There are bad parts to my job. I think that goes without saying. And this time I'm not talking about the irresponsible or bad owners, the pets with preventable disease, and the other normal complaints. This is about the actual bad things, the "no one can fix this despite our best efforts" kinds of things. It's the kind of thing that makes me wish I just hadn't gotten up in the morning.
It could be that sinking feeling when I discover the dog who presented for "lumps" has huge lymph nodes...everywhere.
Or the coughing dog whose x-ray shows lungs full of metastatic cancer.
Or the giant breed dog with a limp whose x-ray shows a bone tumor.
It could be the FIV test I didn't really think would be positive.
The biopsy that came back as something unexpected.
The lab results that were much worse than I wanted them to be.
These are all the things that leave me numbly staring at the x-ray or the bloodwork silently willing it to be different all the while blatantly putting off the conversation I know I need to have.
And then there are the gut-wrenching euthanasias...
The nice couple whose very young dog succumbs to lymphoma just weeks after diagnosis.
The family of four including the chronically ill child who all opted to be present for the euthanasia of their geriatric and ill dog.
The college student who brought her two best friends for support the day I euthanized her old Golden with the splenic mass (truly not a dry eye in the house after this one).
The German shepherd who had outlived both her expected lifespan and her prognosis that I put to rest on the floor of her male owner's home.
The man who through tears of grief told his young and cancer-ridden dog "not to worry about dad" as I eased the dog's suffering.
The day I euthanized two geriatric dogs belonging to the same owner, one right after the other, in their own living room.
All of these things really happened. And who are the clients on the other end of these tragedies? They could be perfect strangers, presenting for a second opinion. They could be clients I have known for months or years as I have cared for their pets. They might even be clients I have come to know and like well enough to consider a friend. And sometimes, they are first and foremost, a friend.
I have always considered it a compliment when a friend genuinely values my thoughts or opinions about their pet's medical care, and an even greater compliment when they actually entrust that pet to my care. But this compliment comes with a price tag. And eventually, you have to pay. Those days, are the hardest days.