If there is one thing I think I do fairly well, it’s helping people say goodbye to their pets. I don’t know if it’s gauche to say that you are good at euthanizing dogs, but it’s the truth. I feel like I am pretty compassionate and I go out of my way to make the experience one as minimally traumatizing as I can. I have a procedure that works pretty well, and it’s almost always exceedingly peaceful and quiet.
Today, I saw an owner who had made the decision to say goodbye to his 17 year old retriever ravaged by age, arthritis, and something very suspicious for cancer. It was a good decision. The man had never been through a euthanasia before, so I talked him through the process and what to expect. His wife couldn’t bring herself to come, so he was there alone. He asked if he could take Bear for a walk before he said goodbye, and I said, “Of course. Let my receptionist know when you’re back.”
An hour and a half later, he still hadn’t returned. I asked my receptionist to give him a call, primarily to make sure he was OK, and to see if he was still coming since I had to get into surgery. He showed up right as my techs were inducing a spay. Which was fine, but I was feeling more rushed than I normally like to be when dealing with this sort of thing.
We get a catheter in Bear’s arm, I get my medications together, and head into the room to start the process. There is a pause as I send the tech back out for a muzzle- poor Bear was so sore that he snapped whenever I tried to touch his arm, and because of the time crunch I didn’t have enough time to let the sedatives kick in as much as they normally would have.
So here we are, stressed dog, crying man, me trying to be efficient yet kind. I start the injection. I’ve told everyone in the back to be quiet so there is no laughter floating in the room. We have achieved calm.
Then I hear it.
Some moron left their cell phone on “NUCLEAR BLAST” in the back, and with perfectly poor timing it started ringing. And not one of those quiet xylophone key rings, or a discreet “do doo do”; this person had chosen a song.
“IF YOU LIKE IT THEN YA BETTER PUT A RING ON IT
IF YOU LIKED IT THEN YOU SHOULDA PUT A RING ON IT
WUH UH OH OH OH OH, OH OH, UH OH, OH OH OH”
I did what any professional would do in that situation. Without stopping, I leaned over and hissed at my tech to please go turn the phone off, and said, “I’m sorry about that,” to the owner, who was fortunately so focused on Bear that I think he didn’t even notice. I hope he didn’t notice. It was loud.
Then I ran in the back and grabbed my phone to see WHAT was so important that they had to call me at just that moment. *sigh* Everyone was sitting in the back silently, with their hands over their mouths. This is the sort of thing, had it been someone else’s phone, that I would have done a lot of gesticulating about, but since it was me all I could do was purse my lips and say, “Not a WORD.”
In my defense, my son was home sick with Grandma and I had already run out in between appointments to get medicine for him; I had turned my phone on high so I could hear it in surgery because I was expecting a call from the pediatrician’s office. But, in my rush to get Bear taken care of so they wouldn’t have to wait in the lobby for me to finish surgery, I forgot to turn it back down.
How mortifying. I’ve been beating myself up over that one all day. It’s pretty unforgivable. I thought nothing could top Kanye West for rudeness, but that came close. I’m one of those people who obsessively checks to see if my phone is off in theaters, doctor’s appointments, and everywhere else it would be deemed inappropriate, so this is a big, big faux pas. I’m back to the Old Ben chimes.
Maybe it was Bear’s way of telling YOU it was okay. I say it every time but I really don’t know how you do it Jess. The one I’ve been through (and it wasn’t even my dog) was so heartwrenching even if it was necessary. But the vet and the entire office (and even other owners) were so compassionate while we were there. And it really does help. I truly hope your the owners of the dogs you treat think of highly as you as I do.
Dr. V says
It depends on the owner. :/
Romeo the Cat says
I can see why you were mortified but you are right, Bear’s owner probably didn’t even notice. You are a very compassionate person, I can tell. I’m sure that shone through above all else. xo. Romeo
Dr. V says
Thank you Romeo *chin scratches*
Ditto what wise Romeo the Cat said. The most important part of every euthanasia is the comfort/ease of the pet’s transition, which sounds like it went smoothly. Don’t beat yourself up. ♥
Dr. V says
Thank you. That means a lot to have you say that. 🙂
I can only hope that when it’s time for me to bring my dog in for the same reason as Bear, that I’ll have a vet as compassionate and caring as you.
Dr. V says
Thank you, very much.
Georgia Jewel says
It takes a big person to blog about their mistake. I’ll bet Ben’s owner didn’t even hear it or at least didn’t recognize the tune…
Dr. V says
He didn’t seem like the kind of guy to listen to Beyonce, true.
About seven years ago, I had to put down my 12 year old Dobie/Shep mix Obie. He was my baby, such a big part of my life. He was with me through breakups and job changes and law school and my first law job and I think six moves in two states. He was my best, most patient friend, giving unconditional love and support as only dogs can. Right before Christmas I noticed he’d stopped eating (my other dog was covering by eating her share and his) and the x-ray revealed a probable tumor on his spleen. I had only a few days while the office was closed over the holiday to mull over what I was going to do. After talking to my life-long family vet (who had retired but knew me and my dog) and realizing that this kind of cancer was common for his breed(s) and that my current vet’s prediction of his realistic life expectancy was about three months even after surgery to remove the spleen where the tumor grew, I decided to ok a laproscopy to make sure it was what we thought it was. I was in the room for it, I saw the scars and striations on his liver, and I saw the tumor, and we knew it was cancer. They decided to do a laprotomy to make doubly sure, because I was so afraid of making a mistake. The vet (not my normal vet, but another in his practice I hadn’t dealt with before as it was Christmas and my vet was now on holiday) took out his spleen and proceeded to sew him up – in preparation for sending him home with me, I guess. I didn’t want that. I hadn’t authorized that. I had already told him I’d made the decision if it turned out to be the kind of cancer we thought it might be and it looked like the liver was already affected (which it did) I would put him to sleep rather than agonize every day for the next few months wondering when and where in his organs the cancer would reappear and how much pain he would be in and wondering would I walk in one day to find him dead. His quality of life would not be good, and I would be selfish to keep him here for me, rather than do what was best for him. I had told this vet that, but he kept telling me he did not like to euthanize dogs that had some time left. He made me feel awful, just AWFUL for my choice. I wept uncontrollably, hysterically, half because I had just put my baby to sleep, out of sorrow and loss, but half out of guilt for having to talk the damn vet into doing what I, my regular vet, and the man who had been my family’s vet for 30 years all knew was in the best interest of my pet. I was not making this choice out of convenience for me, or lightly. I AGONIZED over it. I never want to go through that again (although I know I might as I love dogs too much not to be owned by one or several), and I never let that vet treat my other dog after that day. I remember standing in the lobby, in front of horrified and sympathetic and uncomfortable patrons with their animals, sobbing and shaking. I think if I had heard that ringtone, it would have made me laugh a little and maybe taken me out of that horrible moment so I could get myself under control. Your bedside manner would have comforted me. Don’t doubt yourself. In the short time I’ve been reading your blog, I have already learned you are more compassionate and funny and refreshing than most folks of any profession. I’m sure this man appreciated you being there for him and his buddy at the end, inconvenient ringtone or not.
Dr. V says
What a sad story. I am so sorry you had a terrible moment made worse. FWIW I would have made the same decision, having gone through hemangiosarcoma with my dog Nuke. And thank you for your kind words.
Thanks – it only makes me sad to remember how it felt – I also remember how sweet and playful he was and that he had a good long life full of love and scritches and toys and walks and couches to nap on; my other doggie is still around and demanding attention and pettings and toys and couches to nap on – well, mostly she naps on top of me when she can get away with it. She is sweet but heavy. 🙂 Obie was ready to go. He’s out there barking at squirrels in the afterlife and waiting patiently for the rest of us to catch up to him one day.