We have lost some wonderful longtime patients in the last weeks. Death is part of medicine and thus our world. The realities of lifespan play out daily in veterinary medicine. But, things cycle and sometimes it is harder than others. I have contemplated blogs honoring my favorite patients many times. In the interest of fairness, I have not written one. I didn’t want to leave anyone out. I have many wonderful patients and owners that make my days worthwhile that I won’t have time or space to mention. I would never want Prince Charming, Mooshu, or Inca’s moms' to wonder if those special creatures mattered to me. It just struck me that some of my closest patients were lost in such a short time of late. These are animals and owners that I have spent countless hours with over the years.
Sundance died last Friday. Fiona the Friday before that. We lost Bentley and Hennessey just before that. Sundance’s brother predeceased him by just a few months as did Bentley’s brother. These are all animals that I cared for through major medical illness and had come to know well. They were my friends. So are their owners. Everyone at the clinic knew them all well and they had friends in the staff as well.
Sundance and Bentley both were fighting cancer. Sundance was oblivious to his predicament and wagged his tail throughout his treatment and hospice care. Bentley’s cancer struck like lightening. He was also oblivious, as he always was, to infirmity. He just moved on an enjoyed his time. Fiona was a funny little creature. I knew her the least amount of time. She had been a foundling with a long list of issues. She persevered though and was adorable. Eventually, there was just too many issues stacked against her. Hennessey beat them all for number of ailments conquered. She had tackled addison’s disease, brain cancer and aspiration pneumonia, among others. In the end, too much was stacked against her as well. All of these wonderful beings lived out long lives with their attentive owners. With each one, we had to contemplate their end of life plan. With each of their parents, we talked about when it would be time to let them go and how to tell. I told them, as I often do, that if they did not know if it was time yet, it was because it was not. When we care so much for another being, we usually come to know how to proceed.
People often empathize with us that this must be the most difficult part of the job. I appreciate the sentiment but it is not. It is worse to not make a difference when you think you could. Being there at the beginning of their lives and taking care of their puppy and kitty needs, then navigating illness and injury throughout life to cruise into geriatric issues is the general practitioners nirvana. Getting to know their people over a 15 year, or so, lifespan of their friend, contemplating, diagnosing, treating and fixing ailments is what drives me. The fact that death will be there at the end is part of the deal. It is my job to help with all of it. I want to be there. Counseling and considering options is an important part of my role and it completes the circle.
I just needed to take a moment and say goodbye to those friends. You made a difference in our lives. Thanks for sharing some of your time with me and trusting me and making me want to put my stethoscope around my neck each day.