Saying goodbye the hardest part

  • Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Saying good bye to a treasured friend and companion is one of the hardest parts of having a pet. PHOTO PROVIDED

It was just yesterday that I got to meet Olive, a soft, excessively wrinkled, sweet puppy-breathed English Bulldog. At only eight weeks old, Olive caused the kind of embarrassingly human response in which you stick out your bottom lip, extend your chin and coo for a good 15 seconds before being able to regain any form of composure. Joining Olive were her new parents with whom, after examining the puppy and finding her to be in good health, I had a lengthy discussion on puppy care. We chatted about vaccines, diet, crate training, heartworms and breed related issues that could arise.

Without question, meeting new puppies and kittens is one of my favorite parts of this job. It is exciting to see these new parents simply melt over their newly minted family member; however, the real journey is just getting started.

Many of us have experienced the joy of a new puppy, but the greatest thrill comes over the fulfilling years of companionship. This rings true whatever role your dog plays in your life; your steadfast walking buddy, your snuggly bedmate, your “I missed you all day” personal welcoming committee upon returning home from work or your instant calming tool as soon as your fingers touch that soft, always within reach, head. The fascinating stories of companionship that decorate the rooms of our

practice make every day different and intriguing. Most of our pets know our moves before we make them and vice versa.

Unfortunately, there comes a time when our steadfast companion reaches the age where we start to question his or her quality of life. We tend to deny it at first, but as others begin to point it out to us we slowly come to the realization that begs the question, “When is it time?” This is a sensitive question that I am frequently asked and that only the owner can truly answer. I have, however, found that there are three things for which I advise the owner to look.

One, is your pet eating and drinking. If an animal is not doing one of these then there is a reason for it, whether it is due to illness, it is pain related or it has simply gotten too difficult.

Two, is your pet urinating and defecating in the house or abnormal places. This is often due to an inability to physically control these functions, which is embarrassing to the pet. Or the pet finds it too painful to get outdoors or to the litter box.

And three, is your pet still doing the things he or she has always enjoyed doing. For example, does your dog no longer greet you at the door like he has done every day for the last 10 years?

Over my 10 years in practice I have been a part of the “saying goodbye” process many times. People often comment to me, “I don’t know how you do it.” Yes. It is a very difficult and emotionally-taxing moment but being a part of wishing a best friend on to a more comfortable place has also been a great blessing to me. How, you may ask? When that time comes I am privy to the incredible bond that has developed over the years between man and animal. I get to hear the stories that explain why “she was the best dog ever,” and I quietly empathize as grown men unabashedly let down their guard

because of their love for a companion.

As a 25 year old veterinary school graduate I never envisioned myself looking back in 10 years and counting these sad times of saying goodbye as treasured times, but I do treasure them. Immensely. I treasure being a part of a bond with man’s best friend which is something that the true value of needs no further explanation.

Dr. Jay Goldsmith is a veterinarian and owner of Park West Veterinary Associates, a Mount Pleasant veterinary hospital.

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