One of the most important times in our pet’s lives is the end of their life. We all try not to think about it but unfortunately euthanasia is a decision that almost every pet owner has to face.
We don’t let our pets suffer through intolerable pain and discomfort and we want them to live with dignity and respect. This is why we also want them to die with dignity and respect. It is one of those decisions that you never quite believe is right because it is so final and you love them so much. But for most of us the decision is made out of love and our pets know this.
I performed two euthanasias on the weekend. Both on Sunday, one late in the evening. These were both out of hours but really when the time is right you cannot delay. Both of these euthanasias highlight how big a part our pets play in our lives. For some people they are a major extension of the family and for others they are the family and their loss has a great impact.
One couple lived with their beautiful german shepherd, just the three of them. Needless to say they were very close and Kahn was a very loyal and loving “son”. Even the neighbour, when he saw me arrive, came around to say goodbye to Kahn as he sensed this was happening.
He was a kind of “godfather” to Kahn, looking after him when Kahn’s parents were away. It was a crippling decision that had to be made and the anguish was palpable. T and M loved Kahn so much they really didn’t want to let him go. They knew that he was in intolerable discomfort with his arthritis and could no longer move around, and it just wasn’t fair to let him live like that. Despite the struggle and sadness they wanted to give him the best send off they could and finally give him peace and comfort.
The second family had several children and two dogs. Everyone was present, in fact we waited for M’s partner to come home as he was away and there was no way we could do this without everyone present. M held Spotty, a sweet cross fox terrier, in her lap while we prepared her for the euthanasia. I gave her some sedation to take the edge off and smooth out the process. Spotty had terminal Lymphoma and the family didn’t feel chemotherapy was an option.
The decision whether to treat a pet with chemotherapy is just about as hard as the decision to euthanase; the ethics and considerations are the same. M and her family simply didn’t want their beloved pet to suffer through what could have been a very distressing and painful course of chemotherapy, which ultimately would have the same outcome anyway.
So with the whole family present, we euthanased Spotty on M’s lap in the warm family room where Spotty would have been most comfortable. It was incredibly distressing and emotional for the family even though they all felt that it was the right thing to do. There was no doubting the significance this sweet little character had in all their lives, and how much she will be missed.
I take pet euthanasia consultations very seriously. In fact it is probably the most important consultation that I do. My goal is to facilitate a dignified, peaceful and loving transition from life to death and whatever lies beyond. I am there to support the people left behind and give them encouragement that they are, despite what they may feel, acting in the best interests of their companion and out of love.
Despite how hard and emotionally draining it is, I also find this time one of the most rewarding for me as a vet because I can provide people the option of giving one of their most beloved family members a comfortable, loving, pain free and most of all respectable end to their life and prevent further needless suffering.
I found this little story a while ago when my wife and I euthanased our beautiful dog Santana. My wife had lived with her for almost 16 years. The imagery in the story is really beautiful. Following it is another poem I found which is very moving. Both typify the bond that we create with our companions, when really there are few words that can adequately describe it. I hope you like them.
The Rainbow Bridge
There is a bridge connecting Heaven and Earth. It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of its many colours. Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows, hills and valleys with lush green grass.
When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this place. There is always food and water and warm spring weather. The old and frail animals are young again. Those who are maimed are made whole again. They play all day with each other.
There is only one thing missing. They are not with their special person who loved them on Earth. So each day they run and play until the day comes when one suddenly stops playing and looks up! The nose twitches! The ears are up! The eyes are staring! And this one runs from the group!
You have been seen, and when you and your special friend meet, you take him or her in your arms and embrace. Your face is kissed again and again and again, and you look once more into the eyes of your trusting pet.
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be separated.
A Pets Prayer
If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep
Then you must do what must be done
For this the last battle can’t be won
You will be sad…… I understand
Don’t let your grief then, sad your hand
For this day more than the rest
Your love and friendship stands the test
We’ve had so many happy years
What is to come can hold no fears
You’d not want me to suffer so
When the time comes, please let me go
Take me where my need, they’ll tend
Only stay with me….. to the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see
I know in time you will see
It is a kindness you do to me
Although my tail, it’s last waved
From pain and suffering, I’ve been saved
Don’t grieve, it should be you
Who decided this thing to do
We’ve been so close, we two, these years
Don’t let your heart hold any tears
Smile for me, walk together, for a little while.