Kira enjoying a burger on her drive

I’m going to kill my dog today.

I’m going to kill my dog out of convenience. I’ll officially tap out of the battle we’ve been fighting. Fighting is too hard for me. I have nothing left and I’m letting her go because I am weak.

I am going to kill my dog today. I tried to do it yesterday, but self doubt took the wheel, giving way to yet another of my hopeful diagnoses, forcing me to turn the car around.

She will cross The Bridge because I missed a critical sign that she was getting sick. I should have caught it earlier. I should have known. I should have instructed the vets to look harder.

Dietary indiscretion. That must have been what made her sick. I upped her protein. I must have shocked her system. It’s my fault she’s suffering.

We can undo it….right? We can make her well again….can’t we?

I’m going to make the decision to end her life too soon. I’m giving up. I’m a horrible dog owner. I’m betraying her.

I’m not going to make the decision soon enough. I am letting her suffer for too long. I am selfish. She deserves better.

IMG_4200I’ve made mistakes. I’ve made so many mistakes. After dozens of vets, I should have known she wasn’t aspirating….that it was an underlying gastrointestinal problem. I should have known. I should have researched. I should have said something. I should have advocated.

I’m going to kill my dog today. And as I take her on her last trip to the vet, although she can’t speak, she is going to beg me to turn around. I’ll see it in her eyes. It’s something simple – it’s a quick fix. I just missed something. Just one more test.

She’s going to be afraid. She doesn’t want to go. She’s not ready to leave. She belongs here….with us…..with her family, who loves her.

I’m going to let her go on a cold vet hospital floor. I am going to send her to The Bridge, surrounded by a group of strangers. She’ll stare into my tearful eyes as I give them a nod and they fill her veins with cold, pink fluid. She’ll think I betrayed her. I’m supposed to protect her. And now, I’m going to kill her.

As the hours pass and the minutes tick away, her death, by my hands, weighing heavily on my shoulders, crushes me with the weight of a thousand elephants.

Sleep has eluded me for weeks. I can’t possibly rest. What if she wakes up? What if she is in distress? What if my groggy head misses a medication? What if I fail her?

I’ll try to turn it off. Try to keep myself busy. I’ll count and re-count the pills, I’ll check her temperature and vitals obsessively, and I’ll insist I have a new diagnosis.

But there is no new diagnosis.

She is a 13 year old Great Dane. THAT is her diagnosis. I cannot save her now.

The vets placate me, following along with my latest theory, helping me find a solution that isn’t there. They are compassionate and they understand my need to know. They understand I can’t let her go until I am certain of what’s wrong. Until I know I’ve done everything. Until I can absolve myself of guilt.

But I can’t absolve myself. I will always find a reason that her death is on my shoulders. I will convince myself I could have done more. I could take out loans, beg, borrow, and steal, get her every test available, and still it would be my fault.

This is my dog. And I’m going to kill her.

Although I love you, I won’t listen to your words. I won’t accept that I’ve “given her such a good life.” or that “No one has a Dane that lives this long.” or that she’s “lucky to have me”. I won’t believe I’ve “done all that could be done.” or even that I’ve “done more than most would do”. My unfounded guilt will quiet your words, twisting them and turning them into fuel for even more guilt, worry and insecurity.

I’m going to kill my dog today. It will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Until the moment I do, until the second I take her in, I will view everything I do through a filter of guilt and self doubt. And even after she takes her final breath, I’ll wonder “What if?”.

But I will heal.

I’ll come to grips with the fact that she is gone. And, as the pain and stress subsides, it will take along with it the guilt.

Kira and her (annoyed) sister Darby

She’s a 13 year old great dane who is ready to go. My soul knows it. My heart doesn’t want to accept it. She’s been a warrior her entire life but she is tired of fighting. She is tired of pills. She is tired of restricted diets. She is tired of not being able to stand, to run, to play.

She knows I’ve done all I can. She wishes I would have done less. But she, like my vet, placates me, knowing my heart is breaking, trying to desperately to heal my open wounds and to save me from myself.

I’m a better person for having her in my life. She brought so much love, joy and support to me over the past 13 years and, in an attempt to soothe my broken heart, as many people tell me that “She was lucky to have me.” I know in my soul that it was I who was lucky to have her.

I’m going to love my dog today. I am going to be grateful for the moments I have. I’m going to cherish the happy head tilt she gives when I ask her if she “wants a biscuit”. I’m going to relish the times where, despite how her body fails her, she tries to steal her sister’s food. I’m going to laugh when she kicks her feet in her sleep, nearly taking out her basset sister who hasn’t left her side since she’s been sick. And I’m going to celebrate the days when she runs, as they are so terribly few now.

I am going to love my dog today. And I’m going to help her escape her pain. But it will be an act of mercy. An act of love. The most unselfish gift I can give to the dog who has given me so much.


I miss you every day Baby Girl and I am so grateful your big puppy feet bounded into my life 13 years ago. Until we meet again….

Special thanks to my incredible friend, Amy Simpson for helping me send Kira off wrapped in love, and to the wonderful staff at VCA Grossmont Animal Hospital for their compassion and for making our transition as seamless and as peaceful as we could have ever hoped for. 

Meagan Karnes
Meagan Karnes

Meagan has been training dogs professionally since 2002, most recently working with private security, military and law enforcement to provide K9s for high level applications. She owns both The Collared Scholar, an online dog training academy, and 690 Security Services, a company that trains and deploys Executive Security and Protection K9s to private customers. She recently partnered with both Average Frog and SM Leaders, who repurpose the proven performance principles of the Navy SEALs for individuals and organizations.

    3 replies to "Guilt, Mercy and the Love of a Great Dane"

    • Melanie

      What a beautiful tribute to your lovely Kira. And how brave you are for letting us all see your pain and (needless) self recrimination. My heart dog is a wonderfully healthy 10 yr old GSD and i know that when I have to kill him, I will remember this letter.
      Thank you,

    • Ruth

      Oh jeezus. That reached right down to the center of my soul. That is pretty much exactly how I felt (and still feel to a certain extent) about putting down my horse a couple years ago. She was 29, blind, arthritic, and it was time. And it ripped my heart out. That is hands down the hardest decision I have ever had to make in my entire life. And it was too soon. And it was much too late.

    • Lourdes flores

      She was 13 yrs old Oh my God , for me only eight yrs and just happens and I knew but it was more Like instinct a feeling ? That my Vet, did not take for serious because I was always so aprensive and when I should had been I was not !!! is been already a year and just c an forgive myself !

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