Three weeks I put to sleep my best friend's heart dog, and agility partner of many years. Seven years of college and 10 years of practice do not prepare you for this. I understood her pain. I've been there. Someday, whether I like it or nor, I'll be there again.
But this time it wasn't just about understanding their pain. This time I knew the dog lying before me. I had watched her blissfully run countless agility courses. I had shared hotel rooms with her. She had shared the back seat of my car with our girls. She stayed at our house. I had fed her cookies to distract her from barking while her sister was in the agility ring. I watched her run and fetch and tug her leash. She had fluffy black fur so soft you had to pet it, even though she didn't want you to. She made us laugh at her funny faces when she was trying to be tougher than the other dogs, even though she wasn't.
And it saddened me to see someone I cared about in such pain and knowing there wasn't anything I could do to stop it. In fact, the one thing I had to do, I really didn't want to. But despite an overwhelming argument from my heart telling my I couldn't do it, I did. And I held it together almost until the end, but finally tears streamed down my face as the little black dog crossed the rainbow bridge, leaving broken hearts and fond memories behind her.
Half a lifetime ago, I decided to become a veterinarian. No one told me this might happen. It's not their fault, they didn't know. But in the end it didn't matter, I never would have said no. I would never have sent them to a stranger, or someone who didn't care, or understand. This is the blessing and the curse not only of my profession, but of life, friendship, and dogs who never live long enough.
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