Creative Corner winning submission from Teigen Bond of the Atlantic Veterinary College.
“I think it’s time” I say as I lay my hand on Roxy’s golden head. Some of her long hairs float off and land on my white coat, covering it in fur that shimmers in the sun. “If it were your dog, what would you do?” you ask, your eyes pleading for a different answer than the one I am about to give. This is one time that I don’t want to be right, but I’m scared that I am. “If she were my dog, I would let her go” I say gently. Your eyes fill with tears. Roxy’s eyes have dimmed, her muzzle gray with age. I run my fingers down her long lush tail, wishing I could change the bloodwork and cytology on my desk from a few days ago that says her lymphoma has returned with a vengeance. “She’s the only thing that has helped me through my husband’s death” you say. A tear quivers on the edge of your eyelash, then tumbles down your cheek, making a sad lonely path. “I can’t bear to lose her too.” What can I say to that? I don’t know if there is anything I can say. Just another day of thinking of quality of life, of thinking of the pets first, always first, of consoling grieving owners when all you want to do is curl up in a ball and cry yourself. Just another day at the clinic. But I persevere and we make an appointment for Roxy’s euthanasia. Then I go to the bathroom, take a couple deep breaths, wipe away the unshed tears and paste on a smile for my next appointment. It is a puppy visit, first vaccine time. Their unabashed playfulness makes my smile a little more real. A few quick pokes and they are bounding out the door, my face covered in puppy kisses. Just another day at the clinic. The last patient of the day comes in 5 minutes before closing. It is a cat hit by a car, with a fractured pelvis. He can’t afford surgery, so I perform my third euthanasia of the day. By the time I get home it is past nine o’clock and I am exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Just another day at the clinic. The phone rings. You’re on the other end of the line. “Roxy’s worse.” You say with a quiver in your voice. “I think she needs to go tonight. She won’t get up to walk to the door – going outside used to be her favorite thing”. I sigh, then muster up my empathy and compassion for you and your sweet old dog. “I will be right there.” If Roxy won’t move, I don’t want her last trip outside to be marred by being dragged and carried into the clinic. I don’t want to leave the house; I don’t want to have to watch another animal die, especially not a long time patient. But I think of the pain she is in, and how I can give her death with dignity, death with peace, death without fear and suffering. That is a gift only we as veterinarian’s can give, part of another day at the clinic. I remember the puppies; life and death all rolled into one day.
Life is sad.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Where there is life there is death.
But sometimes where there is death there can also be life.
It’s a small comfort, but sometimes, it is all we’ve got. You’ve got to take what you can get.
It’s just another day at the clinic.