A hard truth of any veterinary practice is the fact that you will be confronted with euthanasia. I have witnessed the most hardened of clients seemingly turn back into young children when faced with such a difficult decision. And I know I do the same when I have been in their place with my own beloved pets. It seems that most clients open up wholeheartedly when telling you all about their cherished friend and the many joyous moments they shared. My heart aches and breaks for each one.
I am often confronted with the question “How do you do this?” or a statement of, “I could never perform your job.” And my honest reply is yes, I do cry for them and the beautiful friendship that was shared, a bond that knew no species, no color, no social status but one that was the purest on earth, the bond of love and companionship. If the day ever came that I no longer felt that emotional pull of compassion and empathy, then that would be the day I would change my profession.
I let my clients know that they are doing one last favor for their special friend by loving them so much that they refuse to allow them to suffer any longer, even at the expense of the owner’s own suffering. I implore everyone in veterinary medicine to take time with each end-of-life decision to be present in the moment and to listen to the wonderful stories our clients have to tell. Not only will this benefit the grieving, but it will also be the very thing that keeps you practicing the best medicine our field has to offer after all medicine practiced with a loving heart will do wonders to mend the broken ones.