Recently, my wife and I decided to let one of our dogs die… That might be a controversial way to say it, but that is exactly what we did. As sad as that situation is, we are at peace with our decision just like we all want our clients to be when faced with the choice of pursuing more medical treatment or not. The dog we decided to let go when her time comes is Teddy (with me in my photo).
The “back story” is that our two dogs are pretty lucky that I work in the veterinary industry! I’m not sure anyone else could afford them… One diabetic pug named Lucy who has an amazing personality and Teddy, our wonderful Cairn Terrier who has skin issues, several benign lumps, Cushing’s-like symptoms (repeatedly) and now, most unfortunately, lymphoma.
Lucy-The-Pug as we like to call her also had bladder stone surgery, cataract surgery (Thank you Dr. Kirshner), more blood glucose curve tests than I can count, a few scares that needed ICU hospitalization, not to mention many other miscellaneous ailments common to pugs! We like to joke that our dogs might be lemons, but they are our lemons and such a great part of our family.
Like many of you, our own pets seem to not just mirror the medical needs of the community at large but seem to exceed the norm – almost like it was meant to be that they are with us. For many in the veterinary profession, fostering or adopting pets in need is more typical than atypical. It is reflective of the compassion that flows through the profession…the calling that led you to veterinary medicine.
Just like our clients, we all have to make some difficult decisions that may stop short of pursuing every possible medical option for our pets. Personally, we decided not to start chemotherapy when nearly 13-year old Teddy was diagnosed in December. Although given just a few months most likely to live without action, we didn’t want to put her through even the most basic of treatment not knowing for sure the impact any of that would have on her. She had been through enough, we felt.
We chose, like many people, to focus on making her comfortable and giving her as much fun and time as possible. I have to admit I was concerned at first about how people around us might react to our decision not to treat Teddy. I found, however, what I truly expected – a compassionate, understanding, non-judgmental reaction for those at Dove who knew of our situation. Just like we want our clients to feel!
As for Lucy, she has now passed the three year mark since her diabetes diagnosis, so we know the realities and possibilities of losing her as well in the not-too-distant future. She has received amazing care at DoveLewis in that time, and we are diligent parents about her diet, her insulin needs and routine. But we know the clock is ticking somewhat….
So, we face the very real possibility of losing both of our dogs in a relatively close amount of time. It is so hard to imagine the impact that will have on our family, especially my younger daughter. Even though she knows of these possibilities, the reality will be something different.
While I wish 100% we were not experiencing these things, going through our pets’ illnesses has been so eye opening for me. To experience what so many others experience, to see our medical team and support staff in action as a client, to discuss our options as a family, and to make decisions along the way for Teddy’s and Lucy’s lives.
At the end of the day, I am no different than any other client or any of you in that respect. We all have to make personal decisions about our pets. And when we do I hope it brings us closer to our clients, closer to understanding the emotions they go through. But that is what makes this profession so great, an incredible compassion for what your patients and clients go through every day.
They don’t teach that in veterinary or tech school. It just seems very engrained in the DNA of most people in this profession. So on behalf of all the Teddy’s and Lucy’s in the world, thank you for helping make lemonade out of the occasional, lovable lemon. Life wouldn’t be as fun and interesting without them!