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!