The very thought of euthanizing a pet makes our heart sink to the pit of our stomach. When our beloved pets are elderly or ill, we have the enormous responsibility and great gift of deciding when it is the right time to let them go. Euthanasia is a gift to pets and, sometimes, can feel like a curse to owners.
Most of our furry companions are aware that their time to say goodbye is approaching before you do. Of course, this does not make it any easier on the owner. Our pets often times recognize our sadness, conflicted grief, and concern and worry that they might be the cause of our sadness. During the euthanasia process it is important to interact with your pet to comfort them and reassure them that they will always be remembered fondly.
Owners often apologize for crying over their pets, but we as a veterinary profession want you to know that crying is allowed and welcomed. We at Dupont Veterinary Clinic are also pet owners and understand how difficult it can be to see our loved ones suffer. This is a time for pet owners to grieve and remember their loved one’s long and happy life that they have shared together.
The vast majority of pet owners opt to stay with their pets for the euthanasia process. If you can, we highly recommend accompanying your pet through this difficult process. As a veterinary profession it is our responsibility to comfort your loved ones as they pass on when you as the owner cannot do so; however, pets are much more comfortable and relieved when their owners are present. Pets are much more confident when their owners are there to reassure them. If you can find the strength to be there with them during this difficult transition, please let your love, your touch, and your presence be the last thing your pet experiences.
During the euthanasia process, you are welcome to bring treats, tell stories, laugh, cry, and celebrate your friend’s life. Surround yourselves with their favorite blankets or toys. Share your favorite stories of your loved one about that trip you took together or their favorite toy, trick, or past time. This is going to be one of the hardest days of your life, but it does not have to be for your best friend. The more you celebrate your pet’s life, no matter how long or short, the easier it will be to continue to live your own after this difficult transition.
This moment between you and your pet should be just that, entirely about your lives together. Prepare yourself ahead of time to understand the process if possible. Speak with your veterinarian or veterinary technician prior to coming to the clinic to have them discuss the steps with you so you have a better understanding of what is to come.
Each relationship between pet and owner is different, just as every euthanasia is different. While it can be incredibly difficult to cope with and experience euthanasia with your pet, we at Dupont Veterinary Clinic hope to guide you and your furry family member through it as seamlessly as possible. As I heard a veterinarian once say, “We love animals so much, we are willing to experience pain right down to our souls in order to keep them from hurting. What greater gift to give a friend than to suffer in their place?”
By Ashley Dawes, DVM
Reef had no idea how he would begin to impact a life in November 2015. Reef was raised with an organization called Canine Companions for Independence, which is the largest non-profit provider of assistance dogs. The organization is recognized worldwide for the excellence of its dogs and the longevity of the matches it makes between dogs and people. Canine Companions is volunteer based, from the caretakers that provide homes for the breeder dogs and whelp the puppies until they are eight weeks of age, to the puppy raisers that provide socialization and obedience training to the puppies. Between fifteen and eighteen months the puppies make the journey back to one of five regional training centers across the country for six to nine months of training with professional instructors. The new owner is then required to travel to one of the regional training centers for two weeks to train alongside their new companion.
Reef was selected to help his owner that has been diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis). His owner is wheelchair-bound and Reef has been trained in multiple capacities in order to assist her throughout the day. Reef can pull her manual wheelchair, pick things up that she has dropped, retrieve bottled water from the fridge, turn light switches on or off, push the button for automatic doors, as well as about 40 other commands. In addition to helping her physically get through her day, Reef has helped his owner emotionally as well. His owner remarked that it only took one day to fall in love with Reef and that he has changed her personality for the better.
Reef was one of only 40% of dogs that make it through service dog training. There are four types of assistance dogs that Canine Companions helps train which are as follows: service dogs, hearing dogs, skilled companions, and facility dogs. The service dogs, like Reef, help assist adults with physical disabilities by performing daily tasks. Service dogs have also been trained to help disabled war veterans. The hearing dogs help to alert the deaf and hard of hearing to important sounds. Skilled companions are placed with children or adults with physical, cognitive, or developmental disabilities that cannot guide the assistance dog themselves. There is a family member that directs the skilled companion in ways to help the disabled owner. The final type of assistance dog is a facility dog that works with a professional in a visitation, education, or healthcare setting. If you happen to see Reef, or another assistance dog, out in public it is important to remember that they are working and to never approach them to pet them without the owner’s consent.
If you or someone you know would benefit from a dog like Reef, they can visit www.cci.org in order to learn more or even apply for an assistance dog. The Canine Companions for Independence organization is always looking for volunteers or even donations so they can continue to provide assistance dogs free of charge to owners in need. We at Dupont Veterinary Clinic love to see the numerous ways that animals, like Reef, continue to impact the lives of humans every day. Reef is truly an extraordinary companion and continues to bring joy to his owner’s life every day.
By Ashley Dawes, DVM