Last week was a busy and tumultuous one in the veterinary world at my hospital. I had been considering writing about hospice care and end-of-life issues with pets. I was ready to scrutinize this very difficult issue, but, lo and behold, what happened? I was faced with a much more difficult decision. In my face. Not easy.
I began my day last Tuesday and saw on my appointment schedule the following: “Dog, blind, never seen, PTS?”
PTS means “put to sleep.”
Two men, not able to speak English, from a European country. Hunting dog. An older Brittany Spaniel who is losing her eyesight and cannot hunt anymore. In very broken English, the men try to communicate that she is “good in house” but they have no more use for her. They expect me to kill her.
I have before me a very active, almost puppy-like Brittany who is, indeed, going a bit blind. Kind of like a person who needs a pair of glasses. They expect me to bring out the blue juice, as we call it, and PTS — put her to sleep, euthanize, kill her.
Not Gonna Do It
So I am looking at my wide-eyed technician who cleans up poop and vomit all day long from our hospitalized pets, her huge eyes looking at me saying, “Really? Can you do this? Are you going to do what these owners request?” She begins petting this dog, who loves the feel of a human hand near her and is wagging her tail. A 15-minute appointment. Sandwiched between a puppy vaccine appointment and a urinary tract infection. Kill this dog.
I try to communicate with this owner. I know a little French, a little Spanish, but no Portuguese. I tell him that I cannot kill this dog. (What the hell am I going to do with this dog? I don’t know, and I am so upset to be put in this position but…?)
So, with the language barrier, I say to him, “You need to sign over your dog to us. Are you willing to do this?”
“Yes. I not want kill her.”
OK. So now I have a semi-blind, 12-year-old, not spayed, crazy Brittany Spaniel who needs a home. I think she might be prey-driven, cat aggressive, not sure. I test her for heartworm, parasites, etc. She is in great health. She stays the night in my hospital.
She is a good dog. Her name is Jessie. I don’t want to get too close. My other, fantastic technician comes in the next morning. She had booked the original appointment with these non-English speaking men.
Unbeknownst to me, the men had walked into my hospital with Jessie when I was at lunch, wanting to simply drop her off and put her to sleep. My technician had made them come back for “an appointment” but knew the whole thing was an ethical issue and a sorry state of affairs.
When the fantastic technician who had booked the appointment arrives the next morning and sees Jessie, alive, she is ecstatic. Now she has to help me (her boss!) find this dog a home. This woman is on it. Come on! She’s the best out there, and I am lucky to have her.
She is on this like a pig in (expletive). Brittany rescue to the rescue! All radar out there to get this dog a home.
Jessie will be placed. As I write this and look out at my lovely veterinary hospital, just a few yards from my kitchen window, Jessie is not in the hospital on this Sunday morning. She is right here by me. In my home. On the loveseat.
My husband is furious. Well, maybe not. But then again, yes, he says he hates her. Well, maybe, not really. He goes down to the basement to install a new sump pump since the rain last night flooded the basement. And Jessie is, well, all over it. Get this (expletive) dog out of the (expletive) basement! What the (expletive) is wrong with you (meaning me)?
Well, now my husband’s sump pump is installed and he sits down on the loveseat to read. And yes, he is petting Jessie. And she is calm. What a great guy! What a great dog!
The Search Is On
The daily life of a veterinarian is not easy. Every day, I work with owners about quality of life for their pets, life-and-death decisions. Good times and bad times. Healthy visits and sick visits. Trying to do the best we can. Together.
Last week I saved a life. And a shout goes out to the fantastic people I work with. They knew that in some other veterinary hospital, in some other scenario, Jessie may have been killed. But I didn’t have to do that. And last week became a great week! As the search is on to find Jessie a home, I look at her and smile.
Here is a video of Jessie: