"What Rescue Dogs are Good for"
This evening, I killed one of my favourite patients.
I was pleased to see his name in the appointment book. It is always a pleasure to see this handsome, sweet dog. The appointment note said "check up." He is a senior, so regular check ups are wise.
He came surging in as usual, tail wagging, cheerfully soliciting pats and treats. He had been recently groomed and looked lovely. Both owners accompanied him which surprised me slightly since usually I only see the Mrs.
Once in the exam room, they smiled at me, then tearfully told me that they think it is "his time." I looked at the happy dog and was astonished. How could they think that? They told me how he is slowing down much more so recently, how he is far less enthusiastic about his meals, and how he will wake up out of a sound sleep and pace restlessly, panting heavily, for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. They were afraid he was in pain.
I began a thorough physical exam from nose to tail. Good body condition. Has lost some weight, but was a little heavy before, so this weight is better for his arthritic old bones. Heart and lungs good. Some arthritis in his back, hips, and knees but nothing new there. So far, so good. Then I gently probed his abdomen. My old friend had always willingly permitted me to do anything with him. Now he tensed his abdominal muscles, held his breath, and squinted his eyes. Clearly painful, he was too brave to complain and far too much of a gentleman to ever consider something so unmannerly as growling at me. But even that brief touch revealed to me the mass in his abdomen. He had a cancerous tumor removed from his guts two years ago. Now it was back.
I cursed inwardly, and reported my findings to the owners. I discussed palliative care. They looked at each other, then shook their heads. Their dog was in pain. They were not going to wait until he was in agony.
So, using all my skill to ensure a gentle, peaceful death, I took the life of this beautiful, sunny natured creature.
Later, afterwards, I turned to the dogs I had with me: Emma the foofoo dog and Delphine. I brought Delphine with me to work today to recheck her weight and because I am concerned about her recent lack of appetite. I knelt beside her and hugged her. She readily accepts as much loving as she can get. I murmured to her, "At least we saved you." She leaned in to me.
They remind us that life goes on, and all we can do is our best, today and everyday.
Please hug all your dogs tonight.