Sunday, October 2, 2011

Why Dogs Don't Live as long as Humans (A Young Boy's Perspective)

This is a touching story.....I do not know who the author is as I received this in an email from a friend of mine. I personally have found children to be quite insightful and spiritual when it comes to the euthanasia of a beloved pet. For example, when my son was quite young he had asked me why little dogs live longer than big dogs but little birds do not live as long as big birds. I thought that was a keen observation and I had no explanation other than "That's the way God planned it."

I always encourage the family to be present for the procedure (unless the children are very young or too traumatized by the event). I will tranquilize the dog or cat before administering the euthanasia solution. In that way, while the pet is slipping into sedation, the family is petting and interacting helping to calm it. So by the time the pet is adequately sedate enough when I can administer the intravenous injection, all it has felt was the loving caresses of the family. I administer the injection in a vein (usually the hind leg) so the family can continue with their goodbyes uninterrupted. I find this is the best way to handle what is a very emotional and heart wrenching experience. 

People always ask me how do I deal with euthanasia. It is something that still causes heartache after all the years I have been in practice as you get to know the clients and their pets quite well, so obviously I too feel the sense of loss. However, euthanasia is an advantage veterinarians have over physicians, as we are able to help an animal which is terminally ill and suffering with no hope of recovering. If I was euthanizing healthy animals that would be another issue entirely and if I was doing that I would be in therapy by now. I look upon euthanasia as the kindest act we can engage in for an animal in dire need of the easing of suffering. Although it is never easy, as you recognize the circumstances which have led to the final decision, you feel the justification in your heart and do appreciate that you can help these pets. It is also difficult for pet owners to know when it is time to make that decision. If you do have a strong human-animal bond with your pet you will know. When the good days are infrequent in relation to the bad days or they go off their feed and just hide all the time then euthanasia may be the choice. Speak to the family and your veterinarian to help with this decision.Some people hang on in the face of their pet truly suffering from chronic illnesses such as kidney failure, severe degenerative arthritis or cancer. As I tell our clients when they are struggling with this decision, "You have to care enough to let them go." Which essentially is saying put their needs and feelings ahead of yours.

Why Dogs Don’t Live as Long as Humans
A four year old child’s wisdom
(From the internet….author unknown)

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten year old Irish wolfhound, named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa and their little boy Shane were all very attached to Belker and they were hoping for a miracle. I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer.

I told the family there were no miracles left for Belker and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog. Ron and Lisa told me that they thought it would be good for the four year old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few moments, Belker slipped away peacefully. The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion.

We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, “I know why.” Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I never had heard a more comforting explanation.

He said, “People are born so that they learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The four year old continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”


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  5. I love this story. I have shared it when friends lose their dogs. They get comfort from it. I first heard it told in church. I then went looking for it on the Internet. Thant you so much for sharing it.

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