Practicing Veterinarian

This is not a story of one of my own dogs, although their stories are compelling – each dog I’ve had through the years has been a unique and wonderful individual and each has left his or her mark. This is the story of the dog of a client, a story that, although short, affected me deeply.

As a practicing veterinarian, it is my sad duty and responsibility to end the suffering of many beloved pets. Each act of euthanasia encompasses the intervention of an (often) outside individual performing a seemingly detached procedure involving only the pet, and not the family. This detachment, believe me, is a defense mechanism to preserve one’s own sanity. Any caring veterinarian is deeply moved by the love and bond between dog and owner.
None affected me more, however, than Daisy.

Daisy was a 14 year old beagle, brought in to be put to sleep by her owner, a young soldier and Iraq war (no. 1) veteran, 18 years old. He was very stoic about the situation, and outlined for me in matter -of-fact fashion all of the health problems Daisy had been experiencing. He felt that the time had come when Daisy’s quality of life had diminished to the point that her suffering outweighed her happiness, and he requested that she be put to sleep. He elected not to be present when she was euthanized, but told me that he had made a box that he would like to bury her in. It was in his truck, and he asked if he could retrieve it whle Daisy was put to sleep, and if we would place her in it for him to bury at home.
As we prepared the injection and began the process, Daisy looked right into my eyes and weakly wagged her tail. She passed very quickly and painlessly, and my receptionist brought in the box in which Daisy was to be buried.
Remember, I’ve done this hundreds, if not thousands of times, and, while never pleasant, it is always endurable.
This time was different. The young soldier had built a box worthy of the best of cabinetmakers. Dovetailed joints, brass screws, finely sanded and stained. I opened the box to place Daisy’s body into it and I was devastated. Inside was an age-old blanket for her to rest on, and the interior walls were lined with photographs of the soldier as a boy playing with Daisy as a puppy. In one corner was a chewed-up old dog toy and in the other was a doggie treat.
After so many losses of dogs, both personally and of my clients, this was the culmination of all the pent-up feelings of loss and grief, as well as awe and admiration for this young man’s feeling for his old dog Daisy. I cried like a baby and cancelled appointments for the rest of the day.

Stephen from VA

One Response

  1. Candi Bertran Says:

    Stephen, thank you for sharing your story of Daisy. I sent in a post about my Baxter. We had a wonderful veterinarian take our Baxter into her home. She had him in a bright sunny room. She took him to the people she trusted the most to perform his biopsies and ultrasounds and transfusions. She consulted with Tuft’s and other specialists. I went to her home everyday and spent time with Baxter. When it was determinded that he had pancreatic cnacer, we had to put him to sleep. Watching him be such a loving gemtleman through all he went through just made me love him more. Like Mark, we only had Baxter for a short time, but my bond with him was incredible. On his last day, and even with his weight loss. it was the first time he ever really sounded sick. I can’t explain the conflicting emotions of not wanting him to be in pain one more minute, and yet wanting to hold on to him more than ever. Our vet cried with us when we put him to sleep. She is building her own hospital and she is going to name the critical care room “The Baxter Room.” We had a carpenter friend make a beautiful box to bury him in that looked the same as if it were for a person. I put him in it with his blanket and the last rose from my garden of the season. I sang the song I wrote for him one more time and then buried him on our property where he liked to roam. Having vets like you who care make all the difference to folks like me. I’ve heard stories of vets that are actually cruel to animals. I totally can’t understand why someone would choose a profession when he has no love for animals. I’m sure you have seen many good and bad colleagues in your work. Though my heart is still broken, the love and care our vet showed for us and our Baxter made all the difference in surviving the trauma of his loss. Thanks for all you do. Candi