Anyone who has had to put down their beloved pet knows the pain and sorrow that comes with that difficult and selfless decision. As much as you don’t want to make that difficult choice, you don’t want to see your animal suffering in pain any longer.
Yet, putting them out of their misery kickstarts your own into high gear, as you are forced to face a life without your beloved dog, cat, horse, or hamster by your side.
You trust your vet to administer the drugs that’ll painlessly release your pet over the rainbow bridge, assuming this is just a normal part of their day-to-day tasks. But how does euthanizing pets really affect veterinarians?
Veterinarian Brenda Gough from Burford, Ontario recently shared what it’s like to put down her clients’ beloved pets in a heartfelt Facebook post that has since gone viral.
Brenda’s words pulsate with honesty – hence how they’ve received over 112k reactions and 123k shares.
Brenda has worked as a small animal veterinarian for the past 24 years; her practice mostly handles dogs and cats. She’s also a horse lover who owns an equestrian facility.
Growing up, Brenda’s dad worked as a veterinarian and so she was essentially raised in a vet clinic, which she admits inspired her own future working with animals.
While her job is filled with so many positive things and the chance to help many animals each week, she is tasked with putting down around two pets per week. In some rare instances she’s had to put down as many as three to four animals in one day.
No matter how often she does it, it never gets easier.
“I [also] have had the rare occasion where there are 3-4 in one day and that is really hard on me and my staff,” she candidly shared with Bored Panda.
She often has to unwind and spend some time alone after these experiences. She also turns to her family for support, and thankfully, they are incredibly supportive of what she does.
Brenda had been thinking about how euthanizing pets impacts her for a long time, but one night in particular all of the thoughts just came rushing out of her and ended up in a Facebook post.
“The thoughts I’ve shared in my Facebook post have been on my mind for awhile, but that night they just came out – I sat down and wrote them in under five minutes – the words just flowed, real and raw and unplugged.”
“I honestly didn’t mean to cause so many people to ugly cry,” Brenda added. “It wasn’t my intent to have this go viral – it clearly struck a chord with people all over the world.”
“I have had kind messages from New Zealand, Texas, British Columbia, to name just a few places far far away that it has reached. I am just a vet in Brantford, Ontario.”
Brenda pointed out that suicide rates amongst veterinarians are very high.
“It is my sincerest hopes that veterinarians everywhere will read the incredibly positive comments (there are over 25,000!) and know that they are loved, needed, and very much respected. If reading those comments will save even one life, then it is worth it.”
It’s not just beloved pets that end up getting euthanized each day. Every year, 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized – 670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats.
While these numbers are scary high, there is some hope in that they’ve been declining over the years thanks to large-scale activism.
In 2012, 2.6 million animals were euthanized and in 2009 it was 3.7 million. Looking back to the 1970s, things were even bleaker with over 20 million cats and dogs euthanized per year.
According to Matt Bershadker the president and chief executive of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: “Rescuing an animal has become a badge of honor. People proudly go to dog parks and walk around their neighborhoods talking about the animal that they rescued from a shelter.”
When I recently had to put my horse down (a horse I had for 20+ years), my vet actually cried with me as he went down. She personally told me that no matter how often she puts a horse down, it never gets easier and always hits her hard emotionally.
So, the next time you are forced to put down your animal, just know that the vet administering the needle may put on a brave face to make you feel better, but he or she is hurting too.