I euthanized six animals in four days at the end of December. In and of itself the number of euthanasias wasn’t all that out of the ordinary considering I work in a practice that specializes in end of life care. What struck me were the stories that were associated with each of these families. I was so touched by the love that was exhibited between pets and people in each instance that I want to share their stories with you. I’ve changed names and a few details to respect the privacy of all involved, but what is pertinent remains true.
George was a Mastiff who weighed over 150 pounds. In his prime he was around 185, according to his owners. Over the course of many months, George had gradually lost the use of his hind legs and his bladder and bowel control. Despite his immense size, his owners worked to get him outside throughout the day and when the inevitable accidents occurred, they kept him immaculately clean. Finally, when his quality of life declined to an unacceptable level, they chose the humane option of euthanasia, despite the heartbreaking fact that they had lost two other dogs in recent months.
Pokie was a 17-year-old Lhasa Apso. His 90-year-old owner, Mrs. Jones, adopted him when he was 6, just before he was scheduled for euthanasia, I suspect because of "housebreaking issues.” Despite the fact that he continued to prefer to “do his business” in the house (his owner simply covered his favorite areas with “pee pads”), Mrs. Jones elected euthanasia only because of Pokie’s worsening cognitive dysfunction. During the entire appointment, she kept asking, “Doctor, you’re sure I’m doing the right thing for him?”
Buddy was a 13-year-old Brittany Spaniel. His family consisted of a husband, wife, and a son who was younger than he was. It appeared that Buddy’s body had simply worn out. He was still mentally alert but was no longer interested in food, had little muscle mass and body fat left, and could no longer stand without assistance. When the son murmured to Buddy that he was a good dog, Dad responded, “No, you are a great dog Buddy,” and kept whispering that in his ear until he passed.
Powder was a 13-year-old Basset Hound. His owners warned me that he had had aggressive tendencies throughout his life. (He was a perfect gentleman while I knew him.) Despite the compromises they had to make due to his personality, they stuck with him for his entire life, only choosing euthanasia when he was no longer able to walk.
Gladiola was a 13-year-old Pug who had to be euthanized due to kidney failure. Her owner told me how Gladiola had come to her as a “temporary” foster, but whenever a new home became available, the dog just looked at her as if to say “but I’ve already found my forever home.” After several months, her owner also realized that this was true.
Samantha was a 15-year-old Golden Retriever mix who loved nothing more than to chase and chew on tennis balls. Her owner asked if she could place one nearby as I gave the sedative injection. Samantha grabbed it and fell asleep while gnawing away. She died and I transported her body to the crematory with the ball still in her mouth.
These experiences reminded me of the best of the human animal bond. My hat is off to all of you who provide such wonderful homes and loving families for animals of all sorts.
Dr. Jennifer Coates