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The Hard Decision

My dog, Scooby, will be 16 years old in July.  By all appearances, Scooby is a happy senior pup; he’s got skin issues and some gross warts, but he seems bright and alert.  So why am I having quality of life discussions with his vet?

If a stranger looks at him, they don’t know what those close to him do.  They don’t recognize the slow deterioration of his mental state or see the subtle changes in his walk.  There are obvious signs of health issues: his back-end shakes and every once in awhile he stumbles.  I watch the little changes in Scooby and justify them.  “It’s colder today than yesterday, that’s why he’s shaking more.”  Or, “oh, those are just normal signs of age.”  I don’t want to accept that Scoo can’t live as long as I do.  He’s my family and I don’t want to think about the day when I’ll have to say, “goodbye.”

Scoos last picture.jpg

As a member of an incredible animal clinic, I remind myself of the candle we use when a client has made this painful decision.  I think of words I say more than I’d like: this is the most difficult but loving thing you can do for your pet.  When my girlfriend and I walked into the exam room and discussed quality of life with his veterinarian, I repeated those words.  We had no intention of euthanizing Scooby that day or even that month, but we needed to be prepared.  Even as a member of a medical team, I needed an objective point of view.  My partner and I needed to be able to tell a professional our observations and concerns so we could be prepared.  In Scooby’s case, when do we know he’s in pain (and his medications are no longer working)?  Are there specific signs that might tell us we’re dealing with an emergency?  We discussed the details/process of the euthanasia itself.

During the appointment, our veterinarian said something very important.  She told us that she supported us and our decision.  In that moment, I snapped out of client and into medical professional.  I wondered how many clients worry about what we think.  I thought of all the clients who say they don’t know how we do our jobs.  And I remembered the situations when we had no relationship with a pet and had to examine it first.  What must go on in our clients minds?  I want to tell you what my veterinarian told us: we support you.  We are always going to be advocates for the animal first and foremost— that is why we are in this profession.  But through the laughter and tears, we’ll be by your side.

If you or someone you know is preparing for your dog or cat’s end of life, we have resources available:

·       Quality of Life 

·       WSU Grief and Loss

And for those of you who ask how we do our jobs: there are certainly cases and days when these appointments are overwhelming.  We need each other, our loved ones, or a distraction to help us afterward; but we can do it because when we chose to get into this field, we agreed to protect and heal animals through all stages of their lives.  This is one of the most profound stages and we owe it to the pet (and you) to protect them from pain and heal them one last time.

Jordan Bair

Client Services Representative, Marketing Assistant

 

The Joys and Terrors of Terriers

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I met Sparky in his golden years but I had no idea what was in store for me. Sparky, at 10 years old, exhausted me. He was tireless. His sense of adventure often led to me yelling his name until I finally gave up and tried to figure out why he found the space between the bush full of thorns and fence so exciting. He was curious. He wanted to know what was in the oven (he didn’t care how hot it was), he wanted to know if that moldy thing really tasted as bad as it smelled, and he wanted to know why his tail randomly showed up. Sparky was an announcer. After learning something, he just knew everyone else wanted to hear about his experiences.

Sparky was the epitome of a Jack Russell and it is because of him that I have become a “terrier” person. Prior to this crazy pup, I was a “big dog” person, but Sparky taught me the only small thing about his breed is his size. Jack Russells have big personalities, vast amounts of energy, and enormous hearts. I’ve also come to understand that in order to become the best caregiver I can, it is important for me to know something about why dogs like Sparky mean so much to me.

It is because of their unique disposition that terriers need a certain type of human. I recently met someone who got “the cutest Westie puppy ever.” She got the dog because she was excited to have a pretty, small lapdog. I explained that West Highland Terriers are not lapdogs. She shrugged me off until a few weeks later when I saw her with an older King Charles Spaniel.

Many people do not know terriers are actually hunting dogs. In many cases, this attribute means a terrier is happiest as an only dog. It is common for this type of pup to become dog aggressive, even after years of playing well with others. They are hardheaded and determined. So, letting your terrier off leash will lead to you spending hours hunting for him (always get your terrier microchipped).

I was asked why on earth I would want a dog like this. Sparky, and many of the terriers I have met since taught me bravery. He feared absolutely nothing. He taught me the art of concentration, and that sometimes shiny things are better than whatever you’re focused on. Terriers have strong souls. They are loyal but not in the same way as other breeds. There’s no way Sparky would have heeled by my side, but when he sensed I was having a horrible day, he knew how to heal. He was loyal to living life and to experiencing as much as he could.

 
Why bother come all the way inside to eat?

Why bother come all the way inside to eat?

Sparky passed away over a year ago but his legacy is as big as his life was. Every time a Jack walks in the door, my heart thumps harder and I feel a kind of joyous sympathy for the person attached to the leash. We "terrier people" know what the other is going through. You've got to be tough to be owned by terrier!

(My other favorite breed?  Mutt!  Mixed breeds are fantastic, ask my other dog, Scooby!)

Thinking about bringing a new pet home?  Read our Choosing a Pet page for things to consider first.

Jordan Bair, Customer Services Representative, Marketing Assistant