The Postman Always Rings Twice

We have a great mailman. I don’t know how to explain it, but for all the complaints people have about the US Postal Service we seem to have lucked out with our guy. From the day we moved in when he introduced himself 6 years ago, he’s been unfailingly polite, always waving, remembers our name, and pretty much everything you have come to not expect in a federal employee.

He showed up at 10 am today with a package I needed to sign for, and we chatted a bit. I signed, he left. A minute later, he rang the doorbell again. I went up, figuring I signed something incorrectly.

“Sorry to bother you,” he said, shuffling his feet, “but…you’re a vet, right?”

I pushed Brody back inside and stepped out onto the porch.

He has an older retriever who is slowing down considerably, and he was wondering how you know “when it’s time.” I don’t normally do impromptu counseling sessions- oh, who am I kidding, I totally do it all the time- but I was particularly inclined to want to help this guy because he’s so darn nice.

We talked for a bit, I gave him some advice, wrote down some things for him to talk with his vet about, and told him to please come with any questions, anytime. Because I know of all the questions you can ask, that question is the hardest to answer.

I told him the truth: I’ve done it several times with my own pets and I still don’t have a clear answer. Sometimes you just know, and other times, when it’s not a disease process with a definitive course of progress, you don’t. You can come up with benchmarks and “name 5 things your pet loves and when they no longer do 3 of them it’s time” and all other sorts of little games, but it all boils down to a gut feeling. The Look, as I’ve come to know it.

These things come in waves. I’ve noticed a lot of wonderful people around me dealing with loss and choices lately and my heart breaks for them all. For every hello that brings joy to our lives, the price we must pay is a goodbye when we least want it.

It’s funny, people ask me if I get sick of people asking me for advice all the time, and the answer is “not usually”. Because when it’s a question like that, when someone asks you about their loved one’s life with pain in their eyes, how could you not want to help them find peace in their choice? Now pumping me for free flea meds, well, that’s a story for another day. 🙂 And no, he didn’t do that.

Filed: Daily Life, Musings Tagged: ,
  • Shadowsrider

    Excellent post, and I think this is the best quote on this I have ever read. “For every hello that brings joy to our lives, the price we must pay is a goodbye when we least want it.”
    Sums it up completely

  • Lisa W

    Poor guy! So glad you were there to provide some help.

  • Jenifer,RVT

    This IS the hardest question to answer. I recently went through this with my 16 year old dog. Many have asked me that same thing, and it’s so easy to go down a list of things to consider when making the decision, when it’s not your own pet.

    Mine came down to ‘The Look’ on a Saturday night. I got it. The next morning I called the mobile vet I had worked with years ago, he came out, it was a beautiful day, we did it on the back porch with a gentle breeze and sun. I live on a farm, and we buried Stan under a big tree next to the chicken barn (the chickens he soooo loved to chase) I can only hope I go out like that.

    Great post- I’m glad you were able to help one more person with this very difficult decision.


  • ** tears in eyes ** You’re a good egg. : ) Xo

    • Tamara

      Yep 🙂

  • Tamara

    I imagine it took him some time to work up the courage to ask you, Dr. V. I’m sure the worry weighed heavily on him for some time. I’m so glad you were there to help 🙂

    • Tonya

      Exactly! The fact that he left and came back shows that he really, really wanted to talk to someone “who knows” but didn’t want to impose. Even though it’s a sad subject, it makes me happy that you were there for him in his time of need.

      Thanks for sharing this little tear-jerker. And my thoughts and prayers to your mailman and his precious pup, even though I don’t know them.

  • Megan

    “I don’t normally do impromptu counseling sessions- oh, who am I kidding, I totally do it all the time-”

    Me too, Dr. V, me too… As much as I try to keep “I’m a vet” out of conversations with strangers, it pops up. Sometimes I’m happy to help; others, say when I have a friend from my high school days who ONLY calls when his dog is having a problem after hours, it bugs me a bit. But I’m a vet, and I signed up for this when I took that oath. You and I are on this planet to advocate for and help pets in need. Keep up the good work!

  • Beautiful post. I’m so glad that you were there to talk to him.

  • Angela

    Very touching! I hope my vet is as kind and understanding like you were when I am in the same situation.

  • What a great post, Dr.V. You put it into such a real context and give some great things to think about. We worried that we wouldn’t know when it was time for our cat, but when that day was there, we knew it our hearts it was time.I’m a big believer that they will let you know. Thank you for sharing this…

    Now about those flea meds…BOL! j/k

  • Roseofskye

    My husband’s looking at me funny because I’m sniffling a little while reading your blog. It’s how I know it’s a good blog.

  • “The Look”. (nodding) Yep.

  • JaneK

    awwww… heart is breaking for him now….. and sometimes, people just need “permission” to do the thing they know is right; my vet gave me that when it was time to put my horse down instead of submitting him to grueling treatments for an uncurable cancer….I’ll never forget him for that and that is one of the reasons he still shines in my book…. so on behalf of all of us who need that….thanks…..

  • I have two friends who recently had their dogs put to sleep due to incurable ailments and now they are heartbroken. But I also have a third friend whose dog suddenly died at the age of 2. The vet is baffled and my friend is devastated.

    We grow so very attached to our pets that letting go is hugely painful although sometimes necessary to relieve suffering of the animals. I have 2 Shih Tzu boys of my own and I just cannot imagine life without them. Oh, I so dread the thought of losing them!

    Now on a lighter note, let’s talk about mailmen or mailwomen. It seems that our local USPS can’t, for whatever reason, assign a permanent individual to deliver the mail in our neighborhood, so we never know who will show up when.

    But regardless of who it is, my dogs go crazy! They bark, they howl, they scratch at the door and I simply cannot get them to stop. So, one day I asked the lovely young postwoman who showed up to come in for a brief moment and assured her that the dogs won’t hurt her.

    She hesitated, of course, but stepped in. The dogs stopped their tantrums immediately and started sniffing her shoes and pant legs, so she started petting them. From then on, they no longer go crazy when a postperson shows up. Instead, they wag their tails and joyfully wait to be petted.