Today I was going to offer you a post on the merits of charitable giving with a list of worthy organizations for you to consider donating your taxable income. Unfortunately, the death of Peaches (the puppy with Leptospirosis whose story I’d recounted last weekend) has preempted my attempt at philanthropy.
After watching Babette’s feast last night (my favorite Christmas movie, though it includes no reference to any specific holiday), I was feeling uplifted and spiritually revived. (I watch it every year for psychological mitigation of all the last minute stresses of the season—and it works.) But this morning’s unexpected turn of events effectively killed that buzz.
Peaches’ kidneys finally gave out for good. She stopped making urine (a sure sign of end-stage acute renal failure) and began to vomit bloody brown fluid. The ominous color of her vomit was a harbinger of a typically irreversible process known as disseminated intravascular coagulation (referred to commonly as DIC, a three-letter acronym made descriptively memorable as an acronym for “death is coming”). It happens when the body’s own toxins finally have their way, leading inexorably to multi-organ failure.
Peaches had been improving over the weekend. She was sitting up and wagging her tail in appreciation of our efforts, though she was starting to look a bit like Skeletor after a week without even a morsel of real food in her belly. I was warned by the internist that she would look like this for weeks; that her physical appearance would become alarming before all was said and done—that is, if she managed to survive.
But I guess it wasn’t meant to be. She finally died this morning after a rough night of more vomiting.
And now you’re wondering why I didn’t euthanize her once I saw that it was probably hopeless. The truth? Without the benefit of a hefty bankroll, bloodwork to confirm DIC was out of the question. A quick peek at her blood under the microscope (a cheap test I can afford not to charge for) was inconclusive. I felt I couldn’t euthanize her after all she’d already been through without
In business school we often discussed the concept of the “sunk cost.” It’s a term applied to past financial expenditures that lead many less savvy investors to unwisely proceed with doomed business ventures. It’s a little akin to the psychology of the gambler who’s down in the game but hopes against all hopes to recoup his losses in the end. This is probably what kept me going with Peaches…maybe she’ll pull through…we’ve come this far…
But veterinarians would be well advised to soul-search when faced with the prospect of more suffering. After all, this isn’t a human who can make choices for herself. And it’s not my place to play the part of the gambler down on her luck looking to pull out my final ace. Nor do I have the right to ignore signs that point to her impending demise to suit my personal whims. This is a puppy who has to experience the consequences of my actions whether she wants to or not.
Same goes for the kitty I just administered chemo to and for the seizure dog whose poor quality of life I’m at a loss to explain or improve. True, I’m not as responsible for these because these patients’ parents were present to make decisions for them. But this one’s on me.
Please don’t assume my thoughts stray to this depressively morbid state often. Vets have to deal with these situations all the time but we can’t always afford to become so personally involved. Peaches and her new owner just happened to tug at my heartstrings a little more than most. I think I’ll just have to go home tonight get drunk on Babette’s Feast again.