Some random thoughts on sad subjects
Having dodged the on-call rota for Christmas, I decided to steer clear of the New Year champagne and cover New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day this year.
On call work is a funny old beast sometimes. Occasionally we’re sitting around waiting fo the phone to ring but often we’re darting from call to call and breaking new year’s resolutions in McDonald’s drive thru as we go!
My first call of the the year was to see an old sick dog with multiple issues, who was under the care of another practice but whose owner wanted a vet to come out to their house. She felt the time had come to say goodbye and preferred that this would happen in the doggy’s own bed, surrounded by his loved ones. I must say I hate these calls. One of the worst parts of my job is the euthanasia consult. We maintain a professional demeanour but we always lose a little bit of our hearts to the pet owner who has had to think long and hard about saying goodbye.
I left home with a heavy heart, feeling pessimistic about any year that could start this way.
When I arrived at the house, the first thing I noticed was the wooden walkway over the steps, constructed so that their old friend could manage his way in, despite his arthritis and other issues. I knew straight away that this dog was loved. On entering, the family was all present and obviously upset while the patient lay quietly, oblivious to their tears and accepting as many belly rubs and chin tickles as were offered. But he looked tired. Pet owners will often say that they know the time has come when the dog gives them ‘that look’. Its a look of ‘I know this is hard for you but it’s time for me to move on now…’
After a long chat we decided that the time was right and our patient slept quietly away while his family hugged and kissed him, wishing him well for his journey.
I left the call, not feeling sad, but more honoured that they had put their trust in me, a stranger, at this awful time.
A few days later I attended my first concert of the year. A local and called the Sazeracs played cover versions of some great tunes, one of which struck a chord with me. An old tune by Anthony and the Johnsons with the line ‘I hope there’s someone to take care of me when I go, when I’m tired.’
When I heard it, it made a lot of sense. To be there for a family and a pet when they’re tired is a tremendous honour and it made me think how grateful I am that someone would trust me at such a time. My new year, which I thought had started miserably actually turned around and made me thankful of the way our human souls can interact with animals and how their paw prints can forever etch themselves on our hearts.
Here’s to a hopeful 2019.