A client whom we have never seen previously arrived at 6 o’clock to euthanize her cat.
“Who made this appointment?” I asked, miffed. My staff, usually well versed in how to handle these situations, made the appointment without so much as a “Why?” Or, even better, “Let me make sure that’s OK with the doctor.”
“I told her she needed to talk to you first,” said the person who made the appointment.
“That is not the same thing,” I re-explained, “as telling her she needs to talk to me to MAKE SURE I AM OK DOING THAT. Have we ever seen this person?”
“Do you know why she wants to euthanize?”
“Do you know who her prior vet was?”
“Has she already signed an estimate for the euthanasia, therefore sitting in the room with the expectation that I am just going to go in, say hi, and euthanize her cat?”
I don’t know what the heck happened today, but it was not a good situation.
My tech went into the room and emerged with the following: The client has a 15 year old cat who has been urinating excessively and vomiting ‘some’. Last time at a vet: 2004. Active. Alert. “Can we get it over with now?” the owner asked, checking her watch.
So, we explained that there are lots of reasons a cat might be urinating excessively. Some, like chronic renal failure, are devastating lethal irreversible diseases. Others, like urinary tract infections, are curable with a course of antibiotics.
While it is certainly possible in an older pet that terminal disease is the cause, it’s not a given. And without even trying to learn if the cat is treatable, ending his life is not something I am comfortable doing. “We can do a couple of basic tests to determine if he has a chance,” we told the owner. “For everyone’s peace of mind.”
The owner paused. She scratched her head.
“Maybe if it was my retriever,” she said. “But not for this one.”
And she left. These are the things that leave dents in your goodwill.
By now the cat is gone, I am sure, at the hands of someone who does not carry their euthanasias around in their heart like tiny chain links. I imagine I probably didn’t do the cat any favors, simply adding one more stop on their last car ride.
I struggle with the choice, when given the inevitability of the result, whether it is better to just do what the owner wants or stand up for what I know is right. But really, I have no choice. It just makes me resentful of people who so casually present their animals to me for slaughter as if I were the local headsman. Someone will do it. Just not me.