I haven’t euthanized a pet in a couple of weeks. That is one of the things I like about day practice, as opposed to emergency, less of that sad stuff. But for whatever reason, this sort of thing comes in waves, and the tide came rolling in today.
First was a young cat who was horrifically sick. He was so jaundiced that you could see the yellow tinge from across the room. The owner had him euthanized. I never did find out what the cause was.
Next was an older cat, who was also horrifically sick. The owner agreed to all the bloodwork, and unfortunately he was in end-stage renal failure. She, too, was euthanized.
Be it a serious disease in a crappy economy or just a flat out end stage illness, some cases are pretty black and white. There just weren’t other realistic options.
I thought I was going to get through the day with just these two euthanasias, each sad, but ultimately understandable. Then Johnnie’s owner called.
I’ve been seeing Johnnie since he was born a year ago. Johnnie was a mutt of dubious origin, struck with affliction after affliction of the sort that ill bred dogs often develop. Giardia. Coccidia. Mites. Retained testicles. Funny eyelashes. A brush with parvo. But his owners love him, and each time he came down with a new and expensive problem, they rolled their eyes, sighed, and treated them. Another thousand dollar discount mutt.
Johnnie’s owners were recently flattened by some unrelated events in their life, so it was less than welcome news when he was diagnosed with a serious orthopedic problem that would eventually require surgery. Even still, they took home some Rimadyl and decided to start saving up. They put up with a lot.
Today, he bit their son. Apparently, he has had some aggression issues they have been trying to work through, on top of everything else. I knew he had an occasional brush in at the dog park, but I didn’t realize it had gotten this bad. So we talked. She knew as well as I did, that with the glut of healthy dogs in the shelter there was no dog less adoptable than an aggressive mutt with orthopedic issues. The rescues had no place for him. She didn’t want him to languish in a shelter for a few days, confused and alone, just to assuage her own guilt that maybe someone might want to take him on. She knew as well as I did what the chances really were.
I used to say to myself, I would never euthanize a healthy dog. Never euthanize a dog who didn’t have a terminal disease. Wouldn’t consider it for behavioral issues, because after all, it’s the owner’s doing and why should I have to clean up after their mess. That was then.
I’ve learned a lot about black and white and shades of grey, about being a parent and making a commitment and sometimes even about getting in over your head. About judging people and situations by standards 95% of the population can’t live up to. It’s paralyzing sometimes, standing in a sea of grey trying to make out the shapes. Life is so much easier in black and white, one dimensional line drawings in perfect contrast. Simple, and not very realistic.
So we talked, and talked some more, and the one thing I can tell you is that Johnnie’s owner absolutely loves him. Her decision, that most people can’t/don’t make, was to spare him being scared and alone and let him go in her arms rather than in the back room of a shelter. It was, I think, the right decision. I support her in that.
Time for the tide to roll on out. I don’t like to tread water for very long.