When I started my own mobile veterinary practice, focusing mainly on at home pet hospice, pet euthanasia and pet cremation, I knew I would be exposed to areas in my life where I needed to put some work in. Patience is one of those areas. This work has blessed me with the capacity to work on that, simply because it demands it, as I tend to do a lot of waiting and waiting, I have come to understand is an art, especially when you are waiting for a life to end.
It’s seven thirty and a call comes in. They need a pet euthanasia appointment now. Tucker, a much loved dog has been in pet hospice for a few months in renal failure with some mast cell tumors and mobility issues. He collapsed today and is breathing heavily. I text the veterinarian and he says, “Ok,” he’s on his way.
The veterinarian’s car is parked under the streetlight on the opposite side of the street as the rain begins to fall. I sit outside the house in the dark getting things ready, stretcher -check, blanket – check, gloves – check. And how am I? Am I showing my exhaustion or have I renewed myself with a mouthful of kombucha and a melodic tune along the way?
Night appointments for pet euthanasia at home take longer, or at the very least it feels that way. Everything is amplified and add in the rain and urgency – it’s a veterinary trifecta for anything can happen. People are more emotional, pets in distress and veterinarians edging closer to the blood sugar drop of the ages. But one thing is sure – the animals could not go one more night.
Going inside the home of an animal that has just passed, particularly a deeply loved one that has been on pet hospice for a while, requires reverence and a willingness to be drawn into the sphere of complex emotions of everyone present for the euthanasia. All barriers to love and loss come down. You are no longer a stranger, but an energetic part of their story; quietly, on the sidelines, but nonetheless there.
Moving a deceased pet onto a stretcher under the watchful gaze of the mourners is no small task for a variety of reasons. Deceased pets move differently and large animals can be challenging. The absence of life force energy requires a firm but gentle hold while asking permission of the family along the way for every move, while ignoring any physical discomfort of your own.
Tucker’s family has asked to walk to the car and say their final goodbyes and again I wait, moving aside, giving them the space to express their sadness. Tucker is a cream Labrador and takes up all the room; spreading out like a peaceful, furry wave that has lapped up on his final shore. I tuck him in for his last car ride under a soft paw print blanket, pat his head and say a quick Irish blessing.
Go now into the space of forever fields and spread your angel wings above us, onto your next great adventure. You were loved Tucker. You did what you came to do. Everyone will be fine. Go in peace. Amen.
As I drive away towards the cremation facility most families stand, saturating in varying degrees of sadness, watching me leave. I drive slowly, and give them one last head nod as I turn out of their street. The waiting is over; the window has closed, while through it shoots the color and shape of loss.