A day they will never forget

By Dr. John Jones - For The Lima News

“Surreal” is the only word that could describe the moment. I was knelt down on the exam room floor next to a dead dog and a sobbing teenage girl. Her mother and two sisters were in a similar state of despair as another family dog lay dead on the table.

I haven’t done many multiple euthanasias in my career, and I’m thankful for that. They’re really sad. In this case the one dog was 18, older than any of the girls, and had simply run out of time. The other dog was only 8, but being of a large breed he was physically older than that, and was suffering from the effects of cancer. To lose both at the same time was devastating to the family.

Wanting to give them some time alone with their pets, I slowly backed out of the room. Then as I closed the door, I was struck with the realization that this was a day those girls would never forget.

Why do we even have pets? The whole notion of them is kind of silly, really. First we “adopt” them and make them part of our families. Next we pamper them, tend to their every need, spend a ton of money on treats, the finest food and, yes, veterinary care, only to have them die way too soon and break our hearts.

Moreover, as if once is not enough, many of us are adamant about repeating the process over and over again. To top that, some insist on dragging their kids into the madness. Ultimately, however, this might be the best decision a parent ever makes.

Nothing teaches a child more about life than does caring for a pet. So much can be learned about responsibility, patience, compassion, and, especially, the finality of death. And in turn, sometimes those kids can teach even a jaded old vet like me something about life as well.

Often when I get together with friends or business associates, most of us being “baby boomers,” invariably our conversation leads to talking about the younger generation, including even their own children and grandchildren. The consensus is that today’s youth care only about themselves, and seek instant, positive gratification in virtually every aspect of their life. Exceptions abound, of course, and to be fair, I have no doubt “the greatest generation” felt the same about us. Still, the perception persists.

Recently, two young men showed me that it was wrong to think this way. Each was attached to an old dog with a serious medical condition. One had cancer, the other heart disease along with a degenerative spine. Alas, the dogs had reached “the end of the trail.”

Like the girls who lost their two dogs, each boy chose to be present for the euthanasia, even though each had a parent who left the room. Each one took the euthanasia hard, but they took it bravely, and stayed with their pet until the end.

When I was with the three girls, the grief in that room was so overwhelming I was almost numbed by it. With the boys, I was able to observe more clearly the relationship each had with their dog, at least for awhile.

During both euthanasias, although others were in the room, including myself and my technician, each boy and his dog were so focused on the other, through touch, through voice, and through tears, that the rest of us didn’t even exist.

While the euthanasias were exceedingly sad, I can only describe the power of the bond I witnessed between each boy and dog, seen through my own by then blurry eyes, as “beautiful.” I hope someday they’ll be able to fully appreciate the beauty in that farewell moment.

Apparently, when a child is allowed to have a pet in their life, they don’t just care about themselves. Much credit to their parents for giving them the opportunity to love and be loved by a pet.

I have no idea whether those kids will remember me, or my role in their day, but I do know I will never forget them or the courage they showed as they said good-bye to their pets, and experienced the loss of something they loved.

Nor will I ever forget those who taught them what may be the most valuable lesson they will ever learn. Thank you Sunshine, Brutus, Cisco and Max.


By Dr. John Jones

For The Lima News

Dr. John H. Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital.

Dr. John H. Jones practices at Delphos Animal Hospital.

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