Loss of a Pet: The Veterinarian’s Role

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve blogged. My brain has been so frazzled lately, and I’ve let the stress I gave up for Lent, take over. It’s time to once again take charge of that stress, and let it go (I really dislike the fact that I can’t hear, read, or write the phrase “let it go,” without hearing that song in my head).

Anyway, lets get to the what drove me to write a post today. Anyone who knows me knows I spend a LOT of time at the veterinarian’s office. Way more than one should spend in this type of place unless you actually work or volunteer there. My animals are my children. Not that I don’t have human children. I have those too, but animals are so much more thankful for the good life you give them, where as the human version just expects it. Imagine that!

My very first personal experience with a vet was when I was around 8 years of age. I had a parakeet named Tweety. Very imaginative, I know. I came home from school one day to find Tweety sitting on the floor of his cage. I reached in to let him hop on my hand as he normally would. This time he didn’t, so I picked him up and let him sit in the palm of my hand. He was awake but unresponsive, so I held him until his eyes closed. When he closed his eyes, I put him on the table and he fell over. I freaked out in a way that only an eight year old girl could (Well, I’m sure if I allowed myself, I could do the same at the age I am now). I was alone at the time, because my mother and step-dad were working… you know, a latch-key kid. These days that’d be called free-range, or neglected (I don’t agree with that last description, because not having money for food is way more neglectful, in my opinion). I picked Tweety up, and took off through the front door. You see, we had a vet’s office right across the street. A very busy, commercial street. I ran across that street, with a few (okay a lot of) cars honking at me. I remember everyone in the office being very kind. The ladies took Tweety to the back for the vet to see. The vet brought me back, and took the time to explain to me that he couldn’t do anything because Tweety had died. I was bawling while he showed me that rigor mortis was already setting in. My Tweety was gone, and here I was bawling in front of an office staff that was very sweet and consoling, and also concerned about where I had actually come from without an adult.

Over the years, I’ve dealt with the loss of other beloved animals. When my kids were small, we had a dog named LuLu. One day LuLu started vomiting things that I knew she hadn’t been fed (at least by us). I rushed her to the vet and he told me she had been poisoned. The vet told me what he would charge and I asked if there was any way he could work out a payment plan with me so we could heal my baby girl. He told me she was already mentally depressed. I still wonder to this day if he would have saved her, had I had the money for him to do so.

Many years later we lost our cat and dog to old age. Both ended up in being put down in veterinarian offices that had never originally treated them. Our cat developed kidney cancer, and his original vet was too far away to drive to in the ice, the week he really went down hill. A nice vet around the corner from our home made the process of putting him down as easy as he possibly could for us, even though our kitty wasn’t a client. Our poor, sweet, blind dog’s health started going downhill soon after we moved from Dallas to a smaller town. We hadn’t had time to find a vet, but we did actually have him scheduled with a wonderful home hospice for animals. Our boy started seizing the night before the hospice was scheduled to come out. He seized all night. It was awful. At 7am I was able to get in touch with a veterinarian right down the road from us. I tried to hold myself together while on the phone with them asking them if we could please get him in. His suffering needed to end. They accommodated us right away. This was the first time we had ever met these people. They were kind, and supportive. They are still our vets today.

There are a lot of careers out there for the career minded to choose from. People who choose to be veterinarians typically love animals. As they grow and mature, they understand the risks involved, and the not so glamorous position this “title” holds at times. It’s not all puppies and kittens, and cute little pygmy goats (I added the last because one day I will have some pygmy goats!). They have to examine aggressive, wiggly, furry, feathered, and scaly critters. They have to at times convince pet owners of the importance of procedures such as teeth cleaning, X-rays, beak trimming (I’m all for beak trimming because our conure’s beak can quickly become weapon-like), because we know the cost of these things, and some people will immediately assume these procedures are being suggested just to make the vet some extra money. They have to break bad news to us, and they are often the ones who are there when we lose our babies, either expectedly or unexpectedly. They deal with our grief, and I know because of their love for animals, they grieve with us. It’s a huge responsibility, and a career that one must absolutely love in order to stick with it. Especially during the times in which we, the pet owners, through our grief, question whether they could have done more for our pets during an unexpected loss. It’s a hard position to be in, and one that I appreciate, and value so much.

Being quite the neurotic pet owner, having a veterinarian that is willing to handle me so kindly while caring for my animals, is such a huge relief. I can only hope that when I do lose one of my babies, that I will hold in my heart the knowledge that the vet did everything in his or her power to help my baby, because right now, suffering no current loss, I know this to be true.

Veterinarians work so hard maintaining the health of our animals. There are risks involved with certain aspects of care, and if there is an underlying health problem, things can go wrong quickly. I’m sure their hearts break during these unexpected moments. I’m certain of it because they most likely chose veterinarian care to save animals, not to euthanize them, or lose them during health maintenance procedures. Thank you to our veterinarians for doing your best for our furry, scaly, or feathered babies. We know you care, and we appreciate your patience and kindness to us, the pet owners, through some of the saddest moments of our lives.

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40 something woman in the midst of a midlife crisis, living daily life with a smile on my face, love in my heart, and completely dripping sarcasm like melting cheese from a cheese-burger.

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