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

“I thought you said your dog does not bite?” Insp. Jacques Clouseau

Your dog bites. Whose fault is it?

Snarling GSDI can tell you whose fault it isn’t – mine. And it’s not my assistant’s fault. So please don’t get pissy with me when I tell you that I’m going to have to muzzle your dog. I don’t muzzle many dogs; I find that with low-stress techniques we can usually de-escalate the biting and snapping and actually make the visit bearable even for very anxious dogs. But sometimes a dog is too big to control well, or the owner is very tentative and afraid of the dog, and I’m not sure I can keep someone from being bitten. Or, after many years of doing this, I recognize the signs of stress in your dog and I know he’s about to lose it (and no, he hasn’t growled yet). Out comes the muzzle.

No, I’m not hurting him. No, he’s not like this because he was abused as a puppy (I buy that this is a temperament or personality issue, but not abuse. You’ve owned him since he was 7 weeks old). No, he’s not dominant. He’s never growled before? Hmm. I seem to recall this behavior last time I saw him. He’s a “talker”, but never bites? Your son just said the dog bit your new girlfriend. That must have been an exception.

Enough excuses. You have had many opportunities over the years to address this and you haven’t. You came in today for a routine wellness visit. I don’t have, right now, the hour it will take to condition your dog to some of the procedures I need to do. You have consistently declined help from trainers and behaviorists, so I don’t have a choice. If you won’t recognize the problem and take steps to protect other people, I have to. On goes the muzzle.