Unfortunately, saying goodbye to our faithful companions is something we all must do. Except for bird and tortoise owners, we generally outlive our pets. Saying goodbye is never easy, but with some careful planning it can be made a little easier. Many people do not want to think about these things, but it's easier to make those final decisions if you have thought of it before the emergency arises.

Coastal Point • Submitted: Spirit, Cheryl Loveland's 5-year-old female blood hound, died recentlyJust the other day, I had to say my final goodbye to one of my own. Her call name was Spirit. She was my 5-year-old female bloodhound. Spirit has had many health issues in her short life. In fact, I thought I was losing her back in December, when she had surgery to remove a cancer mass.

She made it through the surgery; however, we think she might have had more internal cancer issues. We were waiting for her to regain some of her strength so we could do X-rays to see what might be going on inside of her. Most dogs need to be put under to do X-rays, and in her weakened state, there was a high likelihood of her not being able to handle that.

She was still losing weight, even though she was eating more than she ever had. She was eating 1 to 2 cups of additional food per day. About 3 a.m., I heard a moaning noise, and I was pretty sure I knew what was happening. I rushed into the dining room, and my worst fears were right; she had bloated.

Bloat is something that often occurs in large, deep-chested dogs. No one knows exactly why it happens. There are many varying opinions of what may cause bloat, but no one really knows. Bloat is an extreme emergency. Surgery must be performed quickly and often dogs don't survive it. It is a major surgery.

I threw on some clothes and loaded her in the car and took off to Salisbury to the pet ER. Fortunately, I had already considered what would happen if this happened to her. With her compromised health, it was highly unlikely that she would be able to handle the surgery.

Both my personal vet and the on-duty vet at the pet ER agreed she was not a candidate for bloat surgery, so I had to do, as my best friend says, “the last kind thing you can do for them.” I had to say goodbye and put her gently to sleep.

Because I had thought of this prior to needing to, because I had talked to my friends and my vet, because I had thought and planned, I could make the decision. I didn't have to make a rash, emergency decision. I had made a planned course of action. I had thought of different scenarios and made informed decisions.

It was still hard and I still cried, but I knew what was the best for her. I have also thought about this for the other pets in my family. As their health and ages change, I will have to adjust my decisions, but I try to plan ahead. I have had to make rash decisions on other pets in my earlier lifetime, and I still second-guess myself years later.

I not only planned what emergencies would be dealt with and what way, I have also decided what will happen with the pet when they pass away. I know people do not like to talk about these types of things, but you should. Everyone in the family should know what to do.

Are you going to bury the pet in the yard and, if so, where in the yard, and what are you going to place the pet in? Are you going to have them laid to rest at a pet cemetery, and if so, which one and how do you get the pet there? Are you going to have the pet cremated, if so, where, and if so, do you want the remains returned to you and, if so, in what? If you have the pet cremated and returned to you, what are you going to do with them after that?

These are just some of the things you need to think about. Believe me — it is easier to talk about these things before you need to. And it is important that the entire family knows what will happen before it happens, so that no mistakes are made. You do not want to start a family feud while you are dealing with the passing of the family pet. You also don't want hard feelings when family members feel their wishes were not considered.

Even though I had planned ahead and considered all of the possibilities and what I would do in each circumstance, it was still hard. I miss her greatly. I was sad, but I did not have to make an emotional decision and then wonder if I did the right thing. I was able to be there for her without worrying about what to do.

So, now I am able to just grieve. I am able to just miss her. I don't have to wonder did I do the right thing. I don't have to play the “what if” game. I had already done those things when I was not in an emotional state of mind.

Even though it is a tough subject to talk about, inevitably, the time will come when you will need to make those tough and uncomfortable choices, so plan ahead and it will be easier than waiting until the last minute.

Cheryl Loveland is a dog groomer, pet-sitter, dog trainer and fosterer for many unwanted animals. She does rescue work for all types of animals and has owned or fostered most types of domestic animals and many wild ones. She currently resides with her bloodhound, which she has shown in conformation and is currently training for search-and-rescue work. Also residing with her are a bichon frisée, two cats and two birds. She welcomes comments, questions and suggestions for future articles at countryservice@comcast.net. Remember, she is not an expert: she offers her opinions and suggestions from her experience and research.