Cradling Max in my arms, the veterinary technician worked skillfully at placing the intravenous catheter. Max was barely recognizable at this point. His long, slender form was weak and bony. Lymphoma was destroying his body at an alarming rate. It was just a few weeks since his diagnosis, and he had already begun to wither away.
Stifling my tears, my co-worker finished with the catheter. I squeezed him tighter. I wasn’t ready to let go, and I knew we were that much closer to the end.
“Would you like to decorate his bandage?” she asked.
I nodded quietly and grabbed the scissors. I placed an electric blue bandage around his leg and cut out a large red heart. I knew his parents would appreciate the gesture. I wanted them to know how much we loved him, too.
He was now ready to be euthanized.
Max was a favorite patient of ours. We met him as an 8-week old puppy. He was all ears and short stubby legs. His family had a soft spot for little dogs and he was purchased with the intention of helping his owner through chemotherapy. How terrible it is that Max now suffered from the same disease.
I decided to opt out of assisting with the euthanasia. I was too emotional, and at a time when the family needed strength, I could not find my own.
Max passed away surrounded by his family and the various friends he had made at our vet hospital. Everyone had taken turns to say goodbye.
At the end of the process a coworker of mine handed me Max’s blue bandage. “The family wanted you to have this.” I smiled through my tears. To this day, I still have his bandage tucked away in a safe place while Max remains tucked away in my heart.
Paula is a fourth-year international student at Ontario Veterinary College. Before her time at Ontario Veterinary College, she worked in small animal practice. Paula’s veterinary interests include pathology, small ruminant medicine, and community outreach. She lives in Guelph, Ontario but is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In her free time, Paula enjoys photography, volunteering, and hiking with her dog Liberty.