By Dr. Pierre B. Bland
This was the night. As I drove into the driveway, I experienced that emptiness in the pit of my stomach that I feel every time I euthanize a pet. I gathered myself and my equipment and walked toward the door. This time was so much the same, but just as with each instance, very different.
My patient was Samantha, a 17-year-old cat suffering from end stage kidney disease. Her owner was my pastor, who had referred to me as a healer just a few months ago. I don’t feel very much like a healer tonight; I took an oath to alleviate suffering so I guess I am.
He was sure we were doing the right thing, but not completely sure. We had provided palliative care a few evenings earlier to make her comfortable and possibly provide a bit of time to adjust to his decision. A couple of months earlier, we shared a conversation on how difficult letting Samantha go would be. This would truly be the closure of a chapter of his life.
Samantha was adopted 17 years ago and was there for many of the seminal events of his adult life: the meeting of his husband, seminary school, graduate school, the social and civil gains over those years, not to mention the jobs, RV vacations, and just day-to-day living; all the memories and experiences, good, bad and indifferent, which make up life. He shared some of those experiences with me as we waited for Samantha’s anesthetic injection to take effect. I could see in his eyes his heart breaking.
A second injection and all of Samantha’s pain and suffering was over. As emotionally difficult as performing euthanasia can be, it provides the pet an opportunity to die with dignity, something we as humans are often not given. It is an honor to be asked to provide this service and share such an intimate moment in the life of my clients. I have euthanized more animals than I care to remember and it never gets easier. This was no exception.
Euthanizing a beloved pet is often not just the ending of their physical pain and suffering, but the beginning of the end of the emotional pain and suffering of the owner and a start of their healing. Hopefully the memories and time will aid in the mending of my pastor’s broken heart.