It is so easy to pretend you can keep your business life and your feelings/emotions separate. But when you are in a small town, and many of your clients are friends, it makes it very difficult to keep those emotions separate. It is sometimes hard to keep your emotions intact.
My doorbell rang early this morning. I saw hunter's garb through the window of the door. The first thing I thought was, "Damn, another hunting dog got shot". When I opened the door and saw my friend's husband standing there, I wanted to close the door and pretend I wasn't there. Maybe he didn't see me? His dog is one that I greeted , and patted , and kissed two times a day, five days a week since they got him. Sweetest dog in the world, and just gorgeous. Knowing that this was a friend's dog, and the dog was sweet, and that the dog was close to my heart, is not the worst part of the story. The dog was seven months old. Just a pup.
The hunter could not speak. I said, "Do you need me to meet you at the clinic?" His head nodded. It was obvious that his emotions were right on the brim... they were not running over but he was clearly a man that was not happy or comfortable about his current situation.
I ran in the house, threw some shoes on, grabbed the car keys and my new cell phone, explained to the hubbie where and why I was leaving, and ran out the door. I got into the car and drove very quickly to the clinic, screeching my tires a few times. I had no idea a Caravan could peel out! Maybe next week I will try a wheelie.
I pulled into the parking lot only to see a teenage boy also in hunting garb, visibly distraught and sitting in the bed of a pick up truck, with no signs of a dog's head peaking over the tailgate. As I prepared myself for a bloody lifeless mess, the tailgate opened. There was the pup, laying there, alert, but unable to get up. No blood. Okay, that is good, right?
"He jumped out of the truck on the highway. I think his legs went under the tires."
They picked up the pup and carried him into room two. I briefly looked at the dog, and immediately knew the right rear leg was broken just above the hock or ankle. Score! I can fix that! Knowing I needed to knock the dog out to splint that leg, and that the dog did not appear to be in shock, we planned to meet again in a few hours to sedate, splint and get a better exam of the hips, pelvis, and proximal legs. We gave him a pain reliever, and lifted him off the table.
Then I caught glimpse of another issue. I immediatley got confused... was the fracture on the right or the left. I thought it was the right but I must have been mistaken because there it is on the left. I bent over to check both legs together as the hunter held the dog up in the air.
The pup's other leg was broken in the exact same place. Both legs must have gone under the tire together. That presents a problem. The Vet School can probably pin the bones, to get more support for the rear legs...maybe. But splinting both back legs...there are a lot of issues having a dog, a large dog, that cannot walk for 6 weeks. It's not like you can tell the pooch, "Stay in bed and watch these "Benji" movies for 6 weeks, and ring the bell if you need more kibble". There was a small chance this would work...but for a large breed dog, and a dog that enjoys going hunting...the prognosis was not good.
I think perhaps the Dad knew that even more than I did. I wanted to try, I wanted to ignore the poor prognosis, with the little bit of hope that was there. He was a young dog, young bones heal faster... The fractures are both in the lower leg, easier to splint and immobilize... but perhaps my emotions were too tied up in this for me to see this clearly. I was willing to try. But as a veterinarian, the final decision is the owner's decision. He took the dog home to discuss the situation with the family. Their decision was to euthanize the dog. The pup was put to sleep that afternoon.
It took the eyes of the owner, to recognize the best thing for this pup on this day. I was clouded, and I just wanted to make it all better for them...to erase the entire accident by making the bad things go away. But I am not sure that I could have done that. I cannot be sure that I wouldn't have extended the nightmare, only to have the same end result after weeks of struggle.
I cried through church. I broke down after church, just before I had to teach Sunday School. Everybody at church thought I was emotional because my baby boy got his first bible and attended Sunday School for the first time today. Well, chances are, I would have been teary eyed over that too, I'm just not sure I would have been sobbing the way I was.
I could not believe that as I was going through my routine life, that another family, a family with 3 young kids/teens, was dealing with an issue they should not have to deal with for another eight or ten years! This was their first dog!
For a few hours, I was glad I did not know how to send text messages on my new cell phone. I would have sent a text message to my tech stating that I was done, that I just could not do this anymore. Not here, not where I know too many people. My heart was broken over the dog, and shattered over the thought of what this family, my friend's family was and is going through...even as I type this.
As you mourn the loss of your friend, please know, that many of us are thinking of you, caring for you, and someday, only when you are all ready, you can give another dog a Chance at love.