Monday, September 15, 2008

Loss at the Vet Clinic

Sadly, at the rate I lose patients, I almost might as well be a gerontologist. Of course, my patients' average life span is only 12-14 (for dogs) to 17 (for cats). A lot of my patients, with no hope left for a life without constant suffering, actually die from my merciful actions. Sure, I am giving them an easy death, usually with their owners holding them, but basically we deal with death daily at my job.

Two of my clients recently contacted me to let me know about deaths in the family, but not the four-legged kind. The first was a client who used to have many geriatric cats but now is down to just one. She had told me he'd be the last because her husband would kill her if she got anymore -- she's the kind of client who spends whatever it takes for a geriatric pet, and her husband didn't quite share that priority.

Last month, however, her son died unexpectedly in a car accident. He'd had a chronic illness, so had made plans in case of his demise, including making his mom promise to take care of his cats. When she told me, I could hear her heart break. His health had been good, so she never expected to lose him at this time. She said it was the worst thing a mother could experience, and I believed her. She was asking for advice for transitioning the three new kitties in with her old crotchety one. Even though her son was gone, she was glad to have this small part of him living with her.

Then last week, another long-time client came in to pick up dog food and asked to speak to me. Her husband, who I knew was in ill health, had finally gotten the call that a liver transplant was ready for him. The next day they drove to the hospital, excited about the better quality of life ahead of them. But, he developed a blood clot and died immediately after the surgery; she drove home without him. All this happened just 3 days before she came to see me.

"I just wanted to thank you for all the care you have shown to our dogs over the past few years. I just thought you should know about my husband." Her grief was raw and palpable. I was worried she was going to be moving from the area, but that wasn't the case. She hadn't come in for dog food; she was hurting, and reached out to us because we knew her husband and had cared for her family.

As I hugged her, I couldn't imagine her loss. The promise of better health ended in the loss of life, the loss of her lifelong partner. I was so honored that she reached out to us for comfort in her time of grief. The other family doctor, indeed.


Emily said...

Oh, what a touching post! It's hard enough to lose your beloved pet, but I can't imagine the grief these two women are going through. My heart goes out to them.

peevish said...

Oh Jenn, what heart-breaking stories. But it says so much that both of these women knew they would find solace with you and your co-workers.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Jenn, I am moved to tears. They knew you would be compassionate in their sorrow and so you always are. A true honor.
Love you, M

Alissa said...

Very sad! I think it says a lot about our staff and clinic that people feel they can share such grief with us.

Anonymous said...

..a very sad story indeed,Jennifer, and how lucky your 'patients' are to have such a caring Doctor for their beloved pets.xx A.Norma.

Leah said...

Its was so sad and very heart breaking to get news from these two great people. I am glad too, that we have touch them that they wish to share their sadness with us.

Dana said...

It just shows how much we actually touch the lives of the people we take care of. We ultimately don't just take care of their animals...we take care of their families. It makes you realize that you actually do make a difference in someone's life.