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
With the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina just behind us we wanted to take the time to acknowledge a patient at Dupont Veterinary Clinic that has survived one of America’s deadliest storms in history. Lucy, an 11-year-old red-headed, mixed breed and southern belle, was rescued from Hurricane Katrina by a group called Pet Jamboree in Alabama that transported her all the way to Fort Wayne, IN. Little did Lucy know, but that long car ride would change her life for the better. Once the van transporting numerous pets rescued from the hurricane arrived in Fort Wayne, they went to Pet Playground on Lima Road where they were nursed back to health and awaited their turn to be adopted out.
Lucy’s owner, Cindy, had fairly recently lost her beloved 13-year-old dog Mugz, an Australian shepherd, and wanted to donate a few of her pet items to Pet Playground to help those pets in need. Lucy’s owner did not intend to walk through Pet Playground to look at all of the transported animals; however, Cindy knew a veterinary technician working with the rescue group that was eager to show Cindy around the facility. Cindy could not believe the number of disheveled dogs awaiting their forever homes. As she walked through there was one cage where a dog was huddled in the back, scared and very sick, hiding from the ongoing commotion. The technician took the dog from the cage and placed her on a towel on Cindy’s lap. The dog’s heart was racing and she was trembling furiously. Cindy left the rescue with her husband for breakfast at Bob Evans, where Cindy became emotional just thinking about the little lost dog that she had seen huddled in her cage. She just knew she had to go back to see the little red-headed dog again. After breakfast Cindy and her husband went back to the rescue to look at the dog and the rest is history. The dog is now known as Lucy after another redhead, Lucille Ball, in the show “I Love Lucy.” Lucy was quickly adopted and brought to Dupont Veterinary Clinic to see Dr. Steve Harry who helped nurse Lucy back to health.
After Hurricane Katrina thousands of New Orleans’ cats and dogs were rescued and changed the status of pets in the eyes of the law forever. The nation flooded Congress with letters after watching numerous dogs and cats struggle in the wake of the tragedy of Katrina. In 2006 Congress was bitterly divided over war, immigration, and many other issues, but passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act with near unanimous support. This law requires rescue agencies to save pets as well as people during natural disasters. Before this law was passed rescue groups did not allow people to leave with their pets in tow. People fleeing a natural disaster were previously forced to leave their pets behind, which caused thousands of people to refuse to leave their homes. The public outcry that inspired the new law to be passed marked a turning point in our relationship with dogs and cats.
We at Dupont Veterinary Clinic are happy to hear about Lucy’s inspiring story and recognize that there are numerous other fortunate pets like her, thanks to the hard work of rescue groups that volunteered their time and efforts. Lucy and Cindy were truly fortunate to find one another and are yet another example of the amazing human- animal bond that cannot be broken.