My brother and his family recently had to say goodbye to their cat, Lilah. I was really impressed with the conscientious and caring approach they took:
Poor Lilah had had a sudden decline, had stopped eating and was facing an uncomfortable time. My niece spent her entire spring break from college by the cat's side as opposed to beachside. Betsy, my sister-in-law, solicited help and support by reaching out to her community of friends and family via an email asking if anyone had advice on putting a pet down. This was her way of sharing the news and asking for help in a way that did not disturb or make people uncomfortable -- but a way that also let them know she was facing a tough time in case they wanted to reach out. She was surprised by the outpouring of support and thoughts her fairly straightforward email elicited.
One person in Betsy's extended circle of friends turned out to be a vet who knew of another vet who made housecalls and would actually put the animal to sleep at home. They didn't even realize that in-home pet euthansia was possible, so thank the world of social networking again. Lilah hated going to the vet, or even in a carrier. My brother said he could just point a finger at the carrier and Lilah would bolt from the room. So, they were able to avoid adding to her misery by avoiding a ride to a clinic.
On her final day, the whole family spent time with their pet, taking portraits and created a kind of sanctuary on the back porch with a terry covered set up for Lilah. They all gathered around and had a comforting hand on her as she was put under.
The final loving touch? Lilah's ashes will be returned to them in a seed-embedded biodegrable box which will bloom with flowers in their backyard. Ashes to ashes. Or, as one site guides, "Be a Tree."