If I had a quarter for every time I had this conversation, I probably still could not make an interest payment on my student loans but I would have more than $0!
Person, “Shannon, what do you do for work?”
Me, “I’m a veterinarian.”
Person, “Oh, I could never do what you do. I could never put an animal down,” or “I could never hurt an animal.”
Trust me, this is not my favorite part of the job either. I don’t go out of my ways to hurt animals. Obviously, surgery is not benign or even when I’m palpating and pinch a spot that hurts, it’s not my intention to cause an animal pain. It has to be done however. What if I didn’t find that the dog had a broken toe? What if I didn’t remove that infected mass? Things would only be worse for the pet and that’s what I think people seem to forget about when they make comments like the ones above. There’s a reason why I have to do procedures, and that is to help animals, and that’s why I became a vet.
I feel similarly with euthanasia. Yes, it will never be easy, and probably will not ever be my favorite part of work. It serves a very important purpose however–again, I’m taking away an animal’s pain and suffering. That’s what my job is to do. To be able to spare an animal wasting away due to cancer, or suffer the nausea and weakness of end stage kidney failure is something I’m honored to be apart of. If you’ve ever watched a human suffering with a terminal illness, it’s awful. You watch them waste away to a skeleton. You watch them not want to eat or not be able to keep food down despite all of the medications in the world. Not to get into a debate here, but if I had the ability to end that suffering peacefully for myself, I would. We’re able to provide animals one last service as veterinarians, and it’s a gift.
The parts that make my job hard come along with euthanasia. Watching a 90 year old woman’s shoulders shake as she cries over the pup that she’s spent her golden years snuggling on the couch. Trying everything you can to save a sick dog who doesn’t end up having a good prognosis. Counseling owners on how to get through this awful event. Losing one of your favorite patients for your favorite clients to cancer at three years of age. It’s not fair. This is the stuff that is hard and what makes you lose sleep at night. The feeling that you didn’t do enough, or that you screwed something up. Having a client tell you that you don’t care about their pet. All of these things make my job difficult. Thankfully, all of this is balanced out with healthy wellness exams, ear infections, and puppy visits. It’s balanced out with clients who love you and bring you freshly baked bread. Those are what get you through the day when your day has started with a critical patient who doesn’t make it. They make the worst parts of the job better.