Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why Euthanizing Your Dog is Not Like Flushing Your Goldfish Down the Toilet.

Or why country and western songs are starting to make sense.

I euthanized my dog this afternoon. She was 15+ and was lame first in one and then another hind leg. For her last week on earth, she mostly slept by the door getting up painfully a couple of times a day to do her business outside. She was still with it, although appearing a little blank at times.

My wife had to go to work and clearly didn't want to do the deed so since she took the last dog for the big sleep, I agreed to do it.

Our dog was our second dog of the same breed. Our first dog had to be put down at 12.5 years so once that milestone passed we knew the day was coming.

We never had dogs growing up. My wife's family raised and trained dogs. I in fact used to be afraid of dogs. I did come to like all three of the dogs we have had (we still have one). I get frustrated with taking them for walks in bad weather, cleaning up poop and their insistence on getting up the same time regardless of the day of the week.

Every dog I suppose has good qualities but this dog was really a great dog. We bought her shortly after the death of our first dog. She was five then, she had been a show dog but was unable to breed so her owners were happy to get rid of her. She was an incredibly friendly dog, who fit right in to our family. She loved people, especially young children, she loved other dogs, she even loved cats. She was a vocal dog who loved to howl. When we first got her she was so well trained that she would only eat kibble. We had gotten into the bad habit of feeding our dog table scraps. A week spent with one of our friends cured her of this and she became an incredible mooch although never a counter surfer. She loved apples and I could never eat an apple without giving her a piece.

She was such a good dog we thought if we got a puppy she would teach the puppy all her good qualities. It didn't work.

When I took her to the vet and we both agreed that she had to be euthanized, I cried like a baby. I felt terrible, I am after all a doctor, I am used to patients dying. The vet gave her a "premed" injection of some type of phenothiazine. For ten minutes I sat on the floor petting her. Finally the vet put a butterfly in a vein and injected a lethal dose of pentobarb. She stopped breathing almost immediately, felt cold to touch and after a minute the vet listened to her chest with a stethoscope and said she was dead. She told me I could stay as long as I wanted. I thought of the last line in "A Farewell to Arms" and left right away.

Stopping to pay the bill of course.

1 comment:

Angry Social Worker said...

I know how it feels to euthanize a dog that has been part of your life for a number of years; I can commiserate with your pain. There, beyond the immediate and irretrievable loss of your dear pet, is your own mortality staring you in the face. Her death is a brutal reminder that the ten years or so that the two of you shared are over. She is gone forever and now you are ten years closer to your own grave.
I read somewhere once that because animals have no real concept of death, they don't fear it like we do. If that is true, then she was the fortunate one. She had you to reassure her in her final moments. I wonder what was going through Hemingway's head just before he blew his brains out.