Friday, July 8, 2011
Remembering Dog #70811
A warning to the reader: this blog may bum you out. It may make you cry. I hope not, but be forewarned.
Because I am in school to be a vet tech, I have to work from time to time, for various reasons, at a local animal shelter. Clean, run well, and staffed by amazing personnel, this shelter is still a true shelter, having to euthanize dogs and cats daily. While most shelters select the feral, sick, and aggressive first, we all know that any dog or cat who doesn't find a home quickly enough will meet death. And let's not forget if you merely show up and look like a Pit Bull.
I am in my last semester at vet tech school, so my tasks are becoming more 'real world' and difficult. We could sign up to work at the shelter this semester, to be able to learn to intubate, place catheters, perform a cystocentesis (pulling urine from the bladder with a syringe), and other such things on a dog who is deceased.. since we are students, after all. I think we are all happy to perform some procedures for the first time on a patient we cannot hurt. I have no issue with this theory of practice; we do it with human medicine too.
But I cannot help but reflect on who I am calling "Dog #70811" that I met today. That wasn't his real number, but he didn't have a name. He was a young, lab male who apparently had been surrendered by a hoarder, along with several other animals. The shelter kept him for the time allotted and tried to find him a home, but no takers. One of the employees there attributed it to his strange expression he often took, which made him look unpredictable. I saw it; he looked a little freaked out most of the time, can you blame him? He was sweet, full of energy, affectionate, and very handsome. He had a red color to his coat. I was working with 2 other students and an instructor who was a Certified Vet Tech. 70811 was scheduled to die today, and we would euthanize him and perform our procedures on him. It sounds cruel and laboratory animal like, but actually it was at least worth something that he didn't just die, that he helped me to become more educated today, and with that education I intend to save lives of animals.
I spoke too much; I do that when I'm fighting off nerves and/or tears. I have a nervous laughter and I kept talking to distract myself from the reality this boy faced. I didn't want to pet him too much, or look at him too long. I am not afraid of the pain, but I wanted to ensure I remained professional in front of my peers, and I feared I may break down. The 1 student, a female, bent down and stroked him. It proved too much for her, as I could hear her sniffling and wiping tears from her face. I thought "that is the tech I'd want working on my animal". The other student, a male, remained stoic. He inspired me to remain more stoic also, as I don't want to be stereotyped as a frail female. "I'll cry when I get home", I thought. Better yet, I'll write this blog.
I have personally euthanized 2 animals in my past at a clinic. Both were sickly and ready, and I dealt with it fine. I was glad to learn I could. When an animal is ready, I am honored to offer them the relief they deserve, and I am glad to be in the presence of a loving owner who clearly thought enough to keep that animal forever. It's actually not very sad, considering. I promise myself I will never work for a vet who will euthanize healthy animals, and regardless, I never shall. Even today, it was not my hand who took 70811, but I was there to kiss him before he left. All 3 of us gently stroked him and ensured his passing was as full of affection as possible.
If you meet people in your life who have done these things, don't give them your approval by changing the subject or ignoring it. You'd be best to explain to them that you don't want to be their friend anymore. Anyone who'd do that may not be worth knowing. Install your zero tolerance policy on everyone around you. And of course, do not support breed specific legislation which ensures the murder of dogs who've committed no crime.
I shared my theory with a veterinarian I was casually speaking to once. I asked her if she thought I was being too extreme. She replied, "No," and proceeded to tell me she has a sister she no longer speaks to. Her sister had her do an exam on her new kitten. The prognosis was good; the kitty had an upper respiratory infection and naturally had ticks and ear mites. Kind of standard issue for most rescued kittens. She learned later her sister euthanized it; she apparently wanted a perfect, no cost cat.
I write this not be morbid or sadden a reader, but rather because I know we think if we turn away and shut our eyes, it isn't there. We don't like feeling helpless over things in the world which are awful. We like to be able to change things, and we will force our eyes shut tight towards things we feel we cannot improve. So for 70811, let it be known that we did not look away today. We wept to ourselves, and loved you for the small moment we knew you. I will always think on him and others like him, when I hear of people abandoning their animals.