A year ago, today, I wrote an article about “giving your all to euthanasia”. The article gave comfort to many, including owners. In this article, I stated that “euthanasia can be the hardest part of my job.” As a technician, yes, euthanasia can really wear on my soul.
When you have euthanized the third, fourth or fifth patient of the day it can leave you empty, even if in your heart you know that you are allowing a patient to pass with dignity and peace. You are allowing them to drift away surrounded by their loved ones, or in cases of those whose owners can’t stay, surrounded by kind voices and gentle pets. But it still isn’t a part of our job we love.
I was wrong though. Euthanasia is not the hardest part of the job by any stretch of the imagination. There are cases that keep us up at night, and we cry in the car while driving home. Cases that leave images of tragedy burned into our memory. Sometimes it feels at the end of the day that we couldn’t do enough, fix anything or that everything we touch crumbled. These are the moments, the cases and the days that are the “hardest part of our job.”
The feeling of telling a client that the new puppy they got their son for Christmas has parvo and may not make it. Watching the son say goodbye to his new best friend while tears roll down his face before we whisk the pup away to isolation. That’s the hardest. Watching the puppy decompensate overnight, despite our best efforts is the hardest. Walking in to your next shift and seeing that isolation is empty and knowing that puppy didn’t go home with his owners. That there is a boy somewhere, missing his friend. That is the hardest.
There is the Good Samaritan, hit by a car that is brought into the clinic. This cat was found on the side of the road and it has lost its glow of life from his eyes, hours before. Knowing that pet had died by the side of the road alone without its family getting to say goodbye. That is the hardest. Then seeing the post in a local pet group that shows what that cat looked like, when it had the spark of life in his eyes. Having to contact the owners to tell them how their cat was found and listen to them cry over the phone. That is the hardest.
There are things we see, experience and feel in vet met that are not for the faint of heart. It affects us deeply and yet we still walk into the next room, to hopefully help the next patient. Sometimes it’s a trauma case, sometimes it’s something that could have been preventable, sometimes it is a euthanasia. There are parts of our job that hurt and it changes from minute to minute, hour to hour. For those of us in the field our fire to make a difference is what triumphs over what we are feeling in a moment.
In closing, on the day I wrote that “euthanasia is the hardest part of my job,” I believe it that moment it was. But there are even more difficult events we cope with. In vet med we grow, we change and we adapt. We push through for others. Because the pain we feel is raw and real, but will fade. But the feeling when we make a difference that is the payoff. To enjoy the miracles, you must know the feeling of sadness. For all of you who are experiencing the hardest day or saddest case just know you are not alone and this too shall pass.