If there’s one way to get me to cry hysterically at my computer, it’s by reading stories of animal death. I simply lose my shit when I read stories of dogs dying or even see pictures of pets who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Last week, Pretty Boy, a 22-year-old cat who lived on my street, died, and I was incapacitated with grief for several days. The mere thought of my own dog, Perry, dying is enough to send me directly to Bellevue.
I came across an article in USA Today about at-home pet euthanasia, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I get the point of euthanasia in humans, but it deeply, deeply troubles me with pets. Humans who are on life support and are brain dead have absolutely no quality of life. My grandfather had a stroke and was brain dead, and could not breathe on his own. We took him off life support because we were simply keeping a body alive at that point. Other terminally ill patients who choose suicide (like Kevorkian’s patients), make the rational and affirmative decision to take their own lives because they are in terrible pain. But it’s different with pets. They may be old and sick, but unless they’re brain dead, they still have thoughts, and they may still have some quality of life. We just project our own thoughts about pain and quality of life onto our pets, with no way of really knowing if euthanasia is what Fido or Sparky wants.
A few weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine told me that her Scottish Deerhound had been sick and had trouble walking, and rather than bring him to the vet to be put down, her dad fed the dog a poisonous hotdog. On top of my aforementioned problems with pet euthanasia, euthanizing one pet’s at home by feeding it a favorite food laced with poison struck me as the ultimate betrayal. The hand that fed him was the hand that killed him and whether or not it was a mercy killing can never be conclusively established.
I get why owners wouldn’t want to rile up their pets with one final, harrowing trip to the vet, but I’m not sure that that horrible experience is much worse than killing one’s own dog at home. The former may involve anxiety for the pet, but the latter involves a terrible surprise and perhaps even a moment of recognition on the part of the pet, that his owner is euthanizing him in a location he thought was his safe haven. The pet might consider the at-home death a compassionate act if the pet truly wants to die, but if he doesn’t, it is an ironic act of disloyalty to the most loyal companion.
Well, now I’m sobbing at my desk so if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pull myself together. Let us never mention this topic again.