Friday, January 19, 2007

It's hard to know how to sound when calling your dog's veterinarian to talk about quality of life and euthanasia. If you sound too collected and calm, I think you risk sounding callous. On the other hand, sounding indecisive and timid must make the person on the other end of the phone wonder about your motivation. I think I struck just the right balance when I made this phone call.

I guess you don't think about these things until they come up, but I think a measure of a good vet's office is how well they handle this question. My dog's vet's office, as it happens, knew exactly what to say, and how to say it. They very calmly, very assuredly went through the euthanasia process, the appointments that need to be made, the choices afterwards (mass cremation, or individual? If the latter, with an urn or without?), et cetera.

Usually, the vet wants to have a consultation with the animal (optional here, since my animal is absurdly old). At their final appointment, the animal gets a sedative first. Once they're relaxed, or sleepy, or whatever they are, they get a medication intravenously that, apparently, really does make them feel like they are going to sleep. It sounds like 100% of dogs and cats that get euthanized die more peacefully and painlessly than about 100% of humans.

The vet's office, ingeniously, has a special room for these quality of life consultations. The walls are a light pink, the lighting is dim and by floor lamp, there's a relaxation fountain on a table, and photos of cats and dogs napping comfortably on the walls. There's also an excerpt from a Kinky Friedman book (autographed especially for the vet) on the wall about how sad he was when his cat was put to sleep (it left a better impression of him than his gubernatorial campaign, that's for sure). There's a nice rug on the floor. You and the vet sit opposite each other in comfortable chairs.

The talking has to do with how to recognize a terminal decline in quality of life, whether the dog still enjoys eating, whether it's still house trained, and also some biographical stuff about the animal.

Today, at the end of this talk, it was agreed that the animal's quality of life is still okay.


Mark said...

That was very sweet, Bryan.

When my first dog, Copper, died, me and my dad dug a hole together in the backyard and burried him. We didn't say a word to each other, and the dog next door sat respectfully watching like a soldier. It was a sad moment, but a sweet one too.

Christopher said...

I started crying while reading this post, bryan.

- chris

Stacy said...

It's hard to know when isn't it? Molly kept deteriorating, she was in pain, yet I wondered until the end whether it was really the right time. My vet told me it was good for them to go while they are still happy. I don't know...with Leo, he made the choice himself. All we can do is love the hell out of them while they're with us and be grateful we know them.
Your vet sounds amazing.
Rufus is a lucky dog.

ryan said...

I totally got all teary-eyed reading this. And then with the picture at the end? Forget about it....

Just this week my parents put down their big dog. He was about 16 I think and had bad arthritis. It was sad, but my dad said the same thing you did, that he just very quietly went to sleep and drifted away peacefully.

I'm glad Rufus will still be around a bit longer.

M said...

Hi B,
I originally read this when I was in SB last week ... both times I've ended up crying ... I remember all the experiences you and Rufey have had over the years ... and how he came to us to help Tawny recover from Hershey's death ... they are amazing creatures ... both you and Rufey have been so blessed to have each other.