By Dr Beth Scheenstra, DVM

I was finishing up a long weekend on call.  I was in my first 6 months of being a veterinarian which meant every day was like a year of worrying, questioning and working hard.  It was January in western Washington, picture dark gray and continued period of darkness with mist.  He was my first appointment of the day, though I had just worked all night so time seemed to not exist.  

He was the one of the ugliest patient I had ever seen.  He was hypothermic, unable to raise his head up and about half the weight he should be.  They told me to put him down.  They couldn’t afford any care for him, he was probably about two years old and has had horrible diarrhea for the last week.  I could tell that he had probably spent at least the last day laying in his diarrhea.  

I just couldn’t do it.  I should have.  I knew that it would be humane to put him down, and they didn’t have any money.  I just couldn’t do it.  I was an emotional mess inside, and I was going to cling to this ugly patient for a life line.  Maybe I was just sleep deprived.  I don’t know, something had snapped in me though and I wasn’t going to do it.  I had them release him to my care.  I then nursed that ugly patient back to health.

Fast forward 12 years, Petey, is still one of the ugliest patients I have ever seen.  He also is one of the nastiest little terriers to walk the earth.  He really has been the most dreadful pets I have ever had.  He really only likes our immediate family, and my parents.  Everybody else, well they better watch out.  We have to send him to my parents when we have company.  He has never actually bitten anyone, but that is because of vigilant monitoring and never putting him or others in bad situations.

You would think that I would be happy to see him in his late years.  He is the oldest dog I have personally owned and though our lives might be a little more simple without him, I know that he will leave a big hole in our lives.  In the next several blog post, I hope to discuss several aspects of living with a senior pet and what you as a pet owner can do to help both your pet and yourself in this difficult but rewarding period of your lives.