I would imagine that everyone reading this blog has had to deal with this situation in the past—saying that final good-bye to our own pets. And if any of you veterinary professionals are like me, you probably question the timing of your decision even more than you would with a client in a similar situation. While we all develop close bonds with some of our clients and patients, those attachments rarely rival those we form with our own furry friends.
For me, deciding to euthanize a family pet makes me feel very uncomfortably omnipotent. What right do I have to determine when my pet’s life is no longer worth living? How do I truly know how much my companion is or is not suffering, or if he or she is still “happy”? Being a trained professional, I feel, makes this process even more difficult—the multitude of potential scenarios for my pet’s future run through my mind as I try to reach a conclusion that lets me rest comfortably at night. And while situations like this are a matter for family discussion in our house, as the vet in the family I feel obligated to provide guidance for everyone else involved.
In the end, whether or not you believe in a higher power, you have to take that burden off of your shoulders. Realize that you are human, and you can only do your best to make the most appropriate decision at that moment. (This is great to remember when dealing with clients at well. Most people are just doing what we can at any particular moment, to make the best choices we can in life!).
Remember all the joy your pet brought to your life, but also how much happiness and comfort you offered for your animal buddy. Making that final decision might be one of the best gifts you ever provided for your elderly or ailing pet.