Recently, a friend up here at the AVC lost his beloved old dog, and I’m so incredibly sorry for him. Losing a pet is one of the hardest things people go through, and it’s one of the hardest things veterinarians help owners through. What do you say to someone who has just lost their best friend? To the person who just lost the dog that has been by their side through thick and thin for years and years when other people may not have been around. What do you say to the person who has to euthanize their horse of thirty years? Their partner in crime and the being that doesn’t always have a snarky comment to make but always has a mane to cry in.
Well, I’m not in that position yet where I’ve been the one holding the needle at the time of euthanasia, but I’ve watched some truly amazing and heartwarming people at work. The compassion veterinarians have is astounding. Watching vets pat a patient gently as they’re taking their last breaths while holding the hands of the owner is something that gets me choked up every time. Sometimes that’s all it takes to let someone know that you’re there for them. Sometimes it’s a hug. Sometimes it’s empathetic words, like “I’m sorry for your loss.” Sometimes it’s saying, “I’m here for you if you ever need to talk.”
I dread the day when my old girl Belly’s time comes, but at the ripe old age of thirteen it’s creeping up on her. I mentioned her vestibular disease before, but on top of that she’s fighting skin allergies, hypothyroidism, the beginning stages of renal failure, and pretty advanced arthritis. She’s old, it happens. Until a year ago though, you would have thought she was seven. She’s starting to slow down now, but she is the happiest dog in the world. When I come home after being at school for months at a time, she is always running crookedly across the driveway towards me, tail going a million miles a minute. People who know Belly know she’s a huge doofus, and I know that when she stops being her goofy self it will be time.
To all of you who have lost a pet, you know how truly devastating it can be. It takes a huge toll on our lives and leaves an empty space that will never again be filled. Take solace in the fact that they always made you a better and more loving person. With each pet that passes, they leave behind a part of themselves that stays within us forever.