Monday, March 25, 2013
The Decision of Euthanasia: In Memory of Buster
Euthanasia. I don't like it but I am a certified euthanasia technician. I chose to do it so animals that had to die, mostly because of illness and age, could go with as much love and gentleness as possible.Yet for each animal you put to sleep, a bit of you dies too.
This weekend I had to make that decision with my own dog. Buster, my 11 year old basset attacked my younger dog, Teddy. He went for the throat, ripped a hole in the vessel adjacent to the jugular. Once I got Teddy free from the attack, I took Teddy inside as blood gushed from his throat. I applied pressure to the wound, but couldn't let go to drive him to the vet.
I called my mom, asked her to come quickly. She was at least 20 minutes away. When the paper towels were saturated with blood, I took off my shirt and made a bit of a tourniquet just below the wound, which stopped the bleeding. Teddy was in shock and stayed very still. He looked at me and I looked at him and told him it was going to be okay. I could see that he was growing weak from blood loss.
My mom arrived and we rushed him to my vet Mt. Carmel Pet Hospital. They packed the wound in order to get the blood to clot. They kept him for the day to make sure it didn't start bleeding again.
I knew something was wrong with Buster to do something like that. Its not like him. He is one of my most patient dogs. The ironic thing was, the day Buster attacked Teddy, I had Buster scheduled to be seen because I had found a mass hidden between his hip and his anus.
I discovered it by doing what I teach people to do. Know the normal, so you can spot the abnormal. I realized the problem because as he was walking up the hill, his anus seemed to be pushed just a bit to one side.
The day after the incident with Teddy, I took Buster in. I expected the verdict to be cancer because of the hardness and attachment of the lump to other tissues. The thing is, Buster was still so active and vibrant. He ate well although I couldn't get him to gain weight no matter how much I fed him.
The veterinarian did blood work which supported my suspicions that it was indeed cancer. Buster's calcium was so high that it was affecting the way he thought. I believe that's why he attacked Teddy.
We could tell the more we watched Buster, that he was in pain. He couldn't get comfortable, and didn't want to sit down. The doctor offered to send pain meds home, but I knew there was a bigger issue at hand. Buster tried to kill Teddy. Not just hurt him, but kill him. A few centimeters to one side or another and Teddy would have bled to death in a matter of minutes. Also, My two other basset/beagle mixes both died from the same type of cancer, so I knew what was to come for Buster.
I asked my parents to help me talk it out. We knew what we had to do. We couldn't let Buster go through the pain and we couldn't take the chance he would kill one of the others in his confusion.
The vet hesitated which I appreciated. She asked if we wanted a few days to think about it. After I explained my reasoning through my tears and she found out my background as a euthanasia technician, she went ahead with the procedure.
She was very kind and gentle. Buster was never scared. I explained how much I loved him and that he would soon be seeing his friends who had gone on before.
We brought his body home and Mom and Dad dug the grave. All the while Teddy watched as if he had done something wrong. Once Buster was buried and my parents gone, I went to Teddy, who always insist on getting in the top cage so he can put his paws on my shoulder and look me in the eye. I explained what happened.
People may find this strange, but even if Teddy doesn't understand my words (although I believe he does), he understands emotions. When his previous owner left him behind after telling me to get rid of him, he held on to me just the same way and he cried. He howled and talked and put his cheek against mine and when he was done, he laid it down and went about life.
Teddy is healing. The other dogs have accepted that Buster won't be coming back. Me? That's another story. So much of my heart has died in helping pets pass on gently as a euthanasia tech, that I don't know how much more is left. But I do not regret my decision. I had the power to prevent or put an end to Buster's pain. So I did. I had the responsibility to protect the other animals. So I did. And thanks to a very sweet veterinarian and her staff, Buster passed to the other side peacefully. And for that, I want to thank them.