Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thank you Alaska

Late last week, I put to sleep a dog named Alaska. It may sound kind of weird to say this, but every euthanasia is unique. Some are very emotional and some are calm. Some are done with a split second decision after a horrible accident and some are done after much thought at the end of a long peaceful life. There are no two exactly alike. That's a pretty amazing thought considering I've been doing this for over 20 years now. Alaska's euthanasia was as peaceful as they come. The day was a beautiful sunny fall day with just a hint of crispness in the air. Alaska, Alaska's "dad", my vet tech and I all sat out in the grass behind the parking lot. Everything was peaceful. Alaska laid his head in his dad's lap and when I gave the injection, he did not move at all. He just went to "sleep". He was ready. Even now when I am typing this, tears are in my eyes. I am glad that we don't have to let our pets suffer when they reach the end of their lives. It is still sad though.

I received the most special of all letters in the mail the other day. It made me want to cry and smile at the same time. The letter brightened the day of the staff members even though the reason for the letter is very sad to those of us left behind. Please note the return address on the envelope. I'm going to add an image of the letter because I think it adds so much to the letter to read it in hand or should I say "paw"-written form. I'll write the text of the letter below because it is hard to read off the photo and then after that will be my response.

Hey Doc Curie and Doc Veal and all your really cool staff. My trip here was real peaceful and guess what? I don't hurt no more - just lazin round with all the other cool cats and pooches. Plenty of time I got now to remember all the fun I had over 13 years & good care and lovin from my family and you guys. Remember that long walk I took one day and was found "dog tired" on the highway? or the time I took off and was gone for a hole week dragging my 10 foot chain with me? Ah, those were the days. I'm gonna really miss the snow, people food and sharing dad's beers (don't tell anybody that one). Well, so long, and thanks a bunch for all you did for me and my family. Your science really did touch my soul. Alaska.

Dear Alaska, Thank you so much for your letter. I am happy that your trip across the Rainbow Bridge (that's what I call it) was uneventful and that you are now safe and sound. I am going to miss seeing you even though I know you never really liked coming to the clinic. Does anyone really like going to the doctor anyway? I think not. Romping in the woods is much more fun. I'll still get to see your family though and we will remember you and all the fun you had. I'll tell your dad not to worry about the beer thing because (don't tell anybody) but I sometimes let my dogs drink the last sip of beer out of my bottle too. Maybe in the winter, we can try to send some of the snow your way. I don't think anyone here will mind. Have a good time in Doggie Heaven. Maybe if we are lucky, we willl be able to see each other again someday. Dr. Veale


  1. Wow that was beautiful. I sometimes have wondered how vets feel when they put a pet to sleep. Some vets seem to be a bit cold, one vet brought in a technician once ( big fella) and he gave me a look like " we don't want any trouble". I could never understand why the vet brought in that tech. Mostly he just watched me. Perhaps I look crazy in grief?

    One dog had a huge lump in his throat and it just got worse. We knew he would pass but we still took him one last time to a vet and that vet gave him some shots of red root ( or red berry root?). He said it might make the tumor go away. Actually the shots made the tumor swell and the dog suffocated during the night.
    When we brought him back to be creamated and my wife kept asking "are you sure he is dead"?. Of course the dog was dead anyone could see that but in her grief she did was hoping it was not true. I remember that same vet rolling his eyes at her question.
    So I always wondered how the vets felt.It is good to know there are some feelings there.Thank you for this message.

  2. Don, thank you for your comment. Sorry to hear about your dog. Death is hard for us humans and everyone reacts different. As a doctor, I always feel I need to be the calm professional one in that situation. I think most doctors feel that way and sometimes that comes across as being kind of cold. Believe me, we are not. I have done euthanasias before where I had tears in my eyes so bad that I almost couldn't see to give the injection. So too much emotion is not a good thing either especially when someone is relying on me to do my job. Hard to balance being professional and showing emotion sometimes. All we can do is our best. ~DrDi