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  • Writer's pictureAlissa Anderson

HOW I DO THIS WORK (from an end of life care veterinarian)

People ask me (naturally) how I can do end of life care for pets every day. And I get it – when I was in school I NEVER would have expected this is where my career as a veterinarian would go. It definitely wears on you and hurts your heart. But I feel like I also get to see the best in people, and there is so much beauty I get to witness.

I come in at one of the worst moments in peoples’ lives. And yet I am generally greeted with warmth and appreciation for being there. I am not even sure that in their place, I would be as gracious. It continually amazes me.

It is impossible to describe what our pets mean to us, especially to non-pet lovers. I am grateful that my work lets me witness the incredible, beautiful bonds between owners and pets that been together for years, usually into old age (for the pet). I get to see it in the home, in a more natural state than a clinic setting, and I can truly feel the depth of those bonds. The multiple pet beds or cat trees, the overflowing baskets of toys, the bags of treats, the mats or ramps placed to ease mobility as they have aged - and those are just the more superficial things I see that tell me how much your pet was cared for.

I get to hear so many wonderful stories. The cat that was a sneaky banana thief, the dog that traveled to more places than most people do (including me). The story of how that pet was picked out or found by their owner, or even of how the owner was chosen by that pet. The story of how they got their name. I love hearing all of it, because even though I am only there for a brief time at the end, I want to get to know each pet. Each one is an individual and they deserve to be recognized for that.

And there is something reverent with each pet’s passing, as it should be. It is the ultimate gift to honor a beloved pet that has gotten us through so many difficult times. There is so much beauty in the selfless, courageous act of sacrifice by an owner of letting that pet go peacefully, so that they do not suffer. Because the truth is it’s scary – as much as we think we might be prepared, we do not know how we will continue without them until we are doing it. I see you, and I am amazed by your strength. I understand, even if I cannot truly know what you are feeling. I want to do everything in my power to be there and support you in that moment and in the difficult ones that follow. Thank you so much for trusting me to help your pet at their most vulnerable time. I promise you I do not take that trust lightly.

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