At 14 years old, Barky, our family dog, had survived cancer and blood disease thanks to a combination of heroic veterinary efforts and just plain good luck. Then, she developed congestive heart failure.

Congestive heart failure is a terrible condition. The dog’s heart can’t pump blood through the body very well. It leads to coughing, exhaustion, a swollen belly — and eventually, the dog’s lungs will fill with fluid, and she will essentially feel as if she is drowning in her own body.

We didn’t want Barky to experience a terrifying, painful death. We thought it was kinder for the veterinarian to end her life before that happened — peacefully, at home, surrounded by the people who love her.

My family and I were devastated to lose Barky, devastated to think of her dying, and unsure about whether we were making the right choice. Should we wait? Had we already waited too long?

This is the price we pay for loving animals, and for living with animals: being responsible sometimes for deciding when and how to end their lives.

But how do we know how and when to do it, so that we have done right by our pets, and honored their places in our family? TODAY reached out to veterinarians for guidance to help answer some of our deepest — and, frankly, sobbiest — questions about pet euthanasia. …Read the full story at