Sunday, February 8, 2009

Euthanasia: The Puggie Epiphany

(I have never had to euthanize a pet... ever.)

Two days ago, I scooped up my beloved, old friend, wrapped her in a blanket and took her to the vet. I really needed to talk...and I wanted to make sure that the doc could see who I was talking about.

Opal is 10 years old, nearly blind, nearly deaf and a bit senile. Over the past year and a half her back legs have gradually become useless. She drags herself about far more than she walks and if she walks, she falls. Opal has also become incontinent of bowel and bladder.

So why haven't I done something about this a long time ago? Well, she's not in pain and she enjoys her food and a good gnaw on squeaky toy. Opal is also alert and still gets great joy from scolding anyone, real or imaginary (usually imaginary), that should pass by her windows. And most of all, I love her dearly. So up until now, the positives in Opal's life seemed to outweigh the negatives. Though as I reread these last two paragraphs, I think that I can see a woman in denial.

All right, back to the vet's office... Dr. B. has examined Opal and listened intently to my tearful tale of woe and ambivalence. I know that she cannot tell me what to do about Opal, but in the midst of all of this she says:

"Euthanasia is absolutely the worst part of my job. But I have come to really believe that, if it's possible, it's far better to end a pet's life before they are completely debilitated, miserable and in pain. I think it's better for them to still be able to have the ability to enjoy their owner's love... and a lot of spoiling before they go."

Dr B.'s words are no less than a kind of enlightenment for me. I can actually feel them physically impact me. It's a quick jab to my solar plexus. Before I can even respond, the doctor adds:

"Oh, the vet tech mentioned that you asked if someone would be able to euthanize in your home. If you choose to do this, I'd absolutely come to your home. It's what I'd want for my dogs."

And that's when I wept.

(Next Friday, Opal will be surrounded by all those who love her and we will all wish her well as she goes onto her next adventure.)


Kit Courteney said...

Bloody blimey. That's quite a post, woman.

All I can say is: I have had to euthanize a pet before and although it was incredibly sad, I knew it was absolutely the right thing to do.

It doesn't help at the time to know that, but it helps A LOT in the weeks afterwards, believe me.

We are totally responsible for these little critters that invade our homes and hearts and we have to do the right thing by them.

You are doing that.

You are doing the very best thing you could ever do.

Without question.

My heart goes out to you, and Opal. I'll be thinking about you both on Friday x

dethmama said...

Oh gosh, Kit. I'm getting all teary-eyed reading your comment. Thank you so much. I've been so blessed to have had such wonderful doggies. They've taken such good care of me and I must do the same for them.

soulsoprano said...

I feel your sorrow for your beloved friend, and I will be thinking and praying for both of you on Friday. I have had many pets over the years, but have only had to put one to sleep, and it broke my heart. I know, however, that she is in a much better place, with no suffering and pain. You are doing the right thing by choosing the unselfish road and allowing your beautiful Opal to be released and at peace. I believe, too, that our animal friends understand more than we give them credit for, and are grateful when we make it possible for them to do what they cannot do for themselves. I, and others who love reading your blog, are giving you a virtual "hug" and all of the encouragement you need. Be blessed!

dethmama said...

Thank you soulsoprano...You are so kind. Having your thoughts with us on Friday truly means so much.

Christian Sinclair, MD said...

Thank you for posting such a profound insight into your personal life. It is a moment of awwwwww in a completely different way. I have never had to do this for a pet either. Sadly our beloved dog Spot had to live with another family after the twins were born and we have slowly lost contact...I think as a way to protect ourselves, although I still feel sad about that.

dethmama said...

@ Christian... Right now my son is here and lovin' up the pug.

There is no way that I couldn't share this with our readers... it's all so fitting. Especially, that even as a hospice nurse, I didn't feel capable of making this decision. When we think we're on the top of our game, we get a kick upside the head.

Jessica Knapp said...

Oh man, I'll be thinking of you on Friday. I've done this with one dog, and it's not easy.

It really is a gift to her that you're making such an active decision and letting her go at the right time, in the right way.

It sounds like you have a great vet—very thoughtful and empathetic. That can make all of the difference.

It sounds like little Opal is lucky to have you on her side. All the best to you right now.

dethmama said...

@ Jessica... I so appreciate your thoughts, Jessica. The vet was wonderful and her offer to come into my home made all the difference.

Peter said...

Hi! Been there and done that twice unfortunately and on each occasion I've cried like a baby before and during the event. But seeing them afterwards I've been contented to see them finally at peace and out of pain. Yes, it was the right thing to do.

Take Care,

marachne said...

We had 2 cats die in six months, both from cancer. One we were able to arrange the vet to come to our house, and it was a Very Good Thing. Wrapped her afterwards in a shroud, and let her stay on the couch so that all the other critters could check her out -- no freaking out because one of the pack is suddenly gone.

Right now, playing balancing games with a cat in renal failure with hyperthyroid. I say I'm being a good palliativist, making sure that the QOD subq fluids and various p.o. meds are not more burdensome that it outweighs her quality of life....

But how hard will it be to recognize reality?

Thanks for the food for thought.

dethmama said...

@ marachne... it was embarrassingly hard for me to "recognize reality" with Opal. Even after I agreed with the vet, the extent of my blindness wasn't truly revealed until I started writing about Opal and rereading about all her symptoms.

jerseyRN said...

Hi, Dethmama. If I could give you a real hug, I would. Instead, here is a virtual one.

Barbara K. said...

I am crying for you and Opal, and I am crying for me and my Mina who we euthanized over a year ago. You have my deepest sympathy for your loss.