What I killed in 2010
Last year I inaugurated a practice I vowed to continue annually into perpetuity. Based on one (anonymous) wildlife worker's online euthanasia tally at whatikilledtoday.com, I offered up my own year-end count by way of reflecting on the total sum of each and every euthanized patient … so as not to forget the personal toll.
How better to convey the loss of life than by memorializing the death through the lasting, ecumenical and far-reaching platform only the Internet can offer?
This year, I decided to take the concept one step further: I took my whatikilledtoday concept to my fellow professionals via my monthly column at Veterinary Practice News. Though it won't be published until next month, I offer you here some excerpts, along with 2010's final results:
First, a look back at what I felt about whatikilledtoday's starkly affecting display:
Mostly, these "beautiful deaths" are recorded matter-of-factly, allowing any of us to read into their grim words what we will. Which is why these minimalistic entries are nothing short of brilliant (if you have a thing for Nietzsche and Kafka, that is).
In my more recent writings, I waxed philosophical on the protective mechanisms by which we stop counting our dead and start minimizing, or even taking a protectively positive stance, on what by all rights deserves to be viewed as stressful at it is:
Indeed, if you're anything like me you've developed a perspective on euth detail that tells you you're doing a wonderful thing that few in the world are capable of doing better than you do. (And you're probably right.)
Yet the issue remains: If we're so inured to the depressant effects of euthanasia that we never feel the immediate effects of its personal toll ... then are we really doing our jobs as best we might?
It's a great question for my fellow professionals, one which I answer with this:
This is why I believe counting all the dead who have passed through my hands is a worthy activity. And I'm not alone. From the moving Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. to the public articulation of individual names after tragedies like that in Tucson, there are many precedents to this practice.
So why not count our own dead? I do.
In 2010: 109 dogs, 129 cats.
A final perspective:
Whenever we discuss euthanasia among colleagues, there’s always a spectrum of emotions attached: relief, sorrow, fear, and the blackest kind of humor reserved for those who require collegial commiseration and personal expiation. You might find it dark and lurid to count off the pets whose hearts we’ve stopped. But where would we be without the willingness to accept this opportunity for reflection?
Dr. Patty Khuly