SPECIAL REPORT: Saying Goodbye

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- Saying Abby has a good life is a Great Dane sized understatement. Abby's owner, Sandy Gumness calls herself a stay at home dog mom.

“She's a real sweetheart,” Sandy explained.

This sweetheart has a front row bed next to the fireplace. And boxes and boxes of toys. The stuffed elephant is her favorite. But something is missing from Abby's life-- her two four legged best friends.

"She's been a little lonely and a little lost since Sam and Gus passed away,” Sandy said.

Abby's family had to say their heartbreaking final goodbye to Sam in March when he developed a mass on his spleen. They lost Gus in January of 2015 after lymphoma took away his quality of life.

"He looked at me like, mom I just can't do this anymore,” she recalls.

For Jeff Thelen, he knows the feeling.

“For me, it wasn't a look.It was a reaction,” he explains.

After 15 years with his dog, Baillie, he knew it was time to say goodbey.

For months her health had gone downhill. She was losing her eyesight, hearing, ability to go down stairs and bowel control. Jeff said it was tough to admit they might be close to the end.

“On a visit to my parents in March of 2015, my dad said, 'Jeff, look at your dog's eyes. I think she's hurting'.”

Jeff said the next morning he reached down to pet her and she reacted like she was in pain.

“That was the moment I knew the time had come and I was at the vet saying my final goodbye 2-hours later,” he recalled.

If you haven't had to euthanize a furry member of the family in a long time-- First, you're lucky. And second, you may not realize it's a lot different than it used to be.

"More and more families make the pets 'part of the family' versus 'it's just the dog'," explained Doctor Jamie Gifford.

She's veterinarian at Wausau Animal Hospital. When a pet is put down, a candle gets lit in the lobby, to let everyone know something tough is going on.

"We still want be happy and see happy puppies, but we need to be aware that someone else is struggling with this difficult decision,” she said.

Pet families get as much time as they need to say goodbye after the difficult decision is made.

"Then we allow our pet owners to stay as long as they need to stay. If they need time before or after, they have the room for as long as they need it,” she said.

"They sedated him and he relaxed and we had 45-minutes to say goodbye and she came out and said are you ready,” Sandy explained of her process with dog when it was time to say goodbye.

Sandy's heart said no to that question for both Gus and Sam. Her head over ruled the feeling.

"We did it because we love them and the worst thing was watching them in pain”.