The last gift and the final moments

Externship Project

Every patient we see is a precious member of a family, a partner in crime, and a true companion that we get to share our lives with. As they step into the clinic, they always leave behind paw prints through our journey as veterinarians. In school, we spend a lot of time learning different disease processes, differential diagnosis, and treatment options, etc., but, we don’t talk a great deal about death and grief. It’s not a pleasant topic, but unfortunately, it’s something we all eventually will need to face. With that being said, I believe euthanasia is one of the amazing gifts we offer our patients and their families. Since we can’t avoid death, we might as well learn to embrace it as part of veterinary medicine.

Dog walking in the outdoorsWhen it comes to euthanasia appointments, one thing that I adore is the connection shared between the pet and the families. Whether the owners hold their paws and share the final blessings to their pet as they pass away; or drop them off because they can’t bear to say goodbye – they are all grieving in their own way. I have to admit, I’m quite emotional (…this might be an understatement…) and I’m a “feeling” person. Often I struggle to keep my tears in. I used to tell myself all the time “I have to hold it back. I have to be professional. I have to be strong for the clients.”, but I realized when I share my emotions with the clients, it almost feels like they get the okay to show their sadness, grief, and sometimes, relief.

This week we have had a couple of tough cases where owners had to part with their buddies. Even though I only knew their pets for a short while, I can feel their pain when the owners had to make the ""difficult decision. When I’m standing in the exam room, I’m sharing an important moment with them. It’s normal for us to hide our vulnerabilities and sadness to the outside world, but somehow, in this instance, their pets brought us together. The stories clients share with us are precious – how fluffy came into their lives, the troubles they got into, the quirky things they used to do, and so much more.

Not a lot of professions get to share these final memories with their patients and it’s a privilege for us to be with the families during these difficult times. Sometimes the emotions involved can be quite rough to handle. Fortunately, there are a lot of things we can do to make the process a little easier – from making paw prints, sharing kind words, or simply having your hand on their pets during the process can mean lots to them. The TAH team is excellent in connecting to their patients & clients and truly have their best interests in mind. No doubt I still have lots to learn from them.

Most importantly, this is not a goodbye – they will continue to shine and do all the things they love doing in our memories!