★Helping you and your pets live healthier, longer lives★ by Dr. Margo Hunt
As a vet, I see the circle of life every day. The morning holds a bouncy, wriggly puppy whose biggest care in the world is trying to chew up my shoelaces and find the treat hidden in my pocket. The afternoon has a variety of dogs and cats in search of allergy relief, vaccines, or refills of their heartworm medication. Then as dusk rolls around, the best client calls. She is not the type of client who abuses this privilege of veterinary medicine, long-gone in human medicine, and she politely asks if there might be a way (please) that she can bring her dog in today.
You see, she just brought him in a couple weeks ago for his annual checkup. He had the same old things going on… chronic renal disease, chronic heart failure, and other ailments typical of a 15-year-old dachshund, but he was holding his own. The problem is, for the past couple days, he can’t drink. He eats well, and does take the syringes of water that she has lovingly offered many, many times. But, mom is worried. This isn’t like him. Can she please come in?
Yes. Unequivocally yes. She’s that kind of client. He’s that kind of patient.
When I walked in the room, I knew it wasn’t good. She was crying. She never cries. She gently hands over her baby and tells me the details of the past few days. It was already written in my file, but she needed to say it again. She was working through the process as everyone does. Do I think there’s something wrong with his mouth?
The mass was under his tongue and filled up the space between the jaw bones to the point it spilled over beneath and above, making his tongue look small and helpless, off-center from the pressure of the growth below. It had grown very quickly. This wasn’t good.
Biopsies and testing were the next steps needed to find out what type of mass, and whether there were treatments that would help…. but, my voice trailed off as I could see the tears welling up in her eyes. She loved her dog, but she didn’t want to put him through this given the risks and the strong premonition that this was an aggressive cancer.
She asked for some time to sit with him while her husband and child arrived. With dimmed lights and the whispering of a bubbling fountain, Dad held him as he passed away from this life. It was one of the most peaceful euthanasias I have ever had the honor of performing.
People often ask incredulously how I could ever do that, perform euthanasia. The truth is, it is a very special moment and an utmost honor to be trusted with this privilege. And, through tears and hugs, they each thanked me. Sincerely.
Some day, when the time is right, they will bring in a new, fluffy, puppy-breath dachshund…. and we will celebrate the new addition and honor this sweet guy again.
(Photos from Google images, free for reuse. Details changed to respect the privacy of my clients and patients)