She died peacefully at home

Paw print in snowHollywood has a lot to answer for. Movies and TV portray death as this noble, painless (other than a few dramatic twinges), peaceful event. Our hero is shot in the chest, and manages to gasp out his last profound words before slumping slowly over in the arms of his beloved (or his faithful sidekick). There’s blood, but not too much. Or the old person at home in front of the TV who just “slips away”. These things are not the norm, not the expected. Death is often the opposite of peaceful.

I can’t answer to what really happens with people, though my ER doctor clients can, and it sounds roughly the same as what happens with pets. Natural death (unassisted by any hospice-type medications) isn’t generally pretty, it isn’t sanitary, and it is generally not sentimental or peaceful. It’s profound sometimes, but mostly it’s just very real. Continue reading

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Madison Avenue & Fido

Don Draper (Mad Men). He could take any product and craft an advertisement in print or on screen that really hooked people and made them buy. Cigarettes, floor wax, cars, burgers, shoes, mundane things were magically transformed by the ad men from “meh” to “I need that” or “I love that”.

Who can forget the iconic Coke commercial with all the young people singing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony…”? Continue reading

Today I’m a tetchy dentist

I’ve been getting feedback on a recent post (The Ten Commandments of Dentalism). Veterinarians saw the humor in it, and the clients who have read the explanation gave generally positive feedback.

Mustache and dog 108 x 148There is, however, a small subset of readers who think that veterinary dentistry is just a way for vets to make money as they sit back and twirl their Snidely Whiplash mustaches. Why would owners spend $500, $600 or more to have the vet “clean the teeth” when it’s obviously something that can just be done by a groomer for $75? What a scam vets are running.  Continue reading

The Ten Commandments of Dentalism

Gingivitis mouthHere’s one for all of our veterinarian friends. For the non-vets reading this blog, I’ll explain the commandments for you down at the bottom. (If anyone wants to copy the Ten Commandments elsewhere, I’d prefer you to link to this page or, if you feel the need, copy the text with attribution, please.) Continue reading

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

imageAs a veterinarian I have seen death aplenty. I have been responsible for the ending of thousands of little lives, inflicted the pain of loss on thousands of people in my own “professional” way, and experienced loss of my own – family, friends, pets, patients. There are times that I feel as though I specialize in death and dying.

This isn’t unusual for veterinarians, of course. Our dog and cat patients have short lives compared to ours. Many of my clients, like myself, feel empty without the love that a pet can provide and will have the opportunity to live with many animals over the course of a lifetime. They will also have the opportunity to say goodbye to those pets one by one, experiencing the pain of loss and the psychic and emotional toll that takes over and over again. Continue reading

One vet’s view on euthanasia

People often ask me how I can “be a vet” and save lives on the one hand, and euthanize animals on the other. The truth is, oddly, that the best and worst parts of my job surround the end of a pet’s life.

On the one hand, it’s a heartbreaking time. Any time a life ends, there is sadness. If the pet was well loved and will be missed beyond words, I feel bad for the owners and the grief they are going through. I’ve been there many times myself, and I know how it feels not only to lose a dear friend and family member, but to have to make the decision to end that life. The sense of loss and emptiness is overwhelming.

Sad in a different way are the times when pet is alone and without family to hold him and comfort him at the end. Although I really do understand why this happens and why people cannot stay with their pets, the animal’s aloneness carries a poignancy that is heartbreaking. Continue reading