A few months ago, my roommate’s older Labrador, Dixie, started having seizures – there was little warning or deficits prior to her first episodes, but her condition quickly progressed and she was soon on a slew of medications – which ultimately, after playing around with dosages and additions and subtractions of meds, still did not control her seizures. As the frequency and intensity of her seizures increased and her behavior altered, my roommate made the impossibly difficult decision of humane euthanasia.
Dixie was part of the Canine Educator program at Purdue before being adopted out to my roommate (as is my dog), and even though we only knew her for a total of 2 and a half years, Dixie and my roommate were absolutely made for each other. We joked that my roommate was Dixie’s ’emotional support human’, and they had the type of connection you can only wish for from your pet. They adored each other.
When she made the decision to schedule the euthanasia appointment, my other roommate and I knew we wanted to be present both to say goodbye, but also to help our roommate with the whole process.
Euthanasia is an unavoidable part of this job and career. It is sometimes the greatest gift we can offer, but it doesn’t always make it easier knowing this, especially when it is a pet you know so well.
My biggest stumbling block that I know I need to work on going into the profession is what to say in the end. I haven’t spoken much at my own animals’ euthanasias, as many of my most intimate conversations with my own animals never had a word spoken aloud; the heartfelt words to my pets in those moments never felt forced. But what do you say to the person who has just lost their best friend?
“They were a good dog,” is what I have heard so often said to owners, but in that moment it feels…not enough almost? Too generic? I don’t know; to someone who just lost a pet that changed their life, who brought so much joy to their world, who taught them so much, who will leave them touched in such a way that will influence them in the future – they were not just a good dog. They were the best dog. So much of the condolences we have to offer pale in adequacy to sum up the life of the pet who is being lost in that moment.
So what do you say?
I’m sure she knows how much you love her. She was lucky to have you. She isn’t suffering anymore.
She was the best dog.
Thank you to my roommate Nora for letting me share her and Dixie’s story.