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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Two Coats are Only Good When Painting...

All jobs have their ups and downs. I know that.  But there are times when I feel as though this job, the job that so many people have longed for yet not attained, is just too difficult for me.  At these times, I want to fill out an application at a retail establishment, and become employed stocking shelves, checking out customers, and trucking carts in from the parking lot.  I suspect that a bad day working there, while it could be stressful as the general public can be quite offensive at times, is quite different than a bad day wearing this white coat. 

When I am wearing my white coat (figuratively), it is part of my training to tell a client when their animal's body has reached its limits.  It is comforting for me to be able to look at them with confident eyes, and reassure them that the next step is giving their beloved furry family member its dignity back.  The decision is ultimately theirs to make, but I hope that having someone reassure them that the choice they are making is the right one, eases their pain in some sense.

But, I sit here now writing this story as a pet owner.  I sit here now writing this as a veterinarian who is a pet owner.  I sit here and I despise having to wear both coats at the same time.  I sit here and I wish I could look to another authoritative person, someone who knows more than I do or better than I do, someone with a coat whiter than mine, and trust that person to guide me through this difficult part of pet ownership.

Today, I am the proud owner of a 13 year old tortoiseshell cat.  I named her Petunia (Tuni) because she kept popping up in my garden.  She has been a companion of mine for 13 years of my life.  I have known her longer than I have known my own children.  Today, I discovered that she is dying.

I look at my cat sitting in a hospital cage and I wonder, "Do I put you to sleep today? Should I put you to sleep tomorrow?  Should I take you home and let you have one more night with me?  If I take you home, will you get hurt while being so weak?  How much time do I take, when medically I know you are not responding to treatment, and yet I am not ready to lose you?"

I will need to make this decision at some time in the next 24 hours, as I am certain her body cannot take much more than that.  I will be the one making the decision.  I will be the one administering the medications.  I will be the one placing the stethoscope to her chest, listening for her heartbeat to fade.  I will be the one caring for her body afterwards.  I will be with her, alone, holding her as she falls asleep for the last time.

Then tomorrow I will wonder, "Should I have tried one more thing?  Should I have waited one more day?" 
I know this, because this is not the first time I have had to wear two coats...

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Brighte said...

I am very thankful for people like you who wear two coats. My very good friend that I work with is a veterinarian (I am an assistant). She helped me with the very same thing in October. My Kitty whom I had had 18 years was in renal failure and I too looked at him in the Cage at the vet office thinking the very same things. She helped me get through it, and even though I still have doubts (because I was not ready for him to go) I know it was the right thing to do for my best friend. Thank you for all you do for those in your community. I am thankful for what she does for the people in mine <3

Tammy Hartwig said...

I'm SO sorry Lisa! This decision is NEVER easy and, it never gets any easier. I've had people look to me for that decision and it is heartbreaking. All I can do is tell them that I cannot make that decision for them but I can share what I would do if it were my pet.

I believe with all my heart that they tell us when they're ready, if we listen.

I also tell people that their companion has depended on them for their every need; when to eat, when to go out, when to have a treat, when to go to the Vet, etc...THIS is the final decision we must make for them. They have trusted us with all these decisions and they trust us with this final one as well. Now I'm telling you the same. She trusts you with this and knows that you have always done your very best by her!

We cannot second guess these choices; all we can ever do is the very best we can for them. We cannot keep them here longer for ourselves. We must always keep their best interest in mind and as difficult as it is for us, we must always do what is best for them.

Again, from my heart to yours, I'm sorry you are now wearing this coat. I've had to wear it myself more than my share but I know that when I have to let one go that they know that I love them and that I did all I could for them before giving them this last final act of love.

You will know and you will do whatever needs to be done as difficult as it may be.

Elizabeth said...

Just so you know you are not alone with this, getting all the wonderfull advice and support from your vet when you have to make these decisions does not protect you from the "what ifs". Regardless of the advice I get from my wonderful Vet "I" still have to make the decision and live with it. I always second guess myself and knowing my Vet thought the time was right only goes so far especially at night when you lie awake wondering..

Even with these decisions Irving
Townsend said it best:

"We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle; easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps, we would still live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan."

Please cherish the memories.. and I will be thinking of you.

Jill said...

Hugs to you my dear. I remember when you put Immy down and how hard it was. I can't jump in my car and drive to hug you as I did then, but I am sending you my love and prayers that you take this easily, and realize Little Tuni will be waiting for you on the other side, just as so many before are. You are an angel and you help so many, so don't be so hard on yourself. You are doing her a favor by taking the pain away. LOVE and HUGS! I am so sorry this is so hard for you.

Anonymous said...

This story was especially heart touching & hit home. My very 1st kitty was a tortoiseshell which made me fall in love with the "breed"!! They are my favorites, & they are so different from other cats as they seem to understand everything & are your best friend. I had her till age 16 & was very blessed. I still miss her. I have 2 torties now both are 13 & love them so much so I understand the dilemma you have. I am so sorry, & I CAN feel the pain of having to make the choice. It doesn't matter if you are a vet or not the pain of losing a beloved pet family member is no less. Your story was so touching to me, & I send you my deepest sympathies & prayers. The thing that keeps me going is knowing I will see them all again at the "Rainbow Bridge". It is a beautiful story to believe in.

My thoughts are sincerely with you.


Anonymous said...

May the joy of knowing them and having them in your life far outweigh the grief of losing them.


Dave M. said...

So sorry to hear you are forced to make that hard, hard decision. And obviously the decision is made, it is the timing that is the killer for us. I know you will make or have already made the right decision. You gave Tuni a loving home and the best care possible for 13 years. That is all we can do for the lives entrusted to our care.

Diane E. said...

Lisa, I’m sorry you’re not helping Heidi paint a room (though I don’t think she’s ready for that yet)but instead have to make such hard decisions in your white coat. I am thankful for your white coat and the inspiration it is (you are) to my daughter. May you find peace in the midst of this storm of life. Saying a prayer for you,

Anonymous said...

Two coats get heavy when worn at the same time. I am not a Veterinarian,but as a vet tech I have worn 1/2 a coat at times. I'm so sorry for the decision you are facing, I do not work in the vet field anymore,my heart was burned out. I will still have to face parting with my dear friends and that is hard enough. The good memories keep me going.

Karen and Gary S. said...

What a hard decision for you to have to make - I'm sorry. Petunia is a beautiful girl.

I wish I could give you advice, but of course, that is not possible. Neither me or my husband are vets - just pet parents who dearly love our furry family members. Most of the time we (rather than the vet) have had to make "The Decision" when - should we wait one more day, one more week . . . is their quality of life at the fair stage . . . is it now poor and time to say goodbye? Are they suffering? They did eat a little bit today - maybe there is hope? Should I make "The Call" to our vet this morning, and hope I hold it together long enough to make "The Appointment" before tears come so bad I have to apologize and hang up? Will I make it through the day without breaking down at school, knowing what has to be done at 4:00? Thank goodness we only live 2 blocks from school - it's so hard to safely drive home when you can't see. We have 10 minutes to hold and love them for the last time - that isn't enough time, it goes way too fast. We better put them in the carrier now - don't want to be late.

Thank goodness for vets like you, Lisa - we appreciate so much what you do for our pets and for us. I know you are agonizing over "when" - I wish I could give advice, but of course, only you can make that decision. Is there someone who could be with you, like your husband, or a staff member?

All you can do is spend a little alone time with Petunia. Tell her how much you love her and will miss her - I think she'll understand, and completely trust your decision "when".

I'll think of you, Petunia and the rest of your family today, Lisa.


Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you , the only thing I can say is go with your heart , if the situation were reversed would you want her to keep you here in body not really spirit if your body had truly given out or would you want to go with some dignity left to say goodbye. I know you are a caring and wonderful person, and an outstanding vet, you have shown compassion and caring beyond many vets I have come to know in all my years, there are a few of you that I feel lucky to have met in my lifetime , your one of them even though not in person in your blogs . Hug harder on the fur kids and skin kids that are still with you , they'll help get you through this difficult time , just my thoughts .Cindy

Anonymous said...

Oh Lisa - My heart just breaks for you. I know this love of a bet oh so well and daily struggle with Mistee Bubbles the Newf. I watch her try to potty and it breaks my heart that those legs just will not squat like she needs them too. My thoughts are with you this very difficult day.