head, stroking her. We were both able to remain centered and calm and very present with her as she passed away. Then the tears came as the staff allowed us to spend time with her alone, as much as we needed.
As we left the office, we checked in with ourselves. Of course we were terribly sad, but we also were grateful for the peacefulness of those last moments, and for being able to be fully present with our dog and support her. We could feel comforted in our sorrow, because we had taken steps to make the day as intentional and mindful as possible.
My lessons from the experience were these:
1. It's ok to plan for painful events. We're taught by example to recoil at the very painful times of life, and assume that we have very little control over them or over how we experience the pain. However, we can always make a plan for how we hope a future event will go, and for how we hope and want our own part in it to go. We don't have control over every element, but we can think mindfully about what we wish for in the future just as we do about where we are in the present.
2. Is this about now, or is this about the past? When I realized that the intensity I was feeling several days before the euthanasia date didn’t seem to relate to the reality of the situation, EFT helped me release what was old, and work on what was in the now. I believe it helped me be more present for my dog in those last days instead of dreading and grieving the future.
3. Work on the negative emotion first. As is the guiding principle in EFT, we cleared the negative emotion before trying to work on intention or choices. We needed to acknowledge what we were sad about and afraid of, and tap down the intensity, before we could go on.
4. Intentions are not re-frames. I perceive a separation between setting intention, and “re-framing” or choosing a positive feeling state in a situation. We did not try to put a happy face on a very emotionally difficult situation, but we did find comfort in thinking through our anxiety and using EFT about what could happen and how we preferred for it to unfold. In this process, two things happen: if there are hidden emotions, you have a chance to acknowledge and clear them; and, you can envision the future result you’re seeking to align your energies for that result.
We have the normal moments of grief as we miss and remember our dog, but we also continue to be comforted when we think of her and all the ways she enriched our family.
Ange Dickson Finn is an EFT International Accredited Certified EFT Advanced Practitioner. She is based in Houston, Texas, USA, and works with clients over the phone and via Skype. Ange has helped clients with issues including physical pain, health and well-being, work-related stress, equestrian sports and relationships. Visit her on the web at www.TapIntoYourself.com or www.RideWithoutFear.com.
From the EFTfree Archives, which are now a part of EFT International .
Originally published on May 5, 2012.