I have written about euthanasia before. And I will write about it again. Part of my journey as a veterinarian with my clients and their companions takes us right up to and across the doorway of death. It is a privilege and honour I cannot begin to explain to people who have never been there.
If you have never been loved by an animal, and if you have never realised how much you needed that love, you just won't get this story.
Tonight I gave myself permission to feel sad. Normally, I need to maintain a professional facade (which I end up taking home with me) of being calm, collected and totally okay with whatever pain or suffering I need to help my patients deal with.
But I gave myself permission not to do this, today.
Today, I euthanased a patient – a very special dog. And those who know me, know what a bitter-sweet moment this is for me.
Benjamin had been a patient at the hydro for just over four years. He came for a therapy session every week except on holidays. This is not a story about his therapy. This is a tribute to his therapeutic abilities which affected every one of us.
About 8 years ago, Benjamin’s human family was torn apart by a terrible tragedy. This story is not about that. It is rather, about the miracle of finding peace and the power to keep going, especially when you don't know how you are going to do it.
When I met Benjamin and his human companion, I had no inkling of the breadth and depth of the emotional trauma to which she had been subjected. Over the years, and the therapy sessions, the truth slowly emerged. Benjamin's human would often comment, “I would never have survived without Benjamin.” It is easy to brush over comments like that when we hear them, because of our own level of experience. We assume it means what it would if we said it. She meant it as someone who has suffered great loss.
Later, as our therapy progressed, and the years passed, the comments would pertain to the extra time that had been created for them to revel in each other’s company. Benjamin's guardian was ever aware of the shortening days, and savoured each moment she had, to love and be loved by Benjamin.
Finally, the dreaded day arrived. All the therapists and his human family were present when I helped Benjamin to cross the Rainbow Bridge. We had prepared ourselves, mindfully and lovingly for this moment, for what seemed like a long time. It was peaceful and filled with acceptance.
Every animal companion is special. They have a gift of allowing us to feel more deeply and love completely. They allow us to share emotions with another without judgement or comment. They are able to convey the perfect amount of sympathy and compassion – without saying a word. And when it’s time to play, there is no limit to their enthusiasm and effort.
Benjamin was such a dog.