Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April Blogging Challenge: D is for Death

I hate to go all morbid on you guys, but this technically is a part of life. I'm not going to go into losing family members or friends, but rather the pet side of it. I know a wrote a post quite awhile back regarding how people see their pets - as members of the family. I got my first (and only thus far) anonymous comment because of that post.

I'm not going to open up that debate again, but it is clear that in general, for the average person, their pets are like family members. These animals, in most cases, will spend up to 15 or even 20 years living with you. With horses, you can have them for 35 years. With some birds, they can actually outlive you, meaning that your poor kids have to suffer with Polly.

I had other ideas lined up for this letter, one them about my family history. However, today (Monday), a gal came into the clinic that I now work at as Job #3, to put down her 15 year old dog. She called in the morning, hardly able to put together a cohesive sentence. She told me that she needed to euthanize her dog, that it was his time. I found an available time for her later that morning, just before lunch so that hopefully it would be relatively quiet for her. (Yeah, that didn't really happen). I settled her bill over the phone, so that when she came in, all she had to do was sign the credit card slip and the euthanasia consent form. About 2 hours later, she comes in, her eyes all puffy and her nose all sniffely. As I showed her where to sign on the credit slip, she cried, "I'll never own another dog!" I took that to mean the saying good-bye part was too difficult, not that her dog was the world's worst.

In my three days at this particular clinic, I've seen three dogs lose their lives. And not necessarily to the pink juice. One dog was a little guy who had been attacked by larger dogs, and survived the 45 minute drive, as we are the nearest clinic, only to die in the vet's arms within 30 minutes of arriving at the clinic. Another dog was brought in, the owner thinking it was having seizures. I saw the x-rays of the dog's heart - highly abnormal. It died, too.

In all the clinics I've worked for since I graduated from high school, this was always the hardest part of the job. As horrible as it is to say, yes, you do get used to euthanizing animals. But that doesn't make it any less sad. The worst is the owners. I hate seeing them crying, telling you about their beloved Fido or Fluffy. The worst of the worst is if the owner wants to be in the room when you give the pink juice.

The first time I saw an owner saying good-bye to their dog before the pink juice, it nearly killed me. I had to go hide in the kennels to let my eyes dry up before going back out.

We all know that nothing lives forever. Yet it doesn't make it any easier when the time comes. In fact, the 10 or 15 years you spend with Fido or Fluffy make that much harder to make that call. I think the hardest thing for pet owners is finally saying, "It's time to euthanize". No one wants to take that final walk. No one.

My grandfather put down his horse, Chubs, this past year. That horse was somewhere around 35, which is damned old for a horse. This horse, my grandfather owned her whole life, and trained her. The vet had mentioned euthanasia, but Papa D couldn't do it. All I had to do was see Chubs to agree with the vet, but I knew that if it was O'My (my horse), I would have the same dilemma. You don't want to see them suffer, but you don't want to say good-bye, either. In the end, he finally made the decision to put her down.

So the next time you think, "my pet isn't family, it's just an animal", think about down the road. Think about the moment when you will have to end their suffering. You'll be bawling like a baby, just like the rest of us. And don't think the folks in the clinic are heartless because they've done this a thousand times, because they care, too. They have pets and they know their time will come. They put on a brave face because they have a job to do.

But trust me. We all cry. Because even though you know they're no longer suffering, death sucks.


  1. I've had to say goodbye to quite a few pets over the years, mostly guinea pigs. I always feel bad for the vet staff as I am, without fail, a mess. Even so, the staff have always been lovely. I do worry that if I'm that bad with the guinea pigs, who don't really live that long, what am I going to be like when it's Megan (14yr old cat with CRF, so I know it's coming at some point in the not too distant future), Dooby (11 yr old cat) or, even worse, Bebe.

    You're right, death sucks.

  2. This is a beautiful post. I did not know horses lived that long, it must have been very hard for your grandpa.

  3. We lost our dog less than a year ago. He was fourteen and died at home. I'm glad we didn't have to make the decision. It's so difficult and I know the workers at the vet's felt for us. Bless you all for the service.

  4. Amanda - Even the little guys we all become attached to. And even when old age takes them, it doesn't make it any easier. I still cry like a baby over losing my dog Dustie... years ago.

    Belle - Thank you. Oh yes, horses can easily live that long if properly cared for. And it was pretty hard for him. But there came a time where Chubs just couldn't take anymore.

    Susan - I think I'd rather not have to make the decision, but unfortunately, for many pet owners, they can't take their little critter suffering.

  5. Way to take this one! I love it!!! Maybe they have a studio40plus. I'm gonna go check!

  6. Trying to keep from crying here. My puppy was almost 14 when he passed away. I held him all night, rocked him in my arms, and sang his favorite song, "A Whole New World" from Aladdin. Now, I can barely see my screen. I miss him. He wasn't a pet to me--he was family.


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