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Buddhism and Euthanizing Your Pet

What are your thoughts?


When I was in long retreat my aging dog was in end stage of life and finally died. My Lama said no euthanasia, so part of my retreat was bearing with the suffering of old age, illness and death.

What I learned from my dog was regardless of how bad things got for him, that dog wanted to live, it was I who could not bear his symptoms--which were rather extreme.

Now my old cat, (aged 16), is starting to show signs of 'losing it'. Here we go again. Sometimes I wish I wasn't a Buddhist.

Comments

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited April 2010
    I guess different maladies and circumstances could be different.

    My dog was dying of congestive heart failure. We called the emergency and they said that it would be ok to bring him in the next day because of their assessment of his signs/symptoms. He didn't make it that long and died. He was a very frightened dog of unfamiliar places as he had been a rescue dog, a stray on the streets for a long time. I am kind of glad that he had a peaceful place to die in his home with his family. He didn't have bright lights and confusion around him.
  • edited April 2010
    Jeffrey;99037 said:
    I guess different maladies and circumstances could be different.

    My dog was dying of congestive heart failure. We called the emergency and they said that it would be ok to bring him in the next day because of their assessment of his signs/symptoms. He didn't make it that long and died. He was a very frightened dog of unfamiliar places as he had been a rescue dog, a stray on the streets for a long time. I am kind of glad that he had a peaceful place to die in his home with his family. He didn't have bright lights and confusion around him.
    I'm glad he had a peaceful place too, Jeffrey.
  • edited April 2010
    Ajahn Brahm describe his view about the subject in one of his video.

    Basically he said something similar to what you said.
    "Sometimes we make decisions out of fear, because we think the animal is suffering etc...
    you should ask your pet if he wants to die.
    Try to feel the connection between you and him, and simply ask him."


    I cannot remember in which talk it was tho, you will have to find out by yourself if you would like to see it. http://www.youtube.com/user/BuddhistSocietyWA


    I have and had many pets, i know how much we love these creatures... it's a very heavy decision most of the time.
  • edited April 2010
    'You should ask your pet if he wants to die.' I think this is crucial, and really listen to the reply. Regardless if it's considered wrong, I HAVE had a pet tell me to let them go. I HAVE had them ask me to stop the pain.
  • Mr_SerenityMr_Serenity Veteran
    edited April 2010
    Animals a lot more than people lose the will to live when they know their body has been struck by serious illness. When they are struggling to breathe and can no longer reverse their sickness there is only suffering and they often refuse to eat. Sometimes it can last longer than other times. But in these times I do not think that most animals want to live. They're not as fearful of death as humans are. I believe the main reason Buddhism is against euthanizing is because they think the animal will have less negative kharma in the next life if they deal with all their natural suffering on their own. But that type of kharma is still controversial with many.
  • edited April 2010
    I disagree with you Mr. Serenity based on your assumptions your are making. Do you know that animals don't have emotional attachements like we do. Sure, some more primitive life forms might not, but all animals try to survive and some might fear death. It is all speculation until we can determine how much emotional cognition each particular species has. You may be right, however, with your statement about experience negative karma naturally (it sounds sound to me).

    As for killing or not killing an animal, I would always side with life. Physical suffering is much more trivial than we make it out to be from an outsiders perspective but when one is experiencing physical pain, we learn to deal with it.
  • edited April 2010
    I couldn't let my buddhist beliefs influence whether or not to euthanise an animal. If it was suffering greatly and a vet advised putting it to sleep then i would.
  • edited April 2010
    I don't know anything. I only want to be a good person, and help others. When my cat is suffering, and asks me to stop the pain, I can do that. Act from compassion...it's the best I can do.
  • edited April 2010
    We should not carry out such serious actions when they are based on assumptions and fear.
  • edited April 2010
    Ive seen this question asked before and read a pretty good answer.

    The main thing to consider here (as with every issue), is intention.

    Will Euthanizing your pet truly be an act of compassion for your pet, or will it be of more convience to not take care of it?

    I put down my dog a few months ago, sad days.

    Best of luck with everything.
  • edited April 2010
    Micsunderland3;99297 said:
    Ive seen this question asked before and read a pretty good answer.

    The main thing to consider here (as with every issue), is intention.

    Will Euthanizing your pet truly be an act of compassion for your pet, or will it be of more convience to not take care of it?

    I put down my dog a few months ago, sad days.

    Best of luck with everything.
    This is truly the right path!
  • Mr_SerenityMr_Serenity Veteran
    edited April 2010
    Quiet_witness;99080 said:
    I disagree with you Mr. Serenity based on your assumptions your are making. Do you know that animals don't have emotional attachements like we do. Sure, some more primitive life forms might not, but all animals try to survive and some might fear death. It is all speculation until we can determine how much emotional cognition each particular species has. You may be right, however, with your statement about experience negative karma naturally (it sounds sound to me).

    As for killing or not killing an animal, I would always side with life. Physical suffering is much more trivial than we make it out to be from an outsiders perspective but when one is experiencing physical pain, we learn to deal with it.
    It's not an assumption. I have seen animals refuse to eat when struck by serious illness. Humans can get like this, but not often. Most humans struggle to hold on to life. Animals can often just know it, and not really fight it.
  • edited April 2010
    Refusal to eat is not an acceptance to their supposed deathly destiny. A refusal to eat is a symptom of a particular disease.
  • Mr_SerenityMr_Serenity Veteran
    edited April 2010
    Quiet_witness;99351 said:
    Refusal to eat is not an acceptance to their supposed deathly destiny. A refusal to eat is a symptom of a particular disease.
    I know this too, but if you leave an animal who refuses to eat and cannot recover with modern medicine to be. It will wither to a skeletal state barely able to move and it will die a slow death of suffering. An animal in this condition knows they cannot recover. So what would be a more compassionate decision as the keeper of that animal. To let it starve to death and feel its body shutting down slowly and painfully without any possible reversal, or giving it a peaceful and quick end under a needle? To me the theory that letting it deal with all that suffering on its own in order to get rid of its negative kharma is just religious theory that I cannot put blind faith in. It does not make honest sense to me. If anything I think the owner choosing the more compassionate path for the animal makes more sense to have to do with good kharma. But that is just me.

    I am not bound by tradition, I go with what feels right.
  • edited April 2010
    Ditto. I've had two of my feline friends suffer from leukemia. The first, Lucky (I wrote about it here - my rescued kitten with the broken legs), suffered terribly at the end....wasted away...trying to drag himself to the catbox, and finally would simply urinate on himself, lying in it, unable to raise his head - but looking at me and crying in distress. My little buddy - he just couldn't understand it, and looked to me to help, and I couldn't do anything other than hold him...which also caused him physical pain. The way I looked at it, while he still had the will to live, it was clear he was asking me, looked to me, to help. Pain management, death, was the only thing I could do. I regretted waiting so long in that case.

    Last week, another of my friends was put to sleep, and it was an entirely different case. Prince, a 13 year old, very big and healthy male, just started wasting away. I couldn't figure it out. Always a friendly cat to others, he always cringed whenever I went to pet him. It was always kinda hurtful to me...I love my cats and had never done anything to hurt him...and I never could understand why he seemed so....scared around me. As a family, we joked that perhaps he was cringing because I'm such an alpha female. Oddly, for the past month or so, while he seemed to be losing his appetite, he started sleeping with me. Would come to my bed and was talkative...I knew he was trying to tell me something.

    Either way, took him to the doc for a yearly rabies shot, and he completely collapsed over the weekend. Turned out, he had the disease, and that shot put him over the edge. He needed a transfusion, which I couldn't afford, and while he wasn't where my Lucky was at, it was just a matter of days.

    It was pre-emptive death, not pain management this time, and I was so undecided...so torn...so sorrowful. What was the right thing to do? He just laid there, and for the first time ever, with his big head resting in my palm, purring at me, accepted my touch and not cringing. It took two shots to still his big heart, and it occurred to me: 'Did you always know? That it would be me, with you, in the end?'
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