Saying goodbye during the holidays
By Dr. Rebekah Frost
I come into work Monday morning and look at my schedule for the day. Not one, not two, but three euthanasias for the day. Immediately my mood shifts to a sense of sadness and dread as I approach my day as a Veterinarian at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic. But this time of year is Christmas! It is the time for family, friends, and holiday celebrations. It is a time for reflections of peace, joy, and giving. But in the veterinary profession it many times is not a time of joy and happiness. The holidays are one of the most common time of the year that we help owners say goodbye to their beloved pets. This is a reality that we face every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am not sure what the number one reason is that owners make this decision this time of year, but I will give you my best assumptions.
In our area we are heading into the winter season. Depression and stress during the winter months and around the holidays can lead to illnesses and our pets may be affected if we are affected. Many pets become ill this time of year and this helps in owners making that decision especially if they are a senior pet that has been ailing for some time.
This is the time of year for family. The family being together may mean that all the kids are going to be in town and it is a good time to say goodbye to that family pet. Many times I am in the room with an entire family as they gather around crying, laughing, and loving on their senior family pet. It is a privilege that I can help families as they grieve and say goodbye. Sometimes a family member may be in town that hasn’t seen that pet in some time. These family members are usually very supportive in helping their loved ones make that tough decision.
This time of year may be a time that owners are traveling. It is a reality that unfortunately it may be easier to say goodbye to that ailing pet than it is to try and arrange care for that pet. Many times these pets are on multiple medications, have special bedding, and bathroom arrangements, and this is a difficult chore to expect another outside person to care for that pet.
This is never an easy decision to make. I and every one of our staff members have had to make this difficult decision at one point or another whether it is at the holidays or another time of the year. Our patients also become part of our family. We treat each patient as if they were our own pet. Grief is a horrible thing to have to deal with and we many times hold on to that pet as long as we can out of love for that pet. I have been guilty of this as a pet owner myself. It is important to discuss with your veterinarian what quality of life your pet may have. I have this discussion on a regular basis. Pets have no concept of time like we do. Therefore, take into consideration that it is the quality of your pet’s life that is much more important than the quantity of your pet’s life. We made the decision for our senior Beagle Dutch based on the fact that he was having more bad days than good days. He was not doing what he loved doing anymore and we knew with all his health issues that it was time. It still wasn’t easy and many times it helps to have family and your veterinarian to help you in making that decision.
This holiday season be thinking and praying for those that have to make this difficult decision. We have had to say goodbye already to some very special pets. One little pug in particular has been a very special pet to the staff at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic. Little Pugslee was the clinic’s next door neighbor for as long as I have been at the practice. In 2012 we diagnosed Pugslee with diabetes mellitus. She wasn’t able to absorb sugar from her bloodstream and had to be placed on insulin. For many years we treated Pugslee. When she became blind we were there to help her through it. When she developed a skin infection, bronchitis, and was having trouble regulating her insulin we were there to treat her. When she lost her human father to cancer, we were there with Pugslee and her family to help them through this extremely difficult time. And we were there a few days ago, when we had to tell Pugslee’s mom that she had developed cancer of her liver. We said goodbye to Pugslee today and let her go and be with her father. We cried tears over her today and hugged her family until our tears ran dry. We will so greatly miss that feisty little pug that loved to be carried like a baby, that loved taking walks in her baby stroller, and that loved to sit in her favorite chair. We will miss her stubbornness when we had to draw her blood sometimes on a weekly basis. This time of year also be thinking and praying not only for those pet owners but for your veterinarian and the veterinary staff members that love these pets and that help in ending these special pets suffering. Although it may be hard and a very sad time of the year, I am grateful that God has given me this job. To help these pets for as long as they are with us, to help owners make hard decisions, to cry, laugh, and share memories of these special pets, and to help in sending these pets over the rainbow bridge. God Bless you and your family this Christmas season.