As an emergency critical care specialist, I end up euthanizing a lot of dogs and cats in the ER and ICU. If I had to guess, approximately 30 percent of my patients end up being humanely “put to sleep” within a 24-hour window of seeing me. Why? Because animals often present for end-stage disease or cancer, and by the time they show symptoms, it’s often too late.
With that, I’ve developed my “euthanasia spiel,” so I can explain the whole process in a compassionate, empathetic way to grieving, stressed pet owners. Check out “Euthanasias gone bad,” and you’ll better understand why I think it’s so important that the last memories of a pet’s life be preserved in the most beautiful, compassionate, dignified manner.
With JP, I was “lucky.” I was able to determine and control many aspects of his euthanasia process: where, when and why I was doing it. On July 4th, I finally put JP to sleep — after 370 days of being cancer-free.
As heartbreaking as it was to euthanize JP, I was so glad I did it in the comfort of my own home. No stressful car ride, no stressful visit to the vet clinic, no strange, metallic table … just a familiar place, while resting on the same beat-up old sleeping bag that he was used to snuggling on. One of my colleagues came over and humanely euthanized JP while my ex-partner and I fed him sausages and hot dogs, and surrounded him with love (and tears).
The impact afterward was profound, as it is to any pet owner who has lost a beloved four-legged or feline friend. The hardest thing for me was thinking about the veterinary medical aspect — having to deal with the mental image that my dog was in a heavy duty, black plastic bag, lying in the cooler somewhere, instead of lying in bed with me.
My only comfort? Knowing that it was just JP’s physical body that had departed. As traumatic a memory this morgue-image was, I tried to push it out of my head, knowing that “all dogs go to heaven” and that it was just a physical remnant left behind. As a pastor’s kid, I had confirmation from a legit source that all dogs do indeed go to heaven (If there are snakes, lions and lambs up there, you can bet there are dogs too…)
Next Page: What I’ve learned from my loss