Life as a Veterinarian, Motherhood, Pet Care

Death Comes, Grief Follows

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As a veterinarian, I help clients say goodbye to beloved pets nearly every day. There are those geriatric pets whose age or disease has finally got the best of them. I say things like “They enjoyed a wonderful and long life.” “When we open our hearts to know their love, so do we open our hearts to the heartache of their departure” “It is our final gift to give to relieve their suffering.”

Then there are the tragic unexpected losses where you just try to hold them up while emotions of disbelief, guilt, rage, anger, among others wash over them. Perhaps they want comfort to know their pet went quickly and without pain. You assure them it isn’t fair, that it was chance or poor luck.

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I have been awash in loss this past year. Expected loss of dogs from cancer and heart failure to the sudden losses due to tragedy or an undiscovered disease. I don’t know if one is better or worse than the other. With the terminal pets I felt waves of anticipatory grief. As much as I held on to the idea of “enjoying every day given” where there was joy in that day there was fear that this day was the end, that I didn’t know that moment would come and couldn’t control the end. Here I sat a veterinarian and I couldn’t save my own.

With each client I felt the need to take away the pain of grief and put in on my own back to bear so as to reliever their own suffering. I put myself in their shoes and felt my own losses, either those that had happened or those yet to come. I couldn’t go on in that way as a veterinarian helping. Instead I started thinking of grief as blanket and it was my job to hold a space for them, to wrap a blanket of understanding and support around them. I could share the grief but I could not shoulder it.  My quote of choice became: “Grief is the final act of love we have to give to those we have loved. Where there is great grief there as great love.” And then loss hit again today….and a wave of anger and grief once washed over me knocking me over.

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Maxx was a miracle, a PITA butthead, bully, and I loved to hate him. He would even spend time on kitty Prozac for his inappropriate marking behavior.

It was a typical afternoon at the clinic, when an older gentleman brought in an overly friendly overweight tabby cat with a thick red collar. Just 20 minutes after his exam and vaccines that tabby showed up at our strip-mall veterinary clinic doorstep in respiratory distress and vomiting blood. His owner couldn’t be found and we feared the worse. We couldn’t wait any longer and so radiographs revealed the problem- he had a diaphragmatic hernia…basically his diaphragm had torn and his abdominal contents including stomach and liver were in his chest threatening his life.

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The owner was located and couldn’t commit to the necessary surgery to save his life. Maxx had jumped out the car window on their departure. He could have ran under a car or to another business location but he seemed to beg for help by coming back to our doorstep. Maxx seemed a survivor and was owed the chance to prove it. I had him signed over and swore to do the best I could.

His breathing during surgery was provided by manual ventilation by a technician. Each breath provided by the careful squeezing of the reservoir bag, passing oxygen and anesthetic gases thru the tube in his trachea to inflate his lungs.  The diaphragm tear was found and I saw his beating heart and removed what didn’t belong in his chest. I sutured his thin torn diaphragm back together. And he survived…and recovered…and I couldn’t let him go so he became mine.

Maxx was really the worst…overly loving but on his terms, a food loving fatty I feared would become diabetic, a bully to the outdoor cats, and destroyer of my belonging with his potent urination. But I loved him.

So when he was gone for more than a day I feared the worse. Brad searched and found him…and since I had been texting for updates I got the call…and all the grief came back. I couldn’t handle another loss…just weeks after our beloved dog and months after other pets. I was pissed…I have clients that bring their cats in once a lifetime at the age of 18. I did everything for this cat. I saved his life…he beat the odds so why the hell now!

Nature is a cruel bitch! As I see the pastures come alive I know she brings life and beauty and she takes it away in one moment. Maxx had been attacked and the evidence suggested by a coyote. His wounds not survivable. I was fearful I won’t be able to find the answers I always need but when I saw him it wasn’t him…he was gone and this worthless body left behind.

And I said all the things I share to others…”You saved him. He had a great life. He loved the outdoors (He was strictly indoors initially but seemed to hate it and needed more. His first adventure outdoors I swept him up from under a bush after spending the entire 10 minutes he was outdoors convince he was acquiring feline leukemia virus). I don’t understand nature…I have the training to diagnosis, prescribe, and treat but in the end nature wins…she always does…whether it be when it seems right after a long full life or in tragedy we can’t understand.

I hold gratitude I have my family, children, and loved ones…that perhaps “He was just a cat. That she was just a dog.”. But my heart hurts and so once again death comes and grief follows.

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Pet Care, Ranch Life

How to Name a Puppy

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As a veterinarian, I meet a lot of pets and so have lots of inspiration for naming…simple names, complicated names, funny names, names with sentiment.

There are the pet’s names inspired by looks…the Cocoas, Shadows, Reds.  Then the classics…Buddy, Max, Rover. Cats seem to demand the most creative names, maybe because they demand a title not a meager simple name so we see Prince Meowiwether the Third or Professor Snitchy. Owners seem to find inspiration from pop culture or Disney very commonly. You can tell when a Disney movie was popular based on the age of the 100s of pets named after the main characters. We might still see the rare geriatric Simba but we meet plenty of Elsas.

When we acquired our new little working Australian Shepherd puppy the task of finding a suitable name came front and center. Some families know the name of their new creature long before he comes home (as was the case for our human boy’s names) but in our house we must get to know the little furry creature- know his quirks, character, his purpose in this new life. We have a menagerie so naming is a common task. The job of naming of our most recent cats fell to a toddler learning his colors so we have “Black Cat/Penelope”, “Gray”, “Orange Cat”. We went thru a time of naming pets after up and coming children’s names. When we changed Roscoe’s name from Worthy, we departed that path as I felt no mother I knew would name their child Roscoe.

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Now naming a cow dog has its own rules. One syllable is best and it has to be a strong name. It is a “Call Name” and when it erupts from one’s lips it will elicit this little bundle of fur to fly across the barn or pasture, tongue flopping, eager to please his master’s next request. When this name is said everyone must know that this isn’t the name of a lap dog or mere bird dog, but the name of a cow/sheep working dog. His vocation will be know with the simple utterance of his name.

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So began the list of names and the requests for input. Many fine and suitable names came forth. For the first 24 hours, the little puppy was known as Jett. But his master didn’t feel this name was strong enough or suitable. Ripp was deemed a more suitable name for the little fluffy dog. But not to be said as “R-ip” but strongly and with intention “Ri-hipp”.

Jacob has struggled with the pronunciation of “Rs” so for the first part of the day it was “W-hip” and for myself I can’t stop singing “Rip, Rip It Off” to the annoyance of the master who found the most perfect name.

So meet Ripp, the 10 week old Australian Shepherd working dog, with a strong and suitable cow dog name!

Ripp (rip):

Noun: Old English: topographic name for someone who lived by a strip of woodland.

Verb:

  1. Move forcefully and rapidly
  2. Tear or pull quickly or forcibly away from someone or something.

 

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