I have no statistical proof or theory as to why this is, but Friday seems to be the day we deal with death. Maybe it has something to do with it being the end of the week. I really don’t have an explanation. What I do know is that on Friday we deal with more surrenders and request for euthanasia then any other day. Last Friday in the first hour we had six surrenders going on and two requests for euthanizes at the same time. “Society” by Eddie Vedder played in the background popping up on my coworker’s Pandora causing peoples’ tears to fall like rain. “Society you crazy breed. I hope you’re not lonely without me.” –Eddie keeps singing on.
Even though I am often harsh on people, there are those whose hearts break like glass when they have to turn their animals over. Those who surrender because they lost their homes, have no money, have had a death or medical illness overcome the family. Their lives are broken and now they are forced to give up a part of their family. There are also those who make the decision that their pet should no longer live, that living would be crueler than the alternative.
One girl in particular has stuck with me these past few days. Her beloved companion, a 15-year-old Boston was suffering from cancer. The dog’s owner, a 21-year-old girl, came with her mother to do what needed to be done. She cradled her dog, crying, whispering into her ear saying everything would be okay. Her mom signed over the paperwork explaining to me what was wrong with the dog. The girl waited in one of our visitation rooms for the appointed hour. When the paperwork was finished we give people as much time as they need to say good-bye. While they weep over their loss, we wait outside the glass window like undertakers. We wait silently as the people in the lobby room stare, sensing the tragedy.
One cannot help but feel like the grim reaper. We are the death coming. If you are the person who leads the dog or cat back, it is as if death is using you to achieve its goal. Of course, logic tells you that it is more merciful to put this animal down than to let it live but being a part of that process is an entirely different experience than just knowing theoretically it is a suitable action. How does one even know what the right thing is when it comes to such a morally grey area such as death? We don’t. Society tells us that we are doing the proper procedure and when we stare at the animal our hearts goes out to them. Surely this suffering must end. But death is not quick. It is not gentle. It is not quiet. The process of dying is not peaceful. No matter how one goes about it. Sitting in the euth room holding, watching, injecting, we cry, shudder, and laugh.
We offer people a viewing after their pet has been put down, one final moment to say good-bye. We do not allow them to be present during the process. Unlike at the vet’s office where one can pay hundreds of dollars for euthanasia, at a humane society the animals are not always put to sleep beforehand. People come here because it is cheap. There is a reason why it’s cheap. We grab a leg, get a vein and inject the fatal liquid. I suppose it’s quick. The animal shutters, collapses and is gone. A needle is injected into the heart. When it stops moving, death has come.
When people do a viewing they usually follow an almost preset conversation. They sit staring at their lost pet. The girl held her Maggie and through tears she muttered, “At least you are out of pain. You were the best dog. I love you.” Her mother trying to comfort her said, “It’s okay her soul is gone now. It wasn’t painful.”
“It was painful though!” My heart screams. Perhaps not as painful as dying of cancer, but it wasn’t painless. Still, these are the words we say to make ourselves feel better, because death never feels right. These are the actions we take because we cannot stand to see pain. Would the dog rather have died at home in her own time? No one will ever have the correct answer to this question. I don’t write these thoughts down to judge people who euthanize their pets or because I think this girl did what was wrong by her dog, I am merely recounting what has happened. In the grand scheme of things, this girl did what was best. Somehow knowing that there is no longer life in the absence of suffering offers me little solace. Games of Thrones had it right though, Death is a God and all we can shout is “Not Today!”