Wednesday, June 13, 2007

This Veterinarian's Worst Nightmare

Let’s face it, when a pet dies it’s over, there is no going back. Like the loss of any life it’s the most difficult thing we as humans go through. It’s so final, never to see that beloved animal again. The worst nightmare for me as a vet was to call a pet owner to tell them their pet had died, especially if it was unexpected. I remember once I made the call and said, “ Mrs. Smith I have bad news, Fluffy died” I will never forget it, the phone hit the floor and then a scream of sheer anguish pierced my ears as she cried at the top of her lungs NO! NO! NO! I held the phone waiting for someone to pick up again, more screams followed and finally the husband picked up the phone, muttered something to me and hung up. I stood there in shock and said to myself, “I can’t do this anymore”.
I often think of being a plumber and fixing a leaky faucet. What happens if I make a mistake - a flooded cellar? - a ruined chair or warped floor? All these things are replacable, fixable but not when the animal dies. For those of us who are doctors it’s a huge weight on our shoulders. Being a vet is not for everyone.
It’s inevitable that all pets die. Sadly their life span is so much less than ours we will have many come and go in a lifetime. People often respond to their pet’s death with the statement I will never have another one again – it hurts too much. I remember one lady had a toy poodle. She and her husband loved the little guy and he lived 15 years. Eventually he developed kidney failure and we had to put him to sleep. I never liked to say euthanize. It sounds much better to say put them to sleep. Three years went by since I saw this couple. Then one day I was in the supermarket and they came up the aisle. The wife saw me and began to cry and literally left the shopping cart full and walked out of the store. One week later she came to my hospital with a toy poodle. She told me the dog showed up at her door and she was beaming with her new dog. The circle was complete and she finally healed.
We as veterinarians must walk with integrity and do all we can to help the pet. This is why we can never put profits over pets. This is why there must be a Protect the Pets movement. We can’t save them all. Sometimes we too make mistakes. We are human after all. The important thing is our heart must be in the right place. The pets and the owners who love them are depending on us.


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