One of the most common comments I get when I tell people I work in #vetmed is “I could never do that. Putting animals to sleep would be too sad”.
There are so many happy parts of my job, euthanasia has never been a deterrent. Of course it’s hard, but in many ways ending their pain feels like a gift we can provide – so we choose to look at it that way. Ending their pain and suffering and allowing them to drift away peacefully.
A common question we get from clients is “how do you know it’s time”. There are QOL (quality of life) assessments and countless articles we can send you when it’s time. I wanted to provide some personal experience though.
I have had three dogs in my life that have needed end of life euthanasia. I liken their stories to the three bears. One was too long, one was too short and one was juuuuuuust right.
Stinky was my first love. My first dog. My first roommate. He experienced every college boyfriend and every up/down I had in my life. I got him as an adult dog from a rescue I volunteered at as a sophomore in college. He went everywhere with me. He met my last boyfriend, my now husband. He was here for all the important things in life. I knew it was time for him, but I wasn’t ready. I feel like I waited too long to make the decision. By the time I did, he was a walking skeleton in diapers who had to be hand fed and medicated numerous times per day.
My second dog who needed euthanasia was Bonnie. She was a mean 17 year old rat terrier with only enough teeth left in her mouth to bite you. She saved those just for that occasion. She was a dog I acquired when my aunt passed away from cancer. Who better than the vet employee to take over a dog? She was actually a great dog and she loved my husband. When she began to decline (and had gone blind and fallen in the pool a few times) I emailed my family and let them know they could come say their goodbyes. I quickly made the appointment and helped her cross the rainbow bridge. I probably could have waited a bit longer – she was comfortable with pain medications and she was happy. She was just really old and was starting to have “old dog issues” and I thought it was the right decision. I didn’t want her to suffer like Stinky did.
My last dog was Bo. Bo was a 90 lb coonhound golden mix and was sweet as pie. He let my toddler crawl all over him like a jungle gym until his last day. Bo was Stinky’s dog and was my last reminder of Stinky. Bo was starting to have some rough days. He had cancer and didn’t do well on chemo, so I stopped. I knew he was hanging on for us, but we knew it was time. I asked Dr. Hurley “how will I know? He still seems to have good days”. Her reply which has always stuck with me was “you don’t want to wait until he has no good days”. I started keeping a calendar and when the good days begun being outweighed by the bad days, we made an appointment.
We brought Bo in and he was still able to walk inside, unlike Stinky. Bo still took a few treats from our hand but he laid still and gazed into our eyes softly as if to say thank you. He has lived a good, long life with us and he knew he was as good boy. Bo’s euthanasia felt like the timing was juuuuust right.
Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, we’d finally found the sweet spot. The perfect timing for an end of life visit. He left the earth with dignity and I know all three are waiting for me over rainbow bridge 🌈 🐾
-Christen Lynch, Hospital Administrator