The veterinarian slowly walked through the exam room and then stopped to stand in its outer doorway as he peered into the lobby. Dan was gazing out of a northern window and as usual had a blue tooth device plugged into his left ear. “Hey Dan, can you come in here for just a moment so we can talk?”
“Sure Doctor.” And as Dan walked into the exam room, the veterinarian closed the outer and inner doors, gently sitting down on his stool. Dan remained standing directly across the exam room table.
“I just wanted to talk to you for a minute and I need to make sure you understand where I am coming from.”
“As a veterinarian, it is my responsibility to give you information about your pet and to help you make the right decisions in regards to your pet. It is not my place to force my opinion and foregone conclusions upon you unless that is what you want me to do.”
“But sometimes balancing all of this can be difficult. Sometimes I fear that I might not be adequately conveying what I consider to be very relevant information because of my concern that I might be over imposing my personal ethics on another. Do you understand what I am saying? I mean do you understand where I am coming from?”
“Sure….of course I do.”
“Well Dan, I have to just get this out and I hope you take it the right way. Tinker is dying and I really, really don’t believe there is anything we can do for her. I could be wrong and I am not trying to prematurely condemn her to some fate, but I am very concerned that she is suffering and that is not a good thing. The lymph nodes around her left jaw are severely swollen and the abdominal fluid has built up to the point that it appears to be pressing on her chest making it difficult for her to breath. We know that she has feline leukemia and the chances are extremely high that she has cancer. Does that make
sense to you?”
“Yeah, it does.”
“Well, I need to ask you another question and I want you to understand that I am not trying to offend you or force my beliefs on you. Do you believe in euthanasia?”
“Yes…we do. We had to euthanize one of our dogs a while ago. We knew that it had to be done because she was whining and almost screaming in pain. It was hard, but we will consider it for Tinker if we know that she is suffering or that she doesn’t have any chance of getting better. Right now, Tinker seems comfortable. We are giving her water through a syringe and she sits comfortably in a sternal position. I am still giving her the subcutaneous fluids like we talked about and the prednisone, but I think she is getting a cold or something and I am concerned about some nasal congestion that has developed. Do you think we can give her something to help out with that?”
Inside, the veterinarian did not know whether to laugh or cry. He did not know what else to do. He had to let go. “Dan, I know you think that she is congested in her nasal passages, but I really believe that the congestion is in her lungs. I think the cancer or lymphoma has spread throughout her body and now she is building up fluid in her lungs. If you want me to give you something for the congestion, I would have to pick Lasix. It is the best drug that I have to try and pull water off of her lungs and it also might help drain some of the fluid that has built up in her abdomen. I am going to be truthful with you though and tell you that I don’t think it will help. I may be wrong, but I don’t believe that anything I give Tinker at this point is going to help.”
“Well, let’s do that. Get me up some of the Lasix and we’ll try that. Should I still continue with the prednisone and the fluids?”
The veterinarian thought he might choke on the words. “I would just keep doing the same thing with the prednisone and the fluids. You need to watch Tinker very closely and if she deteriorates in any manner, I would strongly recommend letting her go if you are open to the idea. We don’t want her to suffer.” And for a minute he wondered why he didn’t just have the balls to tell Dan how stupid he was being and that if he cared for Tinker in the tiniest, most minute way, then he would stop her suffering now…now, as in this moment. The veterinarian has seen Dan follow this same irrational pattern with many of his other animals. Should his slogan be if you truly care about your pet, make sure it suffers and suffers substantially before you let it go, so you don’t have to face your own fear and deal with your own insecurity about loss a moment sooner than is absolutely necessary. It is such a twisted approach to the inevitable death and the current suffering of a pet you supposedly love, to wrap yourself up in such denial and brainwashing that you actually convince yourself that your best intentions are for your pet, when in reality, as defined by your actions, you don’t give a shit about your pet. In reality, you choose the cowardly way out of letting a loved one suffer as much as is possible. I guess suffering is okay until a pet screams so damn loud you can’t find any peace for yourself anymore. I guess when the suffering gets that bad, you might consider euthanasia then.
The hospital was closed the next day, but around midday the veterinarian received a voice mail. Dan called to say that Tinker had passed at home and that he and his wife were of course sad, but at the same time they were very happy that they had kept Tinker comfortable with the medicine and that she had not suffered.