Euthanizing companion animals and horses is a part of mixed animal practice.
It seems like right before holidays the numbers go up. Sometimes they come in streaks where we have several in a week and then we won’t have any scheduled for weeks.
No matter the frequency, no matter the animal, they are never easy. Even harder for me, was putting my good dog down this past weekend.
I had mixed emotions about what to do with my 14-year-old Labrador cross, Harlow. He’d been with me for half of my life. Harlow saw me through high school, undergrad, vet school, moving to Polo, and finally back home.
He was the best dog anyone could ask for; smart as a whip, so kind, and loyal enough that I could trust my life with him. Harlow always made me feel safe when I lived in the trailer park next to the vet school. I never had to worry when he was by my side. Dogs like that are once in a lifetime companions.
But all dogs get old. Then we have to make tough decisions for them. As their caretakers, we are responsible for making the best choices for them. And that’s where I was, looking my best friend in the eye, telling him that I would never make a decision that was not right for him.
As a veterinarian, I could tell myself a hundred reasons why it was right to put him down. His hips hurt, his stifles hurt, he had arthritis in his front feet, and he was starting to become incontinent.
As an owner and Harlow’s best friend, I could tell myself a hundred reasons why not to put him down. He was still super happy, never missed a meal, followed me wherever he could.
After discussing everything with my husband and family, we decided to give him back to God.
My family and I took Harlow to his favorite place on earth, Lake Herman State Park. Harlow and I spent hundreds of hours there. He loved everything about the park and especially the dog beach where he could swim for hours.
On Saturday’s sunset, we found the perfect place for his last swim, an area surrounded with lots of trees and a small beach to walk down to. Harlow dipped his toes in the lake as the sun cast its last shadows of the day.
He looked into my soul with a knowing eye. I then walked with him by my side for one last time back up the hill to the grass. I asked him to lay down like I’ve asked hundreds of times throughout his life. I gave him the sedation. I cried. We all cried. We told him how thankful we were for him, we told him how much we loved him. I gave him the euthanasia solution. I cried. We all cried. And the sun set.
Sending everyone love and hugs as they have to go through this with their own cherished companions. It is so incredibly hard.
We have to find peace in knowing that it is never goodbye, but rather, see you later, my dearest friend.
Dr. Lainie Kringen-Scholtz is associate veterinarian at Twin Lakes Animal Clinic in Madison, South Dakota.
This vet report is provided in conjunction with Twin Lakes Animal Clinic and Howard Animal Clinic. Questions? Send an email to Lainie Scholtz, DVM at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 605-256-0123, or write 45305 SD Highway 34 Madison, SD 57042.