It is said that “you’ll never know how someone feels until you walk in their shoes.” As a veterinarian performing in home pet euthanasia, I am oftentimes asked by my clients, “how can you do this again and again?” My answer is simple: “I’ve walked in your shoes many times and I know how important it is to you and your pet to make every fleeting moment count.” Every pet’s life has an end and I can relate to the sadness of pet loss because like you, I’ve been there.
My favorite canine son was Popeye. He was a personality packed, comical French bulldog. His antics caused me side splitting pain from laughter, and his tenderness gave me warm fuzzies just when I needed comfort. But his life was cut short by cancer and I lost him unexpectedly. It started as a typical day, with a routine morning stroll around the neighborhood. He normally powers through his walks, anxious to mark his favorite bushes along the way; but not this day. He kept focused ahead, just wanting to get back home. After his walk he retreated his dog bed, which was second choice to the couch. By evening he was outright panting in discomfort so I rushed him in to the local veterinary emergency hospital, where I got the bad news. His radiographs and MRI showed a cancerous lesion invading his spine. There was no cure and no palliative care that would have made a difference. The only humane choice was to euthanize my dog while he was still under anesthesia.
The shock of losing him so unexpectedly still sends ripples of pain through my heart. I had no chance to say good-bye. He was anesthetized and unaware of his surroundings, but I could not hold him for those last few moments. I wanted desperately to wrap him in my arms and reassure him, but I could not. He took his last breath on a stainless steel surgical table.
I lost Popeye suddenly. His condition mandated that the decision to end his life be immediate and that he die in the hospital. Had he been diagnosed with a less aggressive condition, I would have done everything in my power to keep him comfortable. When his quality of life could no longer be sustained I would have given him the blessing being at home for his final moments.
It may be anthropomorphism, but I don’t think Popeye would have wanted to die in any place other than his home. Think about it. Would you rather be at home or in the hospital when you take your last breath?
To every pet parent reading this, I sympathize with you if you are making the final decision for your pet. I know your pain, I empathize with your grief. I’ve walked in our shoes; and as a pet owner I urge you to savor those last few moments. Whenever possible, say your good-byes at home. If your pet could thank you for it, they would.