Monday, May 11, 2009


this is an overwrought, been up for the past 18 hours straight, worked for 12 days straight with 2 days off in between to drive 8 hours, do a working interview, and get a job type post. i'm tired, i'm a bit worn thin...

an elderly woman brought in her 14 year old dog on saturday night. it was unable to stand, covered in feces and urine, and ancient. the woman was pragmatic, and i thought she was indifferent to the impending euthanasia of her dog. that was until i asked her what arrangements she would like to make - if she would like to take the dog home to bury her or if she would like us to cremate her.

at that, her face crumpled, and she explained that she had no one to help her bury the dog. she was a widower with no children. she had rheumatoid arthritis. cremation was anathema to her, but she couldn't take the dog home to bury her without help. when i euthanized the dog, she sobbed over the body, a high-pitched wheezing cry that sounded like someone wounded.

i felt inept beside her grief. i stood next to her awkwardly. i'm not a touchy feely type person. i don't like to hug people other than those i am exceptionally close to (my husband, my brother-in-law, my mom, my grandparents). physical affection has never been my language. i stood there and rubbed her back and tried to not feel like a tiny person dwarfed by sorrow.

the thing about sorrow is that it is so often deeper and wider than the inciting cause - at least in the veterinarian world. dogs and cats are so often surrogates for another relationship or remainders/reminders of a past relationship. and so, when people cry for the loss of a pet, often they are crying for other things they have lost. the things people have told me over the euthanasia of a pet...sometimes they are almost too sad to bear.

on the note of grief, we have been treating (for a year) a beautiful, beautiful dog with the sweetest temperament ever. at only 2 years old, he was diagnosed with lymphoma. despite coming for weekly chemotherapy, he has never offered to be impatient or cranky. his natural exuberance for life was infectious to us all. everyone loved him. his tail always wagged, his golden eyes always shone, and he was always happy to see us - despite the fact that we invariably stuck needles in him. about 2 months ago, he became resistant to his chemotherapy and relapsed into active lymphoma. a rescue protocol was started, but he failed it. the owners elected to stop and put him down when the time came.

today, as i was rounding with the other doctors, i turned to see him being led into the back for euthanasia by our head technician. her face was bright red and tears were running down it. at the end of the leash she held was an emaciated, depressed dog that i didn't immediately recognize. every rib stood out, his hipbones were painfully prominent, he was depressed, and his golden eyes didn't meet anyone in the room's. his normally wagging tail was tucked between his legs.

i have never seen a dog so absolutely absent. gone was the life that had infused his big, tawny body. there stood a shell of a dog, waiting for his owners to let him go. i started to cry on the spot.

it was a great way to end the week.

1 comment:

Tayaki said...

thanks for sharing. beautifully written and now you've made me cry! i'm happy about your job though, if anyone deserves to work at a great practice, it's you!