Friday, June 09, 2006

Thank you notes

As a veterinarians we often get thank you notes from clients after we have euthanized their pet. They are often grateful for gentle solutions to a difficult and emotionally stressful time. It always seems a little ironic, though, to get a card thanking me for basically killing their pet.

This week I got 2 such cards. One was from a very nice retired-Army couple who really love their cats. They always bring paperback books to read while they wait, but immediately put them down when I come in the room, and are very chatty.

After a long illness I euthanized their cat, and they sent me a Hallmark-esque poem the wife wrote herself:

Few times are as serene as hearing a purr
From our lovable friend of fur.

Alas, there is regret
When sickness overcomes our pet,
And we can't fix what ails,
So to heaven they must sail.

But we knew our furry pal was in good hands,
With you, Vetmommy, who tried every plan...

It was very sweet and I was touched by their words.

I also had a patient who was very old and ailing from some progressive neurologic disease. The owner, a single 40-something woman, was very emotionally detatched. Speaking to this owner was like speaking to an alien inhabiting her body. I'd talk to her about the dog's problems, and she would just blink at me. So, I'd discuss further diagnostics, like possible referral to a surgeon and CT scans, and she'd just stare. Finally, she'd say, "But is it worth it? How long do you think he'll live?" Valid concerns, for sure, but what else was I going to say, after I told her the probable diagnoses and she said nothing.

The progressive neurologic disease progressed to the point that the dog was not walking. She brought him in for an exam. When I was done looking at him, I told her that his prognosis and quality of life was poor and that euthanasia was probably the best option. This is when owners usually get red-faced and emotional, but she nonchalantly said, "Yes, I agree." I asked if she wanted to be with her pet, and she casually said, "No, I don't need to be with him. I already said my good-byes." She patted him on the head and left (and not in a putting-on-a-brave-front way). I couldn't imagine being so cavalier about a dog who had lived with me for over 14 years.

The owner sent me a card, too, and it was typical of her Spartan manner. "I know letting her go was right for her and I have made my peace with that decision. I would like to thank you for handling that procedure. I have no issues with the care that you provided her and would certainly bring another animal to you."

What a ringing endorsement!


Leigh-Ann said...

I'm sort of impressed that Spartan woman thought to send you a card -- she sounds like the sort to forget she even owned a dog once she walked out the front door of your office. On the other hand, I guess we all handle our grief differently, so it's tough to know what was really going on inside her. If I was in such control, though, I'm sure it would give me an ulcer.

I've never sent a thank you card after a euthanization, I must admit. I think I've just always been too upset to think of those details. I do usually send a box of chocolates or something after a surgery, though, especially if one of my pets has had to stay at the clinic for a few days.

I'd like to add that I hope I don't have any reason to think about sending thank you cards to our vet for any reason, for a very long time :p

Cousin Bevie said...

I like the first thank you note! That was a sweet poem and very telling about your work, Jenn. =)
That second lady, wow, what can I say? I would have been crying like a baby if I'd heard that my animal companion for the past 14 years was dying....That's pretty amazing she could keep that emotion in...if she felt it at all.


Paige said...

Grief is a "funny" thing. What a great example of two ends of the spectrum! Some shut down...some open up. "Bottom line" hee hee.

Dad said...

The toughest thing about loving something/someone is knowing that at some point it will cease.

You vets are amazing. The advice you sometimes have to give is difficult enough, but then, when the owner decides to terminate treatment, you have to do the nasty procedure........

Thank goodness for living wills.

Leah said...

Even if I would have made peace with my decision, I would have still been crying. I would not let my pet go knowing I wasn't there to hold them and tell them that they were the best companion ever as they took their last breath. ---but that is me....

But I do understand that some grive in different ways and it doesn't mean that it is wrong.

Natalie said...

I've been reading your blog for a while now, but thought I would de-lurk today. I'm Natalie and I foster a Jack Russell, Petey, to be a guide dog.

As an animal (especially dog-) lover, I really enjoy your blog....and also, your kids are the cutest children ever!

Nat and Petey

Anonymous said...

I second Paige's comment - I almost posted yesterday after reading this contrast of emotions - and I was amazed that 2 people experiencing the same procedure could feel so different! But that is what humans do. Thank heaven for compassionate VETS like Vetmommy!!!
Love, M

Aunty Norma said...

Jenn.. I bet that the second lady cried her eyes out when she was on her own...we English have a saying 'Keep a stiff upper lip' hard to do sometimes but then other times it's the only thing that stops us from crying buckets....every story you tell us here on your Blog makes me admire you more and more. xxx