On one of my recent rotations, I was off-site with a private practitioner and had a fabulous time. He was a veterinarian I had known for several years and the opportunity to work with him for two weeks was a privilege. One evening we were working late and an unscheduled euthanasia came in. We tried to look up the client and patient names in the computer but couldn’t find them. I went into the comfort room with a technician and found an old Labrador surrounded by eleven people — far more than the room was intended to hold. They told us the Lab had been diagnosed with cancer, and they didn’t want her to suffer. They said they just knew it was time.
As we talked with them, it turned out the dog hadn’t been to the clinic since it was a puppy twelve years ago. The owner admitted she had fallen on hard times and had been going to a low-cost clinic, but she had been so moved by the respect and peaceful way that her previous dog had been euthanized twelve years before at this clinic that she wanted to bring her current dog there to say goodbye. We gave a peaceful goodbye to her companion and provided all the support she and all of her friends and family needed.
As I left that night, it struck me that there may not be a bigger honor or sign of respect as a practitioner than to have a client return after twelve years because even though she had sought care elsewhere, it was you she trusted most to give her friend a peaceful end. Euthanasia is never easy, but leaving that night after a very long day, I had a feeling of peace knowing that we had given a gift to this woman and her dog.