OPINION

Just Thinking: Compassion, care for family and pet appreciated

Margo Bartlett
Guest columnist

When we took our dog to a 24-hour veterinarian to release him from the pain and anxiety and who-knows-what that was causing him to behave like a crazed automaton – walking in endless circles, bonking himself into corners, backing up and bonking himself into the corner again before reeling away to knock over a lamp or crash into a piece of furniture – we were almost as catatonic as he was.

The drive to the vet had been harrowing.

Margo Bartlett

Our dog was in the back seat of the truck, pacing the length of the seat and getting his forelegs stuck between the seat and the door, struggling free, falling to the truck floor, making his way to the other door, scrabbling up to the seat and around again.

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We stopped before we’d gone a mile so I could climb into the back seat and rescue him repeatedly. It was exhausting and horrifying.

“I’ve never seen a dog do this before,” my husband kept saying.

The moment we walked into the building, no doubt looking like people who weren’t fit to be out in public, the receptionist directed us to a small room off the lobby.

The room, unmistakably, was the kind of “therapeutic environment” hospitals provide for the delivery of bad news: low lighting, clusters of chairs and what I think of as a "love bench” – not so plush as to be a love seat but able to accommodate two people – tissue boxes handy. In other circumstances, we would have smiled, but on this day we sank gratefully onto the love bench and watched our poor dog pace.

We didn’t wait long. A vet tech came in, explained that an IV would be inserted into our dog’s foot and then he’d be returned to us “for as long as you need.” Then he took him away.

When a vet returned carrying our dog, she sat down in the chair next to the love bench and placed him in our laps, first spreading a quilted paper pad over our knees, in case, she explained, his bowels released. It’s a testimony to our emotional state that this shard of realism failed to puncture the fragile bubble in which we were suspended.

“The first injection will make him sleep,” she said. “The second one will stop his heart.

“Take all the time you need,” the vet said again, but we weren’t so selfish as to take time. Our dog was calmer with an IV in his foot than he’d been for a day and a half, but he still was trembling with anxiety. Sleep was the one thing we could give him.

“We’re ready,” we said.

The vet injected the sedative, and in one motion our guy put his chin on my left leg, closed his eyes and sighed deeply. I like to think he felt the delicious loosening of muscles that happens when sleep finally overtakes worry, a racing mind, jumbled thoughts and fear. I like to think that just for a moment he remembered everything he loved before tumors in his bladder and his brain muddled his thinking.

“Go ahead,” we told the vet, who was waiting patiently, and she went ahead.

It’s very hard, she told our bowed heads a moment later, but you did the right thing.

I write this because any veterinary hospital – in this case, MedVet Columbus in Worthington – that offers such compassionate, professional care for pets and their owners deserves a shout-out. Our dog was given a gentle and painless exit, and we were given permission to be wrecks.

As a result of that permission, the whole experience, including the softly lit therapeutic environment that took losing an animal as seriously as we did, left me somewhat less damp and blotchy than I’d expected to be. We were slightly amused by the room, or we planned to be as soon as we got a grip, but I can’t deny the room did its job. The people who knew how to do the right thing did their job, too.

I thank them. 

Write to Margo Bartlett at margo.bartlett@gmail.com.