Friday, July 30, 2010

Making an Unpopular Call

My Shetland Sheepdog Monty has been on the slippery slope of old age for some time now. First he started showing signs of going deaf, but would you put a dog to sleep just for being deaf? I wouldn't. Then he started acting senile. We don't end people's lives just because they have Alzheimer's Disease, so why put a dog down for being ditsy? Then he started struggling to get up and down stairs. Plenty of elderly people need assistance getting up and down stairs, but we don't kill them. I prefer to let aging animals tell me when they are ready to go. I don't like to make that decision for them.

Monty was not showing any signs of being in pain. He didn't squeal, groan, or snap at me when I picked him up. He was just an old dog. Then he lost interest in dry dog food, so we fed him wet dog food, which he happily consumed. Eventually, he tired of wet dog food, so we started feeding him people food. Sometimes a pet stops eating because it is in pain, other times a pet just gets finicky about the types of food it eats. Our other dog Midge saw Monty getting wet food and she stopped eating dry food, so she could get wet food too. Then she stopped eating the wet food when she saw Monty getting people food. I said to my family that we need to consider putting Monty to sleep if he stops eating all together, but they felt he still had some spunk and spark in him.

Eventually he did stop eating all together and wasn't strong enough to walk long distances. It was time. I loaded him up in the car and took him to the vet. He needed to be lifted in and out of the car and carried up and down stairs, but otherwise he could waddle short distances. Some man was standing in the parking lot staring at me as I struggled to lift Monty out of the car. Despite Monty's lost appetite, he still weighed plenty. The man didn't offer to help. He just stared at me, making an already uncomfortable situation even more uncomfortable.

I walked Monty to the steps in front of the vet hospital, and then bent over to lift him up. I looked through the glass door and saw two women who worked there just standing and staring. I expected one of them to at least get the door for us, but no, they just stood and stared like the man in the parking lot.

When we reached the waiting area, Monty laid down on the slippery tile floor while I talked to the receptionist. Another lady came out to get Monty. She inspected the way his leash was attached, started to chew me out for having the collar on incorrectly, then saw I did have it on the right way and just said "Oh" instead of apologizing. I am a responsible dog owner. I've taken plenty of obedience training courses that showed me how to arrange leashes, collars and choke chains.

The woman grabbed his leash and tried to walk off, but he couldn't get up from that slippery floor. I stopped her from dragging him and said that he needs help getting up. I lifted him, but he couldn't get traction and just kept sliding back down to the floor. The woman snapped at me and said she would handle it. She acted like I had no right touching my own dog since I had made the decision to end his life. Then she stood up and yelled, "We need a stretcher here!"

All eyes in the waiting room turned accusingly at me. I was horrified that this woman at the vet hospital couldn't be more discreet. The receptionist angrily picked up the phone and yelled into the receiver, "Is there anyone back there who has time to bring out a stretcher?"

The vet tech marched over to the receptionist and started whispering mean things about me when I was sitting just three-feet behind her. She clearly did not care if I overheard. It became obvious to me that the two women had intended to make a spectacle of me with their yelling, because now they were having no problem whispering. Then another voice rose from behind the counter and said, "Why do they always wait this long to bring them in?"

She made no attempt to disguise her disgust with me. I was quickly becoming the target of mass harassment. One minute they were acting like they were too busy to help my dog up, but now they were making time to gossip and judge me. They carried him off while I was paying the bill. I had said I didn't want to be there when they put him to sleep, because I didn't think I could emotionally handle it, but that didn't mean I didn't want to say goodbye and pet him one last time. The hatred in the room made me so uncomfortable that I felt an overwhelming need to get out of there as soon as the bill was paid. One well-dressed woman sitting by the door stopped me and asked if there is anything she could do for me. I got the sense she was a minister of some sort. I said, "No thank you, I'm fine."

I wasn't. I was all broken up about having to put my dog to sleep and both shocked and upset over the way I was treated. If someone's grandmother or grandfather dies, do you treat them that way? Do you shame them for bringing the grandparent into the hospital when he or she is weak? I wondered at what point in the aging process the vet technicians felt I should have brought my dog in to be euthanized. I mean, if the dog isn't in pain, he's eating, and he's mobile, I don't see any reason to put him to sleep. Why end his life at 13 if he could live to be 15? His quality of life had clearly waned at the time I brought him in. It wasn't like he was in that condition for weeks and I just ignored it. I did everything for him until he stopped accepting my help, and I took that as a sign that he was ready to go.

I just wish these moments could be more private and that both the people and animals involved could be treated with more dignity. I didn't need this personal moment to be witnessed by everyone in the waiting room, nor did I need to be judged by people who didn't know what was going on. I felt like my dog was carried off like a pile of trash by some over-worked, irritable vet techs. After this experience, I'll be hunting for a new small animal vet, preferably one who has a staff that doesn't think everyone is cruel, neglectful and abusive of their animals. There are people who starve their animals and then there are people who bring their animals in to the vet hospital when their animals start starving themselves. It's important that the difference be recognized. One of those types of people may deserve harsh judgment, while the other deserves support over their loss. Just because someone's pet takes a turn for the worse in a hurry doesn't mean the pet owner is a criminal.

Ironically, after this incident I received a newspaper in the mail that contained an anonymous letter shaming pet owners who can't bear to watch their pets be put to sleep. It basically said that the pet needs to be with its owner in its final moments and that people need to just suck it up and stay with the pet during the process. Of course, that just made me feel even worse. I honestly don't know if having me in the room crying my eyes out would have helped my dog in any way. It probably would have just made the experience more traumatic for him. I was trying to remain stoic and relaxed so Monty would remain relaxed. My dogs are used to going to the vet to get exams and shots and surgeries. I'm not allowed to stay in the room during surgeries. I've seen a few people and animals die in front of me, and those memories are forever burned into my psyche. I'd rather my last memories of my pets be of when they were alive. Is that so selfish?

I think what hurt the most was the amount of time I spent in those last days agonizing over whether now was the right time to put Monty to sleep, and still after all that thought and heartache, someone had to question my decision in a spiteful manner. I wanted to make the best decision for Monty, and I think that I did, even if his inability to get up off the vet's slippery tile floor was an inconvenience for the staff. At least now I know he's resting in peace, even if the people who delivered him there weren't the kindest souls on earth.


Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your loss and think you gave him a long happy life. We had our cat put down in the spring and the vet could have not been kinder to me. They gave me time to say my goodbyes. I got a note from the office a few days later telling me how sorry they were that I lost my cat. Just so very careing. Please find another vet, this office does not deserve your business.

Judi said...

You can't imagine how heart breaking it was to read your blog. I just lost my dog, yesterday. She only got bad enough to take to the vet on Monday when they found a huge tumor.

My vet was very compassionate and kind. I took Pollie home with painkillers, and she did better for a few days before she died. I was struggling with the decision, myself, before she made it for me. It was complicated because she really belonged to my dad, and his views are a little different.

When to put an animal to sleep is such a personal decision. I wish people weren't so judgemental. We had an older dog who was deaf and blind and walked very slow. It wasn't until she appeared in pain that we made the decision.

I know my vets office wouldn't have treated me like that, and you must get a new vet.

Anyway, my heart goes out to you, since I am grieving at the same time. It is so hard to lose a good dog. And, as bad as I feel, I know my dad is feeling so much worse. He is retired, and spent most of his day with her.

strivingforsavvy said...

I am so sorry you had to go through that. We have had several dogs over the years and it never gets easier. It sounds to me like you loved your dog very much and did everything that you thought was best for him. What more can you do? I would find another vet's office, however!

Mrs Mom said...

NuzMuz, I am so very very sorry for your loss. And I am deeply embarrassed by the lack of care, concern, grace, and dignity you and Monty were shown. I apologize to you, Monty, and your family for the rest of the veterinary community that actually does care about their patients and their owners.

Call the vet(or office manager if this is a large practice), directly, Request all your records for your other animals. And find another office, with staff that actually gives a sh*t about their clients and patients. Tell the vet WHY you are leaving. Or his office manager. The holier than thou, condescending, rude treatment you bore the brunt of is inexcusable. You are (or I hope *were*) a long time client there. Your animals overall health will reflect the level of devotion and care you and the family have given them.

If this is a large practice, staffed by multiple vets, and possibly owned by a parent company such as Banfield, keep going. If the office manager treats you in the same manager, go to corporate.

In ANY of the clinics I've worked in over the years- small AND large animal- had staff that acted in such an inexcusable and unprofessional manner, they were fired. Period. Why? Because insulting your clients looses business. ALL the staff in a clinic is there to HELP- not make things that much worse.

We'll be thinking of you, in our little corner of the world. RIP, Monty. We'll miss hearing stories about you on the blog.

Crystal said...

Oh no, that sounds like a horrible vets office. I cant imagine any vet I know tolerating staff to be like that. Even when I brought my dog in this sping, i unknowingly brought her in with ticks, I thought there was a couple and it turns out they pulled about 30!, but not one unkind word was said, just how I could help avoid it in the future. Definitly need a new vet, no need to treat you like that for knowing your own dog when it was time.

Once Upon an Equine said...

You received horrible treatment from the staff at that vet hospital. Those people should not be working around animals or human beings. They should get jobs licking envelopes at home so they don't interact with people by any means.

I'm very sorry for your loss of Monty. And very sorry that those awful women made a difficult situation even worse. You gave Monty a good life for every moment that he could enjoy it.

Dreaming said...

How awful for you. How insensitive of them. Making the decision to end and animal's life humanely is tough and the whole process should be carried out with dignity. I agree that you should look for another practice for future animal care.
I think it is totally up to the owner whether to be with the animal or not. No one can/should make that decision for you. I have done it both ways - and both ways are very difficult emotionally.
Know that you gave Monty a great life and eased his way into the next.

fernvalley01 said...

The actions of theose techs,and the newspaper article are both unadulterated BullSh*T!!! The tach need a formal complaint lodged against them! I worked as a tech, and I will say I was trained NEVER to let my personal opinion of a situation like that show. We had a dog come in that was so ill he died while we were drawing up the euthanol, I just held him and cuddled him and passed my codolences on to the owners (this dog had so many tumours in his mouth he could no linger close his mouth should have been brought in months before ) The vet and I went for a coffee in private after and vented what we thought. Matter of fact long after I left the clinic ,there were people that would request I come in when it was time to put thier pet down as they knew I would treat the pet and them well.
As for the news article .All you have to do is make the right choice for your pet, If you are going to be upset and stressed ,then let the tech take the dog, there is no requirement to stand theree holding the animal if you are unable . Sorry for the rant , it is a hot button for me ,I always hold my animals when they are put down, because I can.If you can't ,then don't ,no judgement , no questions ,no issue from me. RIP ,dear Monty , your family loved you .

Laura said...

I'm sorry about poor Monty and the way you were treated. I didn't think there was a way to make that situation more awful that it already was... I'm sorry you were treated that way.

You made the right choices for you and your pet. Don't feel too guilty - that newspaper article was just some dummy spouting off cr*p.

Tammy said...

First, I'm sorry for your loss & sorry the last day was so difficult for you. My blood is boiling for you. Since when does a vet office lack in compassion like this!? I would find another vet.

Our big St./Lab cross had bone cancer. She didn't walk much on one leg, but got around fairly well. Toward the end, she would rest more, but still hobbled to meet us when the kids would get off the bus or we would come in the drive.

The last day, the kids called me and said JoJo didn't meet them. She was laying in "her spot" in the yard, wagging her tail, but couldn't get up. I called the vet - he lives right down the road and asked if he would come. The kids and I said goodbye and left for a ballgame. She was her spot when we got home. I didn't want to see the end.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with grief and the last goodbye. We do what is right for ourselves and our animal. Don't feel guilty for not being there. You gave your dog the gift of taking away the pain. Blessings.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

How horrible!

I'd be sending in to the newspaper, this same post that you just wrote. You have a right to your own choices and unless someone else is living in your shoes, they have no right to judge. Saying goodbye to an animal is never easy.

Right after my twinlings were born, and cash was strapped with two newborns to care for, our cat had escaped and went outside an drank anti-freeze.

Within a day, his liver and kidneys shut down and we knew we had to take him in to be euthanized.
This was a new vet, but it was the closest one only 3 miles away, but we didn't have extra gas for driving 20 miles to the next closest vet.

So, I took him in and was planning on being there for his last moments, but they wanted to charge me $75.00 for the euthanization, and THEN told me that if I wanted to be there with him, the charge was an ADDITIONAL $65.00!!!!!!!


I was shocked that they would charge a pet owner MORE money just to be there and comfort their pet during it's last moments.

I got the impression that the vet office's opinion was that it was too traumatic for the animal and for the vet techs to have to witness an owner breaking down and crying...and it took up valuable room space when an owner and pet used the room for the last goodbyes and procedure.

But still! I was so sad, hurt, shocked and angry. I couldn't afford another $65.00, so I had to leave....crying the entire way home.

How can people be so insensitive?

I'm so sorry for your loss of Monty. I know you loved him and were a very good owner. I enjoyed meeting him when I was up there to stay with you, too.


Sydney_bitless said...

Oh I am so sorry about Monty. Poor old man. I wouldn't let what they said get to you. If you dwell on what others opinions of you and how you take care of your animals it's going to make you bitter. You should feel good knowing you made the right decision about when to end your boys life. I was not there when my jack russel Patches had to be put down but I was there when Naigen was put down, holding her head of the dirt and comforting her. Seeing her die will haunt me for the rest of my life but I know I made the right decision, much like you did for Monty. It's the most lonely feeling in the world, having to put a pet to sleep.

ms martyr said...

I hope they treated Monty in his last moments kinder than they treated you. Definitely find a new vet and let your old one know why you're leaving. This is inexcusable.
I was horrified the first time I was asked by a vet if I wanted to stay with my dog while she was euthanized. I couldn't imagine wanting to be there as she died. Of course, I wouldn't want to have family in the labor and delivery room during childbirth either, so I guess I'm terribly old fashioned.
My sincere condolences to you on your loss.

Reddunappy said...

Having to put them down is so hard, making the descision harder. We lost two of ours this year, one in Feb. and one in April. one to old age and one to cancer. I am thankful that our vets office was very kind. We chose not to be there, I couldnt do it this time. I stayed with our first old golden when he had to be put down and I have had to put one pony down, due to colic and old age. It is never easy, and when the people that are suposed to be provessional fail, it makes it even harder. I am so sorrry you had such a bad experience with the vets office.

I would complain to the owner. But then thats what I do anymore, after working in retail for so long, there is no excuse for being treated like that.

Hang in there, Monty isnt suffering anymore, and that was the goal. Our 4 leggers have such short lives. At least we are able to give them that end with dignity.

KatyM said...

I just want to say that I am so sorry you were put through such an ordeal, in a situation that was already so difficult. I will spare you my own stories and rants (I've had a similar experience) - no doubt you don't need any additional stress. Just know that you and your family are the only people whose opinions matter. You made the decision as best as you could, and you did the right thing. Shame on that vet's staff for their behavior.

Mikey said...

I am so very sorry for your loss. I know the heartache, and how very difficult that decision is. The treatment you got was despicable. Completely unprofessional. I would definitely go to a different vet. We have a clinic like that in our town, where everyone is very hostile (their turnover rate is high too) and we hear about it. Where I work, it doesn't matter what the situation is, if I have to hold that animal while it leaves this world, I always tell them "You're a good dog/cat" over and over (which annoys my co-workers sometimes). Once one of the vets said to me "he can't hear you, he's deaf" and I said it doesn't matter, they know, they can feel my breath saying it. I just keep doing my thing. No one can make me change.

We also send out sympathy cards signed by all of us with personal messages, even if the animal died at home and the owner just mentions it. We still send a card.

That is how it should be.

I'm so sorry you had to go thru that. My heart just breaks for you. I'm appalled that you would be treated that way during such a tough time. Shame on them. You did the right thing.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, and also for the treatment you recieved. We have 2 small animal clinics locally: the nice one that is expanding and the one similar to what your descibed that is circling the drain. My horse vet service is also very, very sympathetic, polite, considerate, and discreet. They send cards and call to check up.

Hopefully it will lift your spirit a tiny bit to read that the last time I noticed people staring at me, I had forgotten my shirt. No shit! I guess I was in a hurry. Thank God for sports bras!

Again, my sympathies.

Canadian Housewife said...

Oh I am so sorry! and I am truly horrified by how the vet's office treated you. I would stop in and speak to the vet regarding it.

I worked at a vet for a time and have had animals all my life. It's not an easy decision to make and if they think you "waited too long" it should have been obvious it was out of love for the dog.

We had a sheltie we had to take in who all of a sudden couldnt' walk any more. It was heartbreaking.

i'm facing the same decision with my current Sheltie that you faced with Monty. Her time is coming soon but it's hard. Very hard.

My thoughts are with you. I know it's not easy.

((((((HUGS)))) from another shetie owner and dog lover.

Maia said...

This is so sad. Those dimwits had no right to treat you like this. I know how hard it was for you to do the kind thing and then they have to go and make everything worse. My vet has a special room where you can go and wait with your pet, give him a last pet and then they give the pet a strong tranquelizing shot and take it away. At this point you can either be with the animal or not and there is no wrong choice.

My vet is caring compassionate person and any receptionist or vet tech who treated an owner like this would be out the door.

When your feeling stronger, I suggest you tell the vet in no uncertain terms why you are leaving the practice.

My heart is with you during this sad time, know you did the kindest thing for your dog you could do.

Breathe said...

I'm sorry to hear it was Monty's time. I remember you talking about him.

I'm shocked at the treatment you received. It sounds like they didn't know you at all? Was it just a ER place? If they do see your animals I hope you are finding a new clinic.

I also agree that you need to let their vet know how their techs are acting with the public.

Fortunately I helped start our shelter here in our area and I've had them help me euthanize my little dog, Pita when it was her time. They knew her and our family.

They were kind and gentle with all of us and we cried as she left us.

And that's at a shelter, where customer service can be... sketchy.

So sorry you had such a terrible good bye with Monty.

photogchic said...

Talk about making a horrible decision worse. When we had to put our dog to sleep in November...they kept coming in to try to sell us things. A plaque with his paw prints, dog urns...wanted to know if we wanted clippings of his hair. I just wanted my dog healthy...not in pain, not suffering. I couldn't imagine as he howled, panted, and didn't know where he was getting a paw print...just awful. Sorry you had to endure that during such a difficult time.

Johara said...

I took care of my mom's old Rottie during those weeks of extreme coldness northern Nevada had this past winter, and was the one to take her to the vet to be put to sleep this spring. My vet's office was wonderful. I had to carry her from the truck, and they met me at the door to open it for me! When the old gal didn't want to stand up and walk into the back room, the vet tech came out and gave her a drowsy shot, and they brought out a blanket for her to lay on. They were wonderful people, very compassionate, the entire visit was the way such a sorrowful trip to the vet should be!

I am so sorry your vet's office was so awful. :( There is no excuse in the world for them to be so rude! I hope there is another clinic in your area that you can use in the future.


Grey Horse Matters said...

It sounds like a terrible experience. I'm sorry you had to put Monty to sleep, but he it happens to all of us. I can't believe the insensitivity of the whole staff. You're a better person than me, because I would have had plenty to say to them. If I were you I'd send the vet himself a letter and tell him how you were treated and why you're taking your business elsewhere. Again I'm so sorry you lost your dog and hope you are feeling better soon.

Cheryl Ann said...

Nuzz, I couldn't be there when our second German shepherd was put to husband and son were in the room with him. He was my best bud and I loved him dearly, but I would have been hysterical. I mean, WHO wants to see me in a flood of tears? Now we have to face it with Rommel, our current shepherd, as he has mange/lupus/cushings and has lost nearly ALL his hair. He has his good days and plays with the puppy and we keep him inside, but I'm sure I'll get snide comments when I take him in, probably next month. Yes, find another vet. That office sounds horrible!!!!

Jeni said...

Hi NuzzMuzz.. First i'm sorry for your loss, I know personally how hard of a decision that is to make.

Next I want to say how extraordinary you were to stay at that vets office and hold your tongue! I have NEVER experienced such disrespect and no-one should have to put up with that.

I sure hope that you take some sort of action even if it is to move on to a different vets office.

My thoughts go out to you and your family while you adjust to having one less...


Paint Girl said...

First, I want to say how sorry I am of your loss of Monty. That is always a very difficult decision to make.

Second, I cannot believe how rude those people were in the clinic. They, of all people, should know how difficult of a decision it is for someone to have to make and to be so inconsiderate and rude is just plain unacceptable.

I had to put 2 of my dogs down on the same day a few years ago. It was the hardest thing we ever did. My OH came with me, and we stayed in the roomwith them when the vet euthanized them. My vet even cried with us. He was so compassionate, and did not judge our decision to let them go. I could tell he truly cared about each and every animal he sees. That is what a vet should do.

I hope you do find a new clinic. One with compassion and a caring staff. The other place doesn't deserve you.

Take care Nuz. Thinking of you!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Wow, I'm so sorry! It's always a very difficult decision to make. When my Daisy was sick with nasal cancer, I asked my vet "when" and he told me I would know when the time was right. Period.

It's the owners choice if and when they should do this. People are not allowed to be euthanized so what gives a vet tech the right to say that a pet should have been done a long time ago? Maybe we shouldn't be putting our pets to sleep at all. What's the difference between people and animals anyway? Or maybe people should be allowed to end their own lives?

It's a matter of personal beliefs. When I decided it was time for Daisy to go, I did not want to be there, but in the course of things it kind of happened. I led her in to the back room, we put her on the table, and he prepared the shot. There was really no time to say that I had to leave. Afterwards, I was very glad that I was there in her last moments because she quietly went to sleep in my arms. Everybody was very compassionate with me. And my biggest issue was- was it too soon? Am I taking the easy way out? Not to extend her life longer? To play God?

So you see, there is no good answer and those people were very shallow to act that way towards you. Regardless of what they may think, it's unprofessional to allow their opinion to show.

PS- I had a Malamute with hip displasia. We finally took her in to be euthanized when she could no longer walk. When my husband picked her up to carry her to the office we were aghast at how light she was. Her hind end had withered away. Then we felt guilty for waiting too long. It's never easy!

lytha said...

i've never had to do this. when it was time for my german shepherd, i was in my 20s, living at home, and my parents said "it's time" and i said "you're right" and they said "can we take her in to the vet for you?" and i let them.

i was relieved of that, but now things are different.

my last vet in seattle said "how long have you had this horse?" i said, "22 years" and he said, "you owe it to him to be there when he's put down. he will be comforted with you there." i thought, "how could i comfort him..." and "no, i can't" but i guess he's right.

i worry about this about daily, and also worry about not being given the chance to decide when. *sigh*


TCavanaugh said...

I am so sorry for your and your family's loss. You did the right things for Monty and your family.

I am shocked by the treatment of you by your vet office! I hope you called the office manager and now move your business elsewhere. Your vet, and all its' associates need to have compassion for animals as well as humans. They obviously have neither.

achieve1dream said...

I am sooooo sorry for your loss! I know how hard it is. I saw it many, many times when I was working at the vet clinic and if it makes you feel any better I never thought bad of the people who couldn't be in the room with them. It doesn't mean they love them any less.

If I were you I would definitely start looking for a small private vet clinic. The one where I worked was so kind to the people who made the choice to euthanize. We even had a special consult room where they could say goodbye in privacy. I hope you can find a nice clinic because you definitely do not deserve the treatment you received by those idiotic people. And that letter was completely cruel and wrong!!

I know I'm late, but I couldn't not comment after reading that. Please take comfort in the fact that you made the right decision and those people are just stupid. Hugs!

Katharine Swan said...

Oh, NM, I am so sorry. I was out of the loop, wasn't I? I know how you feel, because I lost my cat in April. The first vet I dealt with in the emergency clinic was very critical, but luckily, the second vet was much more understanding and compassionate. It was gratifying to hear him say that I'd been doing a good job of taking care of my cat the last few months of his life.

When it comes down to it, those of us who live with an animal are the best judges of when it's time. Most equine vets will tell you that your first indication that something is wrong is strange behavior -- something only an owner would notice. I think the same goes for this. If you and your family felt it was too soon, and you were willing to make the little sacrifices needed to keeping him eating and make him comfortable, who is anyone else to tell you otherwise? And if your vet's office would treat you like that, maybe it's time to find a different vet!